There is a delicious honey that does not crystallize. Tupelo honey has a unique combination of Fructose to Glucose which results in a very high resistance to crystallization. The white Tupelo or sour gum tree is botanically called Nyssa ogeche. The Ogeechee Lime is one of the rarer North American Tupelos, but has the largest range; from Cape Cod to the old South, across the Southern US and then up the West coast to Washington State and Southern Canada. The Tupelo tree is a very versatile and beautiful tree; it is very adaptable although it prefers to grow near water and can often be found in swamp areas, or places where the soil is very moist.
White Tupelo grows up to fifty feet tall and can have a spread of thirty or more feet. The foliage is thick and usually creates beautiful shade during the summer heat. The oval shaped foliage is of a light green color. These unique leaves turn a bright red color during the fall. The bark is rough and often has lichen and moss growing on its rather thin trunk which sports a grey colored bark. The blooms produce some of the sweetest honey; male trees produce only male flowers which hang in clusters and are said to be more attractive to honeybees, whereas the fruiting plants carries solitary female flowers as well as flowers with both male and female organs. The female flowers becomes oblong shaped fruit which varies in color from dull yellow, olive brown, red or orange yellow, and ripens into a dark purple color. The flesh is acidic and the fruit matures during July and August and persists into November and December; Tupelo fruit are usually eaten by wildlife such as the American Robin, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Brown Thrasher, along with many other bird species, various Ducks, Raccoons, Squirrels, Opossums and Deer. In Georgia Tupelo fruit is used to prepare marmalade, preserves and a delicious relish because of its sour flavor; the fruit is so sour it has been used as a lime substitute.
The Tupelo, also known as the pepperidge tree; genus Nyssa, is a small genus of about nine to eleven species of trees with alternate, simple leaves. It is usually included in the subfamily Nyssoideae of the Dogwood family. Five of this species are native to eastern North America from the extreme South of Canada down to Eastern Mexico; and can be found growing naturally near swamps, streams, rivers, and lakes. The other six species are found in East and South Asia from China South to Malaysia and West to the Himalayas.
Tupelo wood is only valued and used extensively by artistic woodcarvers, especially for carving pieces like wildfowl and ducks. Tupelo wood can be readily pulped and is usually used for high-grade book and magazine papers. Tupelo is valued as an excellent honey producing plant by beekeepers in the Southeastern United States, particularly in the Gulf Coast region. The town of Tupelo Mississippi was named for these trees. Tupelo produces a light-amber honey with a greenish cast, and a mild floral to fruity taste. In Southern Georgia and Northwestern Florida beekeepers place their beehives along the river and swamps on platforms or floats during tupelo bloom season so as to gather certified tupelo honey, which commands a high price on the market because of its flavor.
The name tupelo is a common name used for Nyssa, of Native American origin; it came from Creek Indian words “ito” meaning tree and “opilwa” meaning swamp; the term was in use since the mid18th century. Tupelo trees are most content when standing in several feet of water. An abundance of Tupelo trees are found in the Apalachicola and Chipola river basins of the Florida Panhandle. Tupelo bloom typically occurs between March and May; male Tupelo blossoms starts out as a round bud, about the size of a small pea; it then grows into what looks like a miniature cauliflower. Finally, it explodes with dozens of little spikes; the nectar is found at the base of each spike where honeybees find their "pot of gold."
Tupelo blossoms are very fragile and unpredictable. In excellent Tupelo years, the nectar flow typically lasts for a few weeks, while in other not so prime years the fragile blooms may be ruined just a few days after opening by hard rain, heavy wind, or unseasonably cold weather. Tupelo honey is certified if it contains fifty one percent Tupelo nectar, but in many cases the purest certifiable Tupelo honey is about ninety five percent Tupelo nectar; a pollen analysis is done to ascertain purity. Certified tupelo honey is not heated, pasteurized, or filtered. Caution, honey labeled Tupelo that is crystallizing displays a good indication that it is not pure. Tupelo honey is popular in the South to the point there is a song by Van Morrison and even a movie made in its honor.
