When I first moved to these mountains, I heard quite frequently people talking about their passion for Sourwood honey. I had never heard of Sourwood honey before, and the name itself, didn't sound too appealing to me...'sour' 'wood'. Now who would want to eat honey that tasted like sour wood?
Curiosity got the better of me after a time however, so I bought a bottle of Sourwood honey from my grocery store. I came home and anxiously opened it up to taste this honey that everyone raved about.
I was very disappointed. It had a woodsey hint to the honey, and earthy quality, which when I look at the words alone, would be something I would normally find attractive. But in honey, I didn't care for it at all. I put the container back up in the cupboard and left it there, using it only when I was cooking with honey.
As time went on and I would continue to hear people talk about Sourwood honey, I would keep my mouth shut, just giving them one of those 'ole sweet southern smiles as I thought to myself, "you can keep your sourwood honey!".
A few years went by and I had a girlfriend and her family come and visit me for a few days. As we sat around talking, she would tell me how they were involved in raising their own bee hives and suggested that it was something I should get into myself. I really had no interest in getting into bees...it was just another thing that I knew absolutely nothing about and while I like honey I've never been a connoisseur of honey.
She would often suggest it during the time they spent visiting and I don't know what happened but 2 days before they were leaving to go back home, she said again, "you really need to get into bee keeping". When she said it this time, a light bulb went off and as is classic for me, I finally responded, "well! What do I need to do? Let's do it!". She began to scour the local market bulletin looking for someone who had bees to sell. It was the end of April which is normally after the bee season has started and bees are usually sold out.
We went down the a bee keeping store in the town south of me and my girlfriend showed me the beginning "must haves" to raising bees...the hive tool to open up the different supers, a smoker, a veil so that the bees couldn't get to my face or hair. There's nothing more yucky than to have a honey bee attracted to the girly girl shampoo you use and then get stuck in your hair...lol
The step daughter of the owner of the store told me that someone had just called the day before and said that they were downsizing their beekeeping and that they had hives available to sell. We got the man's number and rushed down there...getting hives late in the season is virtually impossible.
We drove down to the suburbs to an elderly man's home where he had about 20 hives. He gave us pick of the hives so my girlfriend began to open up each hive, pulling out frames, inspecting them. Needless to say, while I wasn't afraid of the bees, I was definitely impressed at how easily and comfortable she was doing that. We picked out two hives, loaded them into the back of my truck and headed back to the mountains.
Once home, she and her husband picked a spot they felt would be a good place to set the bees up and put them all together. I was now an ignorant, brand new beekeeper! She taught me how to 'feed' the bees those first few weeks as they acclimated themselves to their new home. As the weeks went by I would often go down and sit and watch the worker bees leaving the hives to search out pollen, and then coming back to deposit their stores. Bees are absolutely fascinating to watch...dedicated to the task at hand and taking something that is miniscule from plants and turning it into the sweet nectar of honey.
When harvest time came that first year, the step daughter of the bee store just happened to live down the road from me so she came by one afternoon to teach me how to 'rob' the hives. What an absolutely amazing experience...to open the lids from the hives and begin removing the frames that were heavily laden with combs filled with honey. We came into the house and she taught me how to cut the comb out of the wooden frames that sat in each hive box. As we cut, she suddenly got very excited as she said, "you have sourwood honey in here!". That made me nervous. As we cut and crushed the comb over a fine mesh strainer that sat on top of my kitchen pots I couldn't help but watch what struck me as being amazingly beautiful (harvesting honey this way) and watched as the honey drained.
When we finished crushing the honey she invited me to taste the honey on my fingers. One taste was all it took...
I don't know what that stuff was that I had bought at the store that was supposed to be "Sourwood Honey", but I'll tell you one thing. It was nothing compared to the real thing. It is the best honey I've ever tasted in my life and I have joined those that with much passion and conviction state freely that Sourwood Honey is the best honey you could ever taste.
Who'd have ever thought that a white box such as this, could contain a creature who makes one of the most delicious, natural and healthy things we could ever eat: