Honey is concentrated flower nectar. To get a taste of flowers, simply eat some honey. Honey may variety greatly from location to location, from year to year, and even from month to month within a particular year. Honey made from different nectar sources varies in color, flavor, and aroma. Honey harvested from one bee yard may change from year to year depending upon weather, wildflowers in bloom, and agricultural crops planted in the area. There are certain regions that produce honeys that are well known and sought after. Many people seek out the subtle and mild flavors of orange blossom, tupelo, sourwood, fireweed, alfalfa, star thistle, and cotton honeys. A select few are dedicated fans of the strong-flavored buckwheat honey with its lasting aftertaste.
By removing supers of honey after particular nectar flows, beekeepers can separate individual varieties of honey. The National Honey Board describes some of the varietal honeys at http://www.honey.com/nhb/about-honey/honey-varietals/. From the Peace Bee Farm hives at the Memphis Botanic Garden, with its great diversity of flowers, we have collected four distinct honeys in the same year: honey with the aroma of muscadine grapes, honey with a mild taste of flowers, peppery honey, and chocolate-flavored honey. The flavor of honey doesn’t always reflect the aroma of the flower. Lavender and citrus honeys don’t taste like the flowers. Today’s picture shows some of the many entries in the recent Tennessee Beekeepers Association’s honey show. Honey shows allow beekeepers the opportunity to hone their skills at producing a jar of honey as fine as the honey inside the cells of the bee hive. Competition among beekeepers is keen. For breakfast today, I had some mildly flavored East Tennessee sourwood honey with steel-cut oatmeal and coffee with chicory. From sourwood trees at altitude, honey bees produce a famous honey in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Sourwood trees are not consistent producers of nectar; but in years when there is a good nectar flow, Appalachian beekeepers sell rich sourwood honey to loyal customers.