"So there really is such a thing as Tupelo honey?" Yes indeed.

The word "Tupelo" comes from a Creek Indian word meaning "swamp tree". The trees grow in the river basins in the southeastern United States. Tupelo honey production is concentrated in the Florida panhandle, although it is also made in parts of Georgia and the Carolinas. This is the only place in the world where it is commercially produced.

Pure Tupelo honey comes from the White Ogeechee Tupelo. It has a light, greenish-gold color, and a sweet, mild flavor. A large part of the appeal is the high levulose-to-dextrose ratio (an average of 43.03% levulose, 29.8% dextrose) which means that the pure honey will not crystallize. Humans also digest this combination of sugars more slowly, which has led some doctors to permit their diabetic patients to eat tupelo honey.

Bees naturally build hives in Tupelo trees. For commercial production, hives are set up on raised platforms on the river bank, to help protect them from flooding. White Tupelo flowers generally bloom between mid March and early May. In order to ensure purity, honey is completely cleaned from the hives just before the trees bloom, and again immediately after. If the Tupelo honey is mixed with honey from other flowers, it will have a darker color, slightly different flavor, and it will granulate. Timing is extremely important and takes beekeepers years to perfect. Mixed honeys are sold as "baker's grade" or "Tupelo and Wildflower" honey, or sometimes just labeled "Tupelo Honey" and sold for the same high prices as the pure stuff. Buyer beware.

Tupelo honey is generally used as a table honey. It is a good alternative to sugar for baking, because it doesn't give the food a strong honey flavor. It is sometimes used in commercial cough syrup to help cover the bitter medicinal taste.

Watch Peter Fonda make Tupelo honey in the movie Ulee's Gold.

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