Honeybees are one of nature’s most experienced Chemists; they follow a” hard wired” protocol when making honey; they visit flowers within their flying vicinity which is about, a two to three mile radius, beginning in the spring of every year. Forager bees leave the hive in search of a good nectar supply; upon finding a good source she returns to the hive with nectar sample where she performs the “waggle dance or the round dance” for her sisters as she shares a taste of her find along with precise description and direction to the nectar source. Her sisters who witnessed the dance and tasted the sample are then ready to go out and find the nectar source so they could ferry home the goodies. Nectar is sucked up from flowers visited by the worker and stored in the organ called the honey crop or honey stomach for transport back to the hive. An enzyme produced in the bee’s salivary gland, called Invertase is added by the bee to the nectar in her honey stomach during transport and that addition begins the transformation or hydrolysis of nectar into what becomes honey within the hive.
Nectar when collected from flowers is a highly diluted complex sugar solution which typically is eighty percent water; the Invertase addition by the worker begins the chemical breakdown of the sugars in nectar to Glucose an (aldo sugar), and Fructose a (keto sugar), which are two of the simplest forms of natural sugars. The forager bees pass their load off to one of the receiver bees at the hive and returns for another load. The receiver bee also adds more Invertase to the received solution furthering the chemical transformation (hydrolysis). Hydrolysis is the use of a water molecule to cause the splitting of the complex sugars found in nectar into two simple sugars, namely glucose and fructose in the case of honey production; this continued splitting of complex sugars by the honeybees account for the depletion of a lot of the excess water comprised in nectar. By the time the bees have broken-down all the complex sugars in nectar it has about twenty percent water left.
Glucose and Fructose are both single sugars with the same number of Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen atoms (6:12:6), but they have a different atomic structure; Glucose forms a six carbon ring, whereas Fructose forms a five carbon ring. The difference in atomic structure of these two monosaccharide sugars accounts for the difference in sweetness intensity; Glucose is less sweet than Fructose. The human body uses Glucose in its metabolism process; and when we eat other more complex sugars they are broken down by the liver and pancreas working together, into glucose for use in our bodies. The worker bees pass the “in process honey” solution back and forth with each adding acids, other enzymes such as Sucrase, Sucrose Hydrolase, Saccharase, Amylose, Glucose Oxidase, and Catalas farther propelling the hydrolysis of nectar into honey. Hydrolysis continues in the hive until the water content is reduced to about twenty percent, at which time the honey is placed in the honey comb where farther evaporation of water is accomplished by the bees fanning their wings thus creating an evaporating draft, when a water content of between seventeen and eighteen percent is reached the honey filled combs are finally capped with beeswax.
So, why make honey? Honeybees need food to raise offspring as well as to feed themselves; during the spring and early summer is the time of year when most plants bloom; then in the fall there is also a short period of bloom by some plants. Since Honeybees depend on flowers for the collection of their food they need to make and store honey along with pollen for periods when there are no flowers around to feed from. We humans love honey as do other creatures; beekeeping is the method we humans have evolved so as to have access to larger quantities of honey in a more managed way. Today’s beekeepers do a relatively successful job of rearing, and managing their honeybee colonies to allow us the luxury of sweet honey on demand. Today some Australians beekeepers literally have their honey on demand with their new hive design.
Is your store bought honey really honey?
What percent of store bought honey is real and what percent of other stuff is allowed to be mixed in? Which honey would you prefer a hobbyist beekeeper’s honey, which is “raw,” meaning extracted from their own hives, not pasteurized, may crystallize, and typically cost a bit more per pound, and also not forgetting tastier too; or would you prefer the store bought honey, which is almost always cheaper, Pasteurized and very rarely crystallizes?
Many in the general public who buy honey in stores have no idea where their sweet stuff comes from or what it really contains; because the label says Honey it must be honey right? After all this is America.
