It isn’t that often that you see the word ‘sour’ mentioned in the same breath as honey. So what is sourwood honey? Is there a possibility that it might come with a touch of tartness, thereby departing from the characteristic sweetness of this goo we’ve all come to know and love?
Sourwood honey is one of the most sought after varieties of monofloral honey and is obtained by our apian friends from the nectar of flowers of sourwood trees. It possesses a pale golden color and is known for its characteristic sweetness.
If you have ever wondered what sets it apart from other varieties of honey or about its very own health benefits, you will be able to discover the answers to those questions right here. And we will also provide you with the information you need to obtain some of the very best for yourself, too.
Sourwood Honey: Its Source and Characteristics
As its name suggests, sourwood honey refers to a very special variety of nature’s golden treacle obtained from the flowers of the sourwood tree.
The tree itself is known by many names including arrowwood, elk, lily of the valley, sorrel, and sour gum. As far as trees go, it’s relatively short-lived since its lifespan does not generally exceed 80 years.
The sourwood tree is actually native to North America and typically grows in the Carolinas, Georgia, Mississippi, Virginia, and Tennessee, in the mountains and coasts owing to its strong preference for loads of sunshine.
Although it’s not known for its fruit, the sourwood tree has always been highly sought after by humans. The Cherokee were known to use its leaves and bark as natural remedies and relied on its wood to make arrows.
Residents of the states in which the tree is grown, use its leaves to make a delightful beverage while deer love to munch on them and enjoy their pleasant tartness.
Honey bees are one of the hardest working insects on the planet, they also love the sourwood tree. The reason can be found in its tiny, especially fragrant white flowers. Also referred to as angel’s fingers, they are renowned for the abundance of nectar they provide — it actually drips down from its floral receptacles in more clement weather.
And yet their relatively short flowering period (from June to July) coupled with encroachment on the tree’s natural habitat means that there simply isn’t enough to go round for apian residents of the region. Bees that miss out on this exclusive bounty will often have to make do with other sources of floral nectar such as sumac, for example.
Those who are able to help themselves to enough will produce the champagne-colored syrup which is considered one of the rarest and finest varieties of honey available.
The summary delicacy is highly prized in the states in which it is produced and is considered a part of the cultural and culinary landscape.
A key example of just how much it is treasured is the yearly festival thrown in its honor by the residents of Black Mountain in North Carolina.
Sourwood honey itself is particularly sweet and actually surpasses orange blossom honey in this regard.
It is also known for its alluring light golden color although darker varieties do exist due to the presence of nectar from other flowers.
The rarity of the honey also means special care must be taken to only make purchases from a reputable supplier to ensure you get to enjoy the genuine article.
What Does Sourwood Honey Taste Like?
Sourwood honey’s real claim to fame lies in its mild caramel flavor and that slight hint of spice that will dance lightly across your taste buds reminding you of anise or licorice.
Thankfully, the nectar of those tiny scented blossoms is in no way affected by the tartness of its leaves, meaning there’s absolutely no sourness lingering in the background waiting to ruin that tempting flavor, making sourwood honey one of the most sought after varieties on the globe.
What Are The Benefits of Sourwood Honey?
In addition to its unique flavor profile which is reminiscent of your favorite toffee candy and even a slight hint of festive gingerbread, sourwood honey is also good for you in more ways than one. We’ve outlined a few of the marvelous benefits it brings below:
Antimicrobial properties: The ancient Chinese and Egyptians were among the very first humans to discover the healing properties of honey.
It’s no different with this champagne-colored nectar which comes with acidity and just a bit of hydrogen peroxide — two factors known to generally make microbes extremely uncomfortable and incapable of thriving.
Antioxidant protection: Sourwood honey has been proven to contain high levels of phenols and flavonoids. These handy chemicals help to prevent cancer, cognitive impairment, and issues related to metabolism.
They are also responsible for improving cardiovascular health and ensuring the effective regulation of blood sugar.
An effective skin care remedy: Like all other varieties of honey, sourwood is an excellent humectant, i.e., a substance capable of snatching water molecules right out of the air.
