This weekend Midge and I are heading off to Kennedy Space Center for a press trip, but if we weren’t – there is no question we would be heading to the 24th Annual Tupelo Honey Festival happening in Wewahitchka Florida – just north of Port St Joe.
Under the great mossy oaks of Lake Alice, people come from all over the world to Wewahitchka, to taste and take home this local rare delicacy. Home of the country’s finest Tupelo Honey, farmers from the area will have booths of honey in many different sizes and packages, along with food vendors, art & crafts, and live music right on the banks of mossy Lake Alice.
Contrary to popular belief, Tupelo Honey is not connected to Tupelo, Mississippi. This pure honey is named after the white tupelo gum tree – which happens to be at its happiest standing in about two to three feet of water in the Apalachicola River basin in and around Wewahitchka, Florida. In fact, “Wewa” is home to some of the highest concentration of these trees – and hence these bees – in the world. Apiaries have been harvesting authentic Tupelo Honey up and down the banks of the river since the late 1800’s.
The tradition continues this season. Brian Bertonneau, owner of Smiley Honey – voted best artisanal American honey by Food & Wine Magazine – says it’s a little early to tell exactly how this year’s crop will turn out, but the good news? The bees are happy.“Three to four years ago colony loss was a problem for all of us. But now we “make splits” in the fall and spring. We take half of the bees from a healthy hive and put them into a new bee box with a new queen. So, when the nectar starts flowing in the Spring, there’s lots of room to capture every drop. This has made a big difference in keeping the hives strong.”
What’s so special about Tupelo Honey? Because of the content from the tupelo nectar, this honey will likely never crystalize. It stays liquid, has a low sucrose content (perfect for anyone trying to cut sugar out of his/her diet), and some say it even has health benefits that help with seasonal allergies.
Want to know more? What’s the difference between white Tupelo and black Tupelo? Ever had Tupelo Honey ice cream? (Sounds delicious, huh?)
Or, just want a direct line right to the bees? Meet Brian and Jennifer.
Jennifer, executive director for Gulf County’s Tourist Development Council, will share all the details of the upcoming Tupelo Honey Festival as well as a preview of what you can expect from a trip to Gulf County. As one big outdoor playground, Jennifer will share stories that can round out any trip – kayaking in the Dead Lakes, eco-touring down the Apalachicola River or taking a breezy drive to the beautiful Gulf Coast beaches.
Jennifer will be joined by Brian, owner of Smiley Honey. Smiley’s started in 1989 and is one of the larger honey businesses found in Wewahitchka. Ever heard of the Tupelo Honey Café? Yup; you guessed it. Smiley Honey supplies all of the honey to this growing family of restaurants. Brian keeps in contact with other “beekeeper partners” in the region and offers a great perspective on bees, Tupelo Honey production and this 2014 harvest.
The Tupelo Honey Festival will have vendors, food, activities, and even a Miss Tupelo pageant. This one day event has fun for the entire family. Check out their website and follow them on Facebook for all of the details of the festival.