In my opinion, “Raw honey” is the best honey because it is not pasteurized. Pasteurizing or what I call the overheating of honey changes the chemical structure of the sugars in honey along with subtle change in flavor; this change is not found in “raw honey” because typically raw honey is extracted and bottled without Pasteurization. During Pasteurization, the high heat causes a change in flavor, not necessarily bad, as well as a loss in the amount of natural honey antioxidants. There is no set standard for what "raw" means in the honey industry, but for hobbyist beekeepers it means never heating extracted honey above natural hive temperatures which is around ninety-eight degrees Fahrenheit; the temperature at which honeybees incubate and raise brood (baby bees) in the hive.
Pasteurization on the other hand requires heating to high temperatures which chemically changes store bought honey structure forever. Between the Pasteurization and the high pressure straining of store bought honey all the bee infused enzymes, antioxidants, and allergy fighting pollen is systematically eliminated forever from Pasteurized honey; therefore what patrons end up with at the grocery store, is simply a shelf stable sweetener in a bottle with a label that says Honey; Sad! Sad! Sad! For those health conscious patrons. Store bought honey is fine for cooking and even for eating if one is satisfied with just a bottle of sweet golden substance with a label that says Honey and cost just a few dollars.
In recognition of what issues commercial beekeepers and bulk honey packers face; according to their position; their major concern is the yeasts that honey contain. In a honey bottling/packing facility these yeasts are not welcomed like the yeasts used in bread, vinegar and alcoholic beverages; because they cause unwelcomed fermentation to occur in honey effectively spoiling the entire batch. Honey is hygroscopic, which means it has the ability to absorb moisture from the air if it is left uncovered over time. During bulk harvesting of honey in large operations, many uncapped frames of honey, meaning the bees did not deem the proper moisture content attained in those frames, thus no capping, gets harvested and extracted; this extra moisture in commercial volumes of honey could allow the yeast within to begin the fermentation process.
Normally, when the bees are hydrolyzing honey (braking down the complex sugars in nectar to glucose and fructose) they also lower the moisture content to about 17 – 18 % before capping it in the hives; a low moisture content combined with the low PH of honey prevents bacteria and other harmful organisms from surviving in it which improves honey’s preservation and gives honey a small to high antibacterial property depending on the type of honey. This is the main reason why I a conscientious hobbyists beekeeper select only capped frames of honey for extraction; if my Scientist girls capped it I am certain the moisture content is correct. If honey’s moisture content goes above 20% a very high risk of fermentation results with yeast present, therefore big honey processers Pasteurize to protect their investment/livelihood, by heating to between 145ºF to as high as 160ºF for a specified duration of time. Heating of the store bought honey to these high temperatures will also cause a delay or slowing of granulation by dissolving any small sugar crystals present in raw honey. These crystals are blamed for initiating the granulation process; the heating of honey also reduces the viscosity (the resistance to flow) of honey thus making the liquid flow easier during micro filtration and automated bottling.
Yes!! The picture above is really Honey; in fact it is Award Winning Honey of 2016
I love the taste of my “raw honey,” and especially the darker variety; every time I eat some of my girls honey I remember Polyphenols, Flavonoids, and Carotenoid. I think of all the good bee enzymes and the valuable antioxidants “raw honey” contain along with the pride I feel every time I receive a prize at honey shows. This year “We”, my girls and I won Double State Champion for Best Tasting Honey in Georgia at the Georgia Beekeepers Association Honey Show; and also we took the Best of Show Ribbon along with Best Tasting Honey at the Georgia Agricultural State Fair. Citizens are becoming more food and health conscious, so I am happy to help in raising awareness of food issues related to my small part of the world which is beekeeping and honey production. “Knowledge is power” was a regular saying of my late Grandparents. To all my Honey and Bee Products Patrons I say a special thank you for your support of hobbyist beekeepers. We appreciate you looking for and buying our “Raw Honey;” you do recognize the fact that we have not lost sight of the Honeybees meaning of Honey.
Here is an interesting video I found that gives a concise perspective of honey: Raw vs Pasteurized Plus.