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In mid-summer, the North American Sourwood tree produces large, showy clusters of small, white flowers. These blooms strongly resemble the Lily of the Valley flower, hence the nickname for this tree - "The Lily Tree." Honeybees love sourwood blossom nectar, and will work hard to bring it back to the hive. Summer rains often interfere with the sourwood season. It is not uncommon for beekeepers to make a lot one year, and next to nothing the next. As a result, sourwood honey can be somewhat rare and is often hard to find outside of the Southeastern United States.
In the Southern Appalachian Mountains, beekeepers keep their favorite sourwood locations a secret. This supply comes from an area in the southwestern corner of North Carolina.
The tree gets its name from sour tasting leaves, but the honey is wonderful. It is generally light amber in color. The flavor is rich and full, with subtle notes of caramel and anise. In both 2005 and 2007, American sourwood honey was selected as "Best Honey in the World" at Apimondia, which is a bi-annual world conference for beekeepers and the honey industry.