Appalachian Food

Using Honey

“People also used honey by itself as a dessert and as a sweetener when it was available. Lucy York told us: “If somebody found a honey tree, several families would go in together, cut the tree down and divide the honey up between them all.”

Her brother, Terry Dickerson, remembers: “One time somebody found a tree full of honey way up in the cove of old man John Garland’s place, and I reckon they got permission to go up there and chop it down. I guess there was eight or ten of us went up there and cut that tree down and when it fell, the hollow part where the honey was split plumb in two and that honey poured out all over the place. But we were still able to get a good bit of it and I remember carrying it home in buckets. That honey was just as white and pretty as what you see in the stores today.”

—”The Foxfire Book Of Appalachian Cookery”

I’ve always dreamed of having bees. Pap used to try and dissuade me by telling me how much work bees are and how finicky they can be to take care of. He had great memories of helping his father course bees when he was little and of finding bee trees for the taking like mentioned in the excerpt above.

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  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    January 11, 2022 at 6:06 pm

    Tipper have you ever eaten cotton blossoms honey.

    • Reply
      January 11, 2022 at 6:32 pm

      Mary Lou-I don’t think I have. Thank you for the comments. I hope you and Truman are doing well 🙂

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    January 11, 2022 at 3:52 pm

    Tipper I enjoyed all the post on honey my dad had bees when I was a small girl my mother had so many good uses for honey We live by a man in Texas who sell the good honey made of cotton blooms etc.

  • Reply
    Mary lou McKillip
    January 11, 2022 at 3:28 pm

    Tipper this bring back good memories about honey and bee, my dad keep bees when I was just a small girl and now I will be 80 in April. He had a terrible nickname for me it was moo but after Sunday dinner as we called it then after church he would say Moo let’s go sit among the bees. We never got a sting. When it was time to rob them as he put it for all the good fresh honey he would put on his bee suit and get his smoker and I was his tag along . I had nothing on but I was so small had no fear of bees and never got a sting. They can sense you are afraid of them. I helped my first husband hive a swarm of bees with nothing on , no stings either so I was the bee charmer I was called. I guess sitting among them as a child I have a love for bees. Mother miss Julia had so many uses for the honey. God made a wonderful thing called the honey bee.

  • Reply
    Rosamary Christiansen
    January 10, 2022 at 4:08 pm

    I remember mom kept a jar of honey on the table. After lunch and dinner my father would take a spoonful of honey. He was healthy as a horse.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    January 10, 2022 at 1:38 pm

    Tipper–I can answer, at least in part, Awgriff’s questions connected to gums. Yes, the term bee gums came from the common practice of hollow black gums (the tree had a pronounced tendency to rot from the inside out) for hives. That’s also where the term “rabbit gum” came from. There are multiple explanations of why he isn’t seeing black gums in use.\
    (1) They have to be fitted internally for comb holding, (2) Commercial hives are readily available, (3) Folks, even bee keepers, don’t live as close to the earth as once was the case and thus are less likely to know the whereabouts or have access to hollow gum trees, and perhaps most significantly (4) The stock of gumption ain’t what it once was, and it took gumption to make bee gums.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      January 10, 2022 at 7:53 pm

      Often hollow trees with a hive of bees inside cut down, carried out of the woods and set up near the homestead with the hive intact. Not only gums but other species of trees with hollows were used by wild bees but the name gum was the one that stuck.

  • Reply
    harry adams
    January 10, 2022 at 12:58 pm

    We have been fortunate for about 10 years now. A local beekeeper brought nine of his hives to our farm. He gives us honey whenever we run out and I do not have the hassle of working the bees. I just have to stay away from them as they know I killed their relatives in SC. Every year they would invade our house. If I get within 20 feet of the hives they come after me.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2022 at 12:47 pm

    So glad your back Tipper. I love honey. I take a spool full every day. It alit work for those little bees to make something that taste so good. Another gift from God.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2022 at 11:01 am

    I enjoy honey, but I use it to help with my allergies. I buy raw, unfiltered honey from a honest, local bee keeper that I know doesn’t add Karo syrup to extend the amount of honey they sell. I take a teaspoon of honey every morning, just by mouth, straight from the jar for almost six years. If you put honey in any hot liquid it kills the beneficial pollen and vitamins in it that’s essential and it just becomes a sweetener. You have to use local honey from your area every morning for almost a year so your body can build up a resistance to the plants you are allergic to in your area. It can not be used in anything, just straight from the jar and it has to be raw, unfiltered honey. Most stores don’t sell honey from your local area, so make sure to look on the back of the jar where the honey is from. I’ve had many conversations with Bee Keepers and learned so much about the science behind why it helps with plant allergies. I had started my teaspoon of raw unfiltered honey one spring and by the next year I noticed I didn’t have my normal spring allergy problems, but come fall they flared up. That’s when I learned from the bee keeper that there is Spring honey which is the lighter color honey and Fall honey, which is the darker color honey. He explained that in Spring different flowers bloom that the bees collect the pollen from that make the lighter color and is from plants that most likely I had allergies to and that’s why my allergies didn’t bother me after taking the honey because it helped my body build up a resistance to those plants in Spring. Different plants grow and bloom in fall that the bees collect pollen from which make darker honey and taking a teaspoon of the darker honey in Fall will build up my resistance to those plants as well. I bought dark raw unfiltered honey that fall and started taking a teaspoon every day during the fall and winter, switching in spring to the lighter honey and back to the darker honey in Summer months. