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Tupelo Honey

Tupelo Honey

Tupelo Honey (Nyssa Ogeche)

Tupelo honey is a high grade honey produced in a small region in North Western Florida and Southern Georgia from White Ogeechee Tupelo trees. The honey color is light golden amber with a greenish cast. It has a mild floral and fruity taste. The aroma is cinnamon and floral. Tupelo honey’s high fructose content resists crystallization for years. Because of its light floral aroma and balance it goes well with strong blue cheeses (Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola, Cabrales cheese etc.) and fruit such as fresh roasted peaches. Some diabetics use Tupelo as a sweetener because of its high fructose (levulose) content.

Since Tupelo trees grow in swampy areas and beekeepers want the hives close to the trees, it is common to place the beehives on platforms to avoid flooding along side of the swamp. Some beekeepers still use boats to access their hives. Tupelo floral content can be as high as 95% although only 51% is required by the state to be labeled, “Tupelo Honey”.

White Tupelo Flowers (Nyssa Ogeche)

Honey is certified in Florida by pollen analysis. Producing single flower Tupelo honey must be carefully managed by beekeepers to avoid dilution with other plants blossoming just before and just after White Tupelo. Several honey plants bloom just before White Tupelo, including Black Tupelo (aka Black Gum – Nyssa sylvatica), Ti-Ti (Cyrilla racemiflora), Willow (Salix carloniniana Michx). They are used to build up bee colony strength and stores. Combs must be cleaned of these honeys in preparation of White Tupelo blossoming. White Tupelo has a short blossoming season from early April to early May, depending on the weather conditions and must be harvested before the Gallberry (Ilex glabra (L.) Gray) starts to bloom. Gallberry also produces a delicious light honey, but unlike Tupelo, it tends to granulate quickly.

The tree, first discovered by William Bartram along the Ogeechee River in Georgia, it is also known as Swamp Gum, Sour Tupelo-Gum, Bee-Tupelo, Tupelo Gum and Ogeechee-Lime Tree. It produces 1.5-inch-long, showy red fruits that ripen in autumn. The juice can be used as a substitute for limes, hence its common name.

The Tupelo Honey Festival in Wewahitchka, Florida, referred to as “Wewa” by locals, is celebrated annually on the 3rd Saturday of May at Lake Alice Park. It is a great place to try and buy fresh Tupelo honey and talk to the beekeepers that have upheld the traditions that have made Tupelo honey famous. The critically acclaimed movie, Ulee’s Gold (1997), features a Wewahitchka Tupelo honey bee keeper, played by Peter Fonda. Of course most people have heard of the song, ‘Tupelo Honey’ composed by Van Morrison (1971).

Latin Name: Nyssa Ogeche W. Bartram ex Marshall, Family Cornaceae – Dogwood family

Honey Origin: The swamps along the Apalachicola River valley in Florida, USA produces the purest Tupelo honey. The Ochlocknee and Choctahatchee Rivers in Georgia also produce Tupelo.

Recognition: Listed in the International Ark of Taste – Tupelo Honey. Foods included in the list are intended to be “culturally or historically linked to a specific region, locality, ethnicity or traditional production practice”, in addition to being rare.

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Further Reading:

Apalachicola’s Gold: Archaeology and History of Tupelo Honey Production in Northwest Florida. By Kelly S. Hockersmith (pdf: 11 MB)

She’s as Sweet as Tupelo Honey – Pure Florida Blog Post – Aug 5, 2010

6 comments to Tupelo Honey

  • Hi -
    I have been looking for Tupelo honey but it isn’t sold in stores around here (Clearwater, FL).Wherecan I order some?
    I need the raw, unprocessed honey. Thank you for help.

  • HT

    Hi Helen:

    I have bought it at Blue Ridge Honey Company and one I’ve heard about is Smiley Apiaries. Let me know what you decided and how you liked the honey!

    …Scott

  • Hey Scott,
    Another plant in bloom right before Tupelo is Highbush Gallbery. Some of our bees stay on highbush instead of going to Tupelo.
    And..another is Yaupon. Yaupon makes a very nice light honey and it mixes with the Tupelo if there is any high ground around.
    Both Yaupon and Highbush Gallberry bloom at the same time, more or less, Yaupon on high ground and Highbush Gallberry on low ground.
    We have the Tupelo at http://www.sleepingbearfarms.com.

  • Gail Hoch

    Tupelo honey can be purchased at Savanah bee company in Savanah Georgia really a great place if you can visit

  • Mark Bozeman

    It looks like it is going to bee a wet and cool tupelo season!! Lucky hugh creek Tupelo honey apiaries are on high ground !!!! Any day now for the (flo) bloom to start on the Apalachicola river we are a small as close to organic apiary as you can bee !! We will be selling Tupelo and wild flower swamp honey at hughcreekhoney@gmail.com

  • Carl McCaskey

    Speaking of the movie “Ulee’s Gold”, they hired L.L. Lanier from Wewahitchka, FL as consultant. I see some asking where to order so try http://www.lltupelohoney.com/

    That’s the Lanier honey website.

    Also if you’re ever in Apalachicola, FL you’ll find Tupelo honey all over the place. My favorite is found at Retsyo, Inc. on Market Street (“retsyo” is “oyster” spelled backwards). The owner there has a wealth of knowledge he’s more than willing to share concerning Tupelo honey.

    Finally, if you want the epitomé of Tupelo honey the you need to come to Wewahitchka, FL in May for the Tupelo Honey Festival. The website is: http://www.tupelohoneyfestival.com/

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