May 18, 2009

Tupelo Honey - It's Not All Created Equal

I am lucky enough to have great friends in this trade courtesy of my parents' upbringing in the Greenwood, Florida area (20 miles south of Dothan, AL). However, on the way to the beach, we would always stop and visit the Laniers in I know a thing or two about this stuff and sing its praises whenever and wherever the opportunity presents itself.

The Lanier family has been harvesting tupelo honey from hives in the Apalachicola River swamps since 1898. The late Mr. L.L. Lanier Jr and his wife Martha were good friends of our family (my maiden name is Willis, in case I have any relatives reading this needing a shout out). My cousins operate a nearly 150-year-old general store in Greenwood (Pender's Store), and the shelves have always been stocked with the handiwork of the Laniers.

My Dad took me out to the swamp road to visit the home of Mr. Lanier Jr in 2007, just a year shy of his passing. I remember the river/swamp cabin to be remarkably interesting, with taxidermy, homespun flowery linens, and just about the warmest hospitality I have ever come by. I also remember the honey...slow, sweet, on tea biscuits. Now, Ben Lanier & his wife Glynnis run the business. They are a bit closer in age to my folks and have been known to crash parties at the house...and then there was my sister's wedding... The generation is a bit younger, but the purchase process is still the same: leave cash by the honey stand on the back deck of the house and take what you pay for, honest.

From the blossoms of the tupelo gum tree, nyssa aquatica.

The tupelo gum tree grows in swampy areas in the south such as Florida, Louisiana, Georgia and Virginia, as well as along the Mississippi River, but tupelo honey is produced commercially in areas along the Choctawhatchee, Apalachicola and Ochlockonee rivers.

Tupelo honey made from the white tupelo gum tree, nyssa ogeche, is top quality table honey and is valued for its uniquely delicious flavor and its inability to granulate.

The process:
Bees are placed on elevated platforms along the river’s edge, and they fan out through the surrounding Tupelo trees in the swamps during April and May. This river valley is the only place in the world where Tupelo Honey is produced commercially.

"Real Tupelo honey is a light golden amber color with a greenish cast. The flavor is delicious, delicate and distinctive; a choice table grade honey. Good white tupelo, unmixed with other honeys, will not granulate, and due to this high fructose low glucose ratio some diabetic patients have been permitted by their physicians to eat Tupelo honey. Average analysis: fructose 44.03% glucose 29.98%." -- Glynnis

Glycemic Index 54.1 +/- 8.2
1 tbsp = 21 grams
3.59 grams water
17.30 grams carbohydrate
6.45 grams glucose
.19 grams sucrose
9.03 grams fructose
.30 grams maltose
.65 grams galactose
Calories 60

The Honey Is Famous on Film
In the spring of 1996, award-winning director Victor Nunez purchased a jar of Tupelo honey from the Lanier's stand in downtown Wewahitchka. He then drove to their house, explained that he was planning to make a movie about a beekeeper, and asked Ben and Glynnis to help. Before he knew it, Ben was teaching actor Peter Fonda how to handle bees, and Glynnis, L.L. and Martha were cast as extras.

L.L. Lanier & Son's Tupelo Honey
Since 1898
P.O. Box 706 - Wewahitchka, FL 32465
Phone or Fax: (850) 639-2371