Summer Travel Quest #26

Taste Tupelo Honey

It has inspired everyone from chefs to soul singers, and if you want to eat it this year get to Savannah soon—you can only sample this honey for a few fleeting months
by Travis Marshall Posted Jun 16th 2014 2:03p.m.
Travis is a Los Angeles-based adventure-travel writer who gets his kicks island hopping tropical archipelagos, scuba diving with sharks and exploring the California backcountry.

So it’s only fitting that deep within Savannah’s colonial era center sits the perfect place to sample a sweet treat rarely found—or even heard of—beyond this steamy corner of the South: tupelo honey.

Irish singer Van Morrison extolled the legendary buttery sweetness of this local elixir, and he wasn’t exaggerating. Even more than muscadine wine, pulled pork BBQ or pickled okra, tupelo honey embodies Southern terroir at its finest; it’s a highly prized food that exists only here, and only for a few fleeting months, at that.

Each spring, local honeybees feast for mere days from the blossoms of the white tupelo trees, which bloom exclusively in the black waters of the nearby Ogeechee River. “Revered naturalist William Bartram found tupelo trees on the Ogeechee River in the late 1700s,” says Ted Dennard, owner of Savannah Bee Company. “He named it Nyssa ogeche after a Greek water nymph, because the trees grew right from the river water.”

INSIDER TIP

Want to check if your tupelo honey is authentic? Put it in the fridge. Tupelo honey won’t crystallize when it gets cold. If it comes out of the chill chest still clear and smooth pouring, it’s the real deal. 

White tupelos’ limited range runs from South Georgia to North Florida, and passionate beekeepers take their hives to the riverbanks to ensure their bees collect nectar only from the tupelo blossoms during this tiny window. That means summer is the perfect time to find tupelo honey fresh from the harvest.

“We just finished the honey harvest in May—the flowers only produced nectar in abundance for three days, and won’t bloom again for another 12 months,” Dennard says. “This amazing honey is my favorite. It’s lightly golden with a greenish cast, and has a rare sugar composition that prevents it from granulating.”

Dennard’s Savannah Bee Company is a nationally renowned honey purveyor based in Savannah, and one of the few places to find tupelo honey on the shelves. Stroll by the storefront on West Broughton Street—in the beautifully preserved Downtown Historic District—to taste a sample before stocking up on this rare find.

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Travis Marshall is a Los Angeles-based adventure-travel writer who gets his kicks island hopping tropical archipelagos, scuba diving with sharks and exploring the California backcountry.

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MORE SUMMER TRAVEL QUESTS

24) Lounge on the World's Longest Porch

25) Witness Astronomical Fireworks in New Mexico

26) Taste Tupelo Honey

27) Watch a Movie in a Cemetery

28) Take a (Night) Hike

>> All 99 Summer Travel Quests

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Use the hashtag #99SummerQuests to share your own summer travels, and follow along with us at @MapQuest and Instagram.

Van Morrison's classic "Tupelo Honey"
Van Morrison's classic "Tupelo Honey"
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