07 Mar A Sweet Story
There’s a scrubby tree that grows along the banks of rivers in Northern Florida and Southern Georgia called the White Tupelo Gum tree.
Tupelo trees have clusters of inconspicuous greenish flowers, which later develop into berrylike fruits. The bloom lasts a mere 2-3 weeks in April and May. The nectar of this flower is intensely sweet, and it is the substance from which bees produce what many believe to be the finest honey in the world.
According to slowfoodusa.org, “Pure tupelo honey is light amber in color; some note a green cast. It has a pear-like and hoppy aroma and a coveted flavor that fans describe as mild, delicate, buttery, floral, like cotton candy and like rosewater.”
Beekeepers who specialize in producing this exotic formulation go through great lengths to ensure the purity of their product. One producer describes the procedure like this:
“In order to get fine unmixed Tupelo honey, bee colonies must be stripped of all their stores just as the white Tupelo bloom begins. The bees are then given clean boxes with combs in which to place the fresh Tupelo Nectar. When Tupelo production is over, this new crop must be removed before it can be mixed with additional honey sources. The timing of this operation is most critical, years of experience are needed to produce a fine product that will certify as Tupelo honey.”
“Shes as sweet as tupelo honey
Shes an angel of the first degree
Shes as sweet as tupelo honey
Just like honey from the bee” —Van Morrison
The hives are sometimes located in special docks that are only accessible by boats. Many Tupelo trees are located within protected national forests, and special arrangements must be made to work these areas.
All that effort pays off when the crop makes its way to market. Pure Tupelo honey costs between 2 and 4 times what other honey sells for. From slowfoodusa.org:
Because of its unusually high fructose content (versus sucrose), tupelo honey will not granulate. A granulated tupelo honey indicates an impure tupelo honey. Also because of its low sucrose content, some diabetics may eat it. Certified tupelo honey is not heated, processed, or filtered; neither is it mixed in any amount with honey procured from other blossoms. Even a slight amount of another honey (gallberry honey, which is harvested just before tupelo, is the most common interloper) is not tolerated in pure tupelo honey.
Sources: www.slowfoodusa.org, www.floridatupelohoney.com