That’s a good question; from ancient times humans have managed to use honey medicinally; The Egyptians and others used honey for wound treatment as well as for other medicinal purposes. I have used honey for my allergies and over time I can attest to a substantial state of allergy relief. What I cannot say with certainty is whether or not honey cures cancer because this has not scientifically been proven. There are various studies being carried out by scientists to address the possible capabilities of honey’s medicinal value and only time and our brilliant Scientists with the aid of current and ever improving technologies will let us know the answer to this question. However I do have answers to the next question. What is Sour wood honey?
Sourwood honey’s color and flavor varies somewhat from year to year depending on Mother Nature and beekeeper skill in the timing of placing their bees. It ranges from light to medium in color generally and is usually mild extremely aromatic with a distinctive rich honey flavor and very desirable for its taste. The purest Sourwood honey’s color ranges from very light to light amber with a slightly gray tint and its texture is defined by a smooth, caramel buttery quality; it is considered to be one of the best honeys by many and is produced mainly in the Southeastern Mountains of the United States, from Southern Pennsylvania to Northern Georgia, west to Alabama. Sourwood is indigenous to the United States; it grows and blooms from late June through July on good years. In the Southeastern United States beekeepers tend to keep their sourwood locations a guarded secret because it is common to find another zealous beekeeper invading on one’s favorite sour wood spot when June and Sourwood season rolls around. Our supply comes from a couple areas in the Southeastern corner of North Carolina and in the North Georgia Mountain.
Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboretum) is usually a medium size tree that can range in height from 33 to 66 ft tall with a trunk diameter almost 20 inches. Occasionally in extremely productive areas, this species can reach heights in excess of 90 feet tall and 24 inches diameter. The leaves are dark green in the summer, but turn vivid red in the fall; there are occasions where I have seen the leaves yellow rather than red in the fall. The blooms are white and bell-shaped, and grow on 6 to 9 inch panicles; they are referred to by many as “Lily-of-the-valley” or “Appalachian Lily tree” also "Sorrel tree", the blooms are highly fragrant and contrast nicely against the foliage; the fruit is a small woody capsule when mature. Sourwoods love acidic soil with minimal root competition. The leaves if chewed are sour to the taste which resulted in the tree’s name, but the juices do have the effective of a laxative if swallowed. Sourwood is renowned for very desirable nectar by honeybees, they love it; and by humans for the honey which is produced from it. Every August, Black Mountain, North Carolina hosts the Sourwood Festival which celebrates the beautiful Appalachian native Sourwood tree, and the delicious, unparalleled honey it produces. Hundreds of vendors and families attend this festival, which has everything from music and dancing to arts and face painting; there is even an Appalachian song for the tree. In times of old, the Cherokee and the Catawaba Indians used sourwood shoots to make arrow shafts.
Sourwood bloom period is typically quite short and beekeepers must time themselves accordingly in order to ensure that the bees do not harvest nectar from other flowering plants. If the bees are brought to the area too soon, they will harvest the sumac trees that bloom just before the sourwood and if they are brought too late, they will miss the beginning of the sourwood flow thus loosing precious honey. The duration of Sourwood bloom season is very sensitive to rainfall; also the trees need adequate sunlight in order to produce nectar, which can be difficult because sourwood trees are often shorter than the surround canopy. If the weather patterns are not conducive to good blooming, the beekeeper cannot harvest the honey target for that year. While production is inherently challenging, other factors conspire to make it even more so. The Sourwood tree population is limited and constantly threatened by development weather from mining as in Appalachia or urban development. Hats off to Dr Tammy Horn and her effort to reclaim part of Coal mined Appalachia maybe bees and beekeepers will see a future with more Sourwood trees because the world has an ever growing demand for Sourwood honey.
The parameters for classifying Sourwood honey are very strict so Mother Nature sure test beekeepers skills and abilities when June end rolls around and the topic of good Sourwood honey is at hand. Sourwood is sought after worldwide and is considered by many to be a “gourmet” honey of the world. Sourwood trees grow in very specific environments; and luckily for my girls and beekeeper me they thrived in our North Georgia area. Hears to a good Sourwood season!