Sourwood trees are budding and the blooms will not be far behind here in the second week of June and yo u know that means the bees will be making sourwood honey. Well, IF there is nectar the bees MAY make a crop but not always. Interestingly, you can have a good bloom, but there will not be much nectar produced. It all depends on the year.
I've never paid much attention to the fine points of honey production even though I know it is an important forest product. My involvement with honey has always included a hot homemade biscuit and butter. On a recent walk with B Townes on his family farm I learned honey is not always what it might appear.
I have heard through the years that sourwood honey is a very light colored honey, almost clear. I’m not sure if the color part is correct, because I learned from B that holly and clover also make a light colored honey and all of these bloom before sourwood. B educated me that testing is available for honey to determine exactly what the source of the honey nectar is. He will only label his honey sourwood if it has been tested 51% or greater sourwood nectar. There is a movement in North Carolina for beekeepers to start testing their honey and label it by its source.
B conducted a taste testing for me at his home after our walk. All of the honey had been lab tested, so he knew the exact nectar source in each sample. The samples ranged from early spring honey with primarily holly and blackberry nectar to late summer honey with a large percentage of golden rod nectar, to 95% pure sourwood honey. I must confess that sourwood was not on the top of my list, but all of the samples were excellent.
I highly recommend supporting your local beekeepers. The next purchase you make ask if their honey has been tested, you might be surprised by what you are buying.