Sourwood Honey...What's THAT?
Updated: Mar 22, 2019
The scientific name for the Sourwood Tree is Oxydendrum arboretum. The common name comes from the sour taste of the fine-toothed, glossy leaves of the tree. The tree has also been known as the Lily of the Valley tree or the Appalachian Lily tree. The leaves can appear somewhat like a peach tree leaf, but can grow as long as 8 inches in length. The trees are slow growing but can reach as tall as 25-40 feet in height. In the summertime in the mountainous regions of the Carolinas, when not much else is in bloom, the Sourwood Tree produces blossoms with tiny white bell-shaped flowers that hang on 4- to 10-inch panicles. If you have a keen sense of smell you may be able to pick up the faint sweet fragrance of the flowers.
Honey bees are particularly fond of the Sourwood blossoms.
This Spring, our Beekeeper Susan Marie, moved one of her larger bee yards to a new location further away from a concentration of Sourwood Trees - or so she thought - from the foothills of the mountains to a hillside overlooking Lake Keowee. She was late in starting her honey extraction this year due to the high rain volume and inability of the bees to dehydrate the honey. After her first extraction, she placed the empty supers back on the colonies so that they would "lick the frames clean" so that they could be stored until next Spring. When she came back to check the bees today, she found that the bees had almost completely FILLED those boxes with Sourwood Honey! Wow!!
Sourwood Honey is considered a delicacy. The honey is extremely aromatic and extra light to light amber in color with a distinct heavy-bodied rich honey flavor. The unprocessed honey is known to be slow to granulate. Once you taste Sourwood Honey, you will understand why it commands a premium price from local beekeepers. The quality and taste is exquisite!
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