The Annual Tupelo Honey Festival

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The Annual Tupelo Honey Festival


by Jennifer Jordan


Upon hearing the words “Tupelo Honey,” most people may simply think of a Van Morrison song. After all, it was ol’ Van who made tupelo honey stick to the airwaves in the form of a hit song. Van Morrison aside, real tupelo honey has its own set of loyal fans. Sure, they might not buy CD’s, stand in line waiting for a concert, or throw their underwear up on stage, but they gather annually at the Tupelo Festival in Wewahitchka, Florida.


The Annual Tupelo Honey Festival occurs on the third Saturday of May with the purpose of celebrating a type of honey native to the Florida region. It is an event where people can gather to taste and purchase tupelo honey and learn about the art of its creation.


The Annual Tupelo Honey Festival was started by the founder of Smiley Apiaries, Donald Smiley, a former commercial oysterman turned corrections officer turned bee keeper. After perfecting his art of the honey comb, Smiley began to dedicate his entire bee keeping to tupelo honey making.


Tupelo honey comes from the tupelo gum tree, a tree belonging to the genus Nyssa. Located in the southeast US, these trees are particularly prominent in parts of Northwest Florida. Simple and well adjusted to areas prone to flooding, tupelo gum trees can thrive in the wetlands and marshes of Florida. Some tupelo trees are also found outside the US, in eastern Mexico, south Canada, China, Malaysia, and the Himalayas.


Though located in a variety of place, the heart of the tupelo gum tree belongs to Florida: Northwest Florida is the main producer of Tupelo honey with the Florida Panhandle handling most production. In this region, beekeepers produce tupelo honey by keeping beehives on the edge of swamps or near rivers on elevated platforms or floatation devices. This helps the honeybees enter and produce the honey from nectar of flowers without flooding the hives.


Tupelo honey is typically very light, with a mild and brisk flavor. It granulates very slowly and, for this reason as well as its taste, it is a favorite type among honey lovers. The demand for real tupelo honey allows it to be sold at a premium rate. When the harvest for Tupelo honey is in full swing, the crop can be worth as much as a million dollars annually.


Tupelo honey, like other types of honey, goes beyond taste. True Tupelo honey is fat free, healthy, and even some diabetics are allowed to consume it at their physician’s discretion. It may also help in other areas of health.


In folklore honey is a consistent homeopathic remedy, deemed useful for topical application. Scientists have now discovered that there is some fact to this lore: because honey has high acidity and low water activity, it acts as an antibacterial force, mirroring the tasks of Hydrogen peroxide.


Tupelo honey may also benefit people inside their boddies. Full of polyphenols, honey has the potential to fill the body with antioxidants. These anitoxidants can lead to reducing colon damage in people who have colitis. It may also help improve digestion, strengthen immunity and lower cholesterol and anyone who consumes it.