That makes it a superb ingredient in natural skin care products for moisturizing the body’s largest organ.
Its ability to keep those cells plump and well-hydrated will ensure healthy-looking skin and might actually make you look as though you’ve discovered that elusive fountain of youth.
Where Can I Buy Sourwood Honey and How Much Does It Typically Cost?
In spite of its high demand, it’s actually possible to obtain sourwood honey of excellent quality from reputable vendors dedicated to sharing their love of this toffee-flavored delicacy with everyone else.
Here are some of our favorites right below:
● Buck Naked Farm: A specialist in countryside-inspired delights such as soaps, portraits, and apparel, this outfit meticulously tests its honey in a lab to ensure the products it provides are of exceptional quality.
Its Sourwood Honey comes straight from North Carolina — the one place rumored to enjoy an abundance of this golden syrup. It has also been tested for authenticity and preserved in a glass jar to ensure you get to experience its characteristic smooth flavor in all its fullness.
● Smiley Honey: Based in sun-drenched Florida, a state known for its marvelous Tupelo honey, Smiley Honey is on a mission to share nature’s bounty with customers far and wide.
Its Sourwood Honey has been sourced from that haven of sourwood abundance — the mountains of North Carolina.
● Winter Park Honey: This Amazon-based vendor boasts a truly impressive range of unfiltered and unheated varieties of nature’s own golden treacle, and is actually a family-owned business committed to ensuring the world’s most loved insects get to create delicious honey.
Its Raw Sourwood Honey is completely natural and comes straight from sourwood flowers which blossom in the mountains of Georgia above 1,000 feet where the highest quality of nectar can be obtained.
In What Locations Is Sourwood Honey Produced?
Unlike certain varieties of honey which can be produced virtually anywhere on the globe, sourwood honey is mostly produced in certain regions in the United States, placing it in the company of rather exclusive varieties such as baobab, euphorbia, Pitcairn, and Tupelo.
This exclusivity is due of course to the strong preference sourwood trees have for the Appalachian Mountains, resulting in their presence in Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.
As a result, sourwood honey is produced in these areas with North Carolina having a reputation for producing rather copious quantities of natural food.
Is Sourwood Honey Seasonal or Available All Year Round?
Sourwood flowers tend to bloom between June and July.
Beekeepers who are well versed in the art of collecting this particular variety of honey must ensure they perfect the delicate balancing act of getting their timing right to ensure their fuzzy friends only get to focus on sourwood flowers.
Doing so will significantly reduce the risk of bees getting tempted by the blossoms of other plants such as sumac which also tend to bloom during this period.
In light of these facts, sourwood honey may certainly be considered to be seasonal.
Does Sourwood Honey Crystalize in Winter?
Raw honey will always crystallize during colder seasons regardless of the variety in question.
However certain kinds are known to do so at a slower rate than others.
Sourwood honey is one such example. This is due to the particularly high quantities of fructose it comes with — a quality which is responsible for those high levels of sweetness.
This ability to maintain its delectable, spreadable form for longer is due to fructose being more soluble than glucose and its particular affinity for water which enables it to cling firmly to its molecules.
It also places sourwood honey in that special group of varieties that enjoy a reputation for slow crystallization such as acacia, cranberry, grape, Mexican clover, milkweed, raspberry, sunflower, and Tupelo.
Spreadable Appalachian Gold
It comes with the most unlikely of names, but thankfully there’s not one sour note to be found in this wonderful goo produced in the southeastern United States which has become an essential part of the region’s culture and cuisine.
No other variety is quite capable of providing that silky, buttery flavor evocative of butterscotch, with just a touch of gingerbread lingering in the background.
There’s also that lovely delicate pale golden beige color which will certainly remind you of everyone’s favorite time of the year, and its versatility which makes it an excellent choice of natural sweetener or skin care remedy.
What’s more, it’s slow to crystallize, another huge plus if you prefer to have your honey remain fluid and spreadable for longer.
And thanks to the reputable vendors provided above, this gift of nature and a wonderful gastronomic experience might just be a few clicks away from you.