Sourwood Honey A Regional Favorite
Sourwood honey is wildly popular in the Appalachian region. It is a local favorite and the only honey some locals will eat. In fact, we like it so well that we do not have a lot to sell. Most of this popular honey is consumed right here in our region.
Serve your honey with style
What is a Sourwood Tree?
The sourwood tree is barely noticeable when not in bloom. You will find it growing along our mountainsides and foothills. I am lucky to have some Sourwood trees on my small farm. They make a beautiful display in June at a time when not much else is blooming. The higher elevations of Appalachia boasts more nectar producing sourwood trees than the foothills.
Sourwood trees are usually small under-story trees. They can reach greater heights where growing conditions are best. In the fall, the Sourwood leaves come alive with color. It is not unusual to see yellow, red and purple leaves on a single tree.
An excellent ornamental, Sourwood trees love acid soil. You will often see them growing on ridges above streams. I chose to save my Sourwood trees years before I became a beekeeper. I’m so glad I did.
What Does Sourwood Honey Taste Like?
Does it taste sour? No, not at all. This popular honey has a rich, buttery taste with a pleasing after-taste. It is normally lighter in color than other honey. In the foothills, sourwood nectar is often mixed with a bit of sumac nectar so the resulting honey is not clear in color.
Health Benefits of Sourwood Honey & Other Raw Honey
The health benefits of Sourwood Honey are the same as the health benefits of any raw honey. Aside from its spectacular taste (isn’t that enough ? LOL ), Sourwood honey is just good honey.
Honey is an excellent instant energy source for athletes. Containing minerals and anti-oxidants, honey is a good substitute for other forms of sweeteners.
A tablespoon of honey in your morning cup of coffee adds a natural sugar source with no artificial ingredients.
If you are sick with a bad cold, hot tea sweetened with Sourwood Honey is a delight. The rich, buttery taste blends well with most herbal teas. It is a light flavor that does not over power the tea flavor. (Some types of honey mask the tea flavor. )
The anti-bacterial properties of raw honey soothes sore throats and helps with coughing.
Raw honey can be used to treat burns and wounds. After cleaning the wound, apply raw honey and bandage loosely. Honey helps promote healing and prevent infection.
(Good information for a hiker. A small bottle of honey can be an energy source and wound treatment as well ! )
But, the health benefits of Sourwood Honey are not what makes it great. It’s all about taste. No other honey tastes like Sourwood.
Sourwood Honey Demand vs Supply
While the Sourwood tree grows and blooms in areas outside the Southeast, these trees do not produce enough nectar for honey production.
Nectar production of Sourwood trees is linked to elevation. The higher mountain regions produce more nectar than the foothills. In June and July, the southern and central Appalachians come alive with white Sourwood blossoms.
In South Carolina, you may find Sourwood trees blooming in the mid-state area of Columbia. But, little Sourwood honey is produced south of Pickens, SC. ( located in the northern part of the state)
Sourwood trees produce best at an altitude above 1000 ft. At 1,100 ft above sea level, I just made it.
How Does a Beekeeper Make Sourwood Honey?
How do beekeepers manage bees to get a mono-floral honey such as Sourwood?
A standard hive consists of boxes used by the bees to raise young and store food. On top of the standard hive, I add “honey supers” that will hold excess honey.
When the Sourwood trees around my bee yard start to bloom, I will remove any partially filled honey supers and put empty boxes in their place. During the several weeks of the Sourwood bloom, honey produced is Sourwood.
South Carolina Sourwood Honey
South Carolina beekeepers in the northern most corner of the state can reap a Sourwood Honey crop. We do not have the elevation to produce as much nectar as the higher mountains of NC.
Nectar does not reach the bottom of the urn shaped flowers until afternoon. Bees are not lazy so they will harvest sumac nectar in the morning. This gives South Carolina Sourwood a reddish tint most years.
Our local Sourwood Honey does maintain the delicious flavor that we expect.
Each year, I hear stories of customers paying large prices for clear colored honey that is NOT Sourwood.
When purchasing honey, you are at the mercy of the producer. Ask questions, educate yourself and do not be lured by prices that seem absurdly low for a premium honey.
Sourwood Honey is Special
When I think of the Sourwood Honey supply, I recall a statement I read in a well-known beekeeping magazine years ago. “More Sourwood Honey is consumed than is produced each year”. Think about that for a moment.
Sourwood Honey is in such demand that it commands a premium price. It is not unusual to see a quart of Sourwood Honey going for $20 and up! We consume most of the crop locally. (Can you blame us?)
If you would like to experience the sweet spicy taste of Sourwood Honey don’t delay. I have a small amount for sale in my online store each year. When its gone – its gone – check back in August.
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