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What is Tupelo honey?

Tupelo (Nyssa) honey

Tupelo honey is a premium honey. It is extracted in limited quantities in Florida and Georgia. Does not crystallise for a very long time. Has its own special flavour and admirers of this honey. In this article we will tell you about all the features and history of this honey.

Tupelo Trees

Tupelo honey (or Nyssa honey) is harvested from the flowers of the Nyssa tree. Before we tell you about the specifics of beekeeping and Tupelo honey itself, we suggest you learn more about this wonderful honey tree. There are about 10 species of Tupelo, and they come from North America and Asia. The following species are known: Nyssa aquatic, Nyssa biflora, Nyssa javanica, Nyssa ogeche, Nyssa sinensis, Nyssa spatulata, Nyssa sylvatica, Nyssa talamancana, Nyssa Texana, Nyssa ursina, Nyssa yunnanensis.

Tupelo grows on fertile, moist, slightly acidic soil, in direct sunlight or in semi-shade. It is found in swamps, riverine areas, floodplains and lowland forests. People grow the plant for ornamental purposes because of its beautiful leaves and shade and as a source of wood. In the wild, tupelo can live for more than 1 000 years.

The small greenish flowers bloom in April or May. Male flowers are found on one tree and female flowers on another. Male flowers are gathered in round, dense inflorescences, while female flowers are solitary and have thin pedicels. The bluish-purple fruits ripen in September. The wood is soft.

Where does the name Tupelo come from?

The name Nyssa refers to a Greek nymph. The name Tupelo came into English from the Creek Indians, in whose language it was formed from the words “ito” – tree and “opilwa” – swamp. That is, a tree in a swamp. Tupelo lives up to its name by growing in the vast swampy lowlands of America.

Where Tupelo honey is harvested

Pure monofloral honey from the Nyssa ogeche tree is harvested on an commercial scale in only one place in the world – in the states of Florida and Georgia (USA) in the swampy lowlands of the Ogeechee River, the Apalachicola and the Chattahoochee River.

Production and Harvesting

Nyssa is a spring honey plant, so the honey harvest depends entirely on the changeable spring weather. The nectar is released for several weeks in such large quantities that the bees use only a small part of it.

The beginning of the honey harvest depends on the duration of flooding. If there is no flooding in early spring in northern Florida, the trees blossom in March and the harvest lasts for 3 weeks. Heavy rains and flooding delay flowering.

As Nyssa is located in a swampy area, beekeepers have to transport the hives to the honey harvest by boat. The hives are placed along the rivers on special platforms built in advance.

Tupelo honey is produced in limited quantities throughout the year due to the limited flowering area and difficult accessibility. A total of 500 000 pounds are produced per year. This makes Tupelo honey quite expensive on the market.

Taste profile and uses

Honey from white tupelo flowers has a very fine aroma and a thick consistency. The light colour with a pale lemon tinge gives the honey a beautiful appearance in glassware. Mostly centrifugal honey is obtained from tupelo. White tupelo honey has 2 parts of fructose per one part of glucose.  It is much sought after by honey merchants in the northern states because it does not crystallise for years.

History and availability

Mass production of Tupelo honey as a special type of honey began in the late 19th century in Florida along the Apalachicola River. This honey was popularised by the beekeeper G.W. Kestler and in the early 20th century the popularity of this honey increased significantly. President Theodore Roosevelt loved this honey and so it was delivered to the White House. Tupelo honey is a premium honey and is more expensive at $2-3 per pound. It is sold locally in the Southeast and throughout the US in premium honey shops.

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