September is Honey Month. Florida has a rich history in honey. And if you have visited the Sunshine State, you’ve probably had a taste of the fabled Orange Blossom Honey. But have you ever tried Sea Grape honey? There’s also Mangrove, Palmetto, Gallberry and even Brazillian Pepper honey.
Each has its own unique flavor.
Florida features a couple of Honey Bee Festivals as well. There’s one in Bartow and another in Jacksonville. But the grandaddy of them all is the Tupelo Honey Festival. In fact – our trip there actually was one of our very first blogs.
The Tupelo Honey Festival is held in the town of Wewahitchke, Florida. Have you ever heard of it? Can you even pronounce it?
When Mrs. Funmeister and I decided to stop waiting for “when,” we began looking for places and things to enjoy “now.” That, despite a small budget and a limited amount of time. One of our initial forays indeed, was to experience Florida’s Tupelo Honey Festival.
Tupelo’s Honey Festival
Since 1941, local beekeepers have gathered in “Wewa” as they say. They show their wares and display their collections of the much sought-after product. The gallons they harvest are made by literally hundreds of thousands of bees who have worked the local Tupelo trees.
The area southwest of Tallahassee is one of the few places these finicky trees will grow and once a year they put out blossoms the bees can work.
It Was A Trip
From where we sit, it is every bit of an eight hour trip even in the best of circumstances. For this journey we decided to take the back way for at least part of it. So we set out with our sights set on another little-known stop. The historic Putnam Lodge in scenic Shamrock, Florida. That’s just north of Cross City.
We jumped off I-75 just south of Gainsville and wound our way around to the old Dixie Highway then on to our destination.
Putnam Lodge was built in 1927 by the Putnam Lumber Company. It’s part of a bygone era in Florida’s forestry history. The restored and modernized Putnam Lodge offers two dozen guest rooms with a choice of kings, queens, suites.
We chose a modest room with a queen that was quite comfortable, (although we’d suggest a room at the back of the lodge with a better view and away from the highway.)
Following a pleasant overnight stay. we jumped back on the Dixie Highway to Tallahassee and after a brief layover, again took the back roads. We headed west through Trenton, Bristol and Blountstown – then south to Wewahitchke.
Upon our arrival, we found the Tueplo Honey Festival already in swing. It was packed with people. There were dozens of booths, exhibits and displays in and around Lake Alice Park – where the festival was held.
It was peppered with a mixture of food tents, arts & crafts booths and of course, lots and lots of honey. Among the local apiaries represented were Smiley Honey, R&J Apiaries and L.L. Lanier and Sons Tupelo Honey.
Good News & Bad News
The folks at Lanier told us that year’s honey crop had been “a great disappointment.” Apparently everything had been perfect for a record-breaking year. The bees were strong, the weather was almost perfect, and the river had been up most of the year. But in the end there was less honey than last spring. That apparently was due to heavy rains that caused the blooms to drop early.
However, the honey that was harvested was of great quality. From the consumer side, we didn’t see any of the shortage. There appeared to be plenty of honey at the festival. Although the largest size available was the two-pound bottle with a base price of $18 per pound, there also was no price break on bulk purchases.
To augment their supply of Tupelo, some of the vendors offered other varieties. We took advantage and picked up some wildflower, orange blossom, buckwheat, bamboo, gallberry, sourwood, goldenrod and even cotton honey.
We purchased a lot and a wide variety and all of it has been well worth the price. It was a wonderful little gathering as festivals go and Wewahitchke is a cute little town.
Although it was a long trip, the roads are good and the traffic was not bad (except on the interstates.) The festival always is held on the third weekend in May.
Now, if you don’t want to wait for a honey festival, there are lots of honey stores scattered around Florida. Of course, we have blogged about The Bee Barn in Hardee County. But there’s also the Buzzn Bee Farm in Gainsville, Buzz-on-in Store in Fort Pierce and The Sarasota Honey Company even offers free tours.
So there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy real Florida Honey. We’d like to know – what’s Your favorite variety and where do you get your honey? We suggest a local apiary. Let us know on our Florida Fun Travel Facebook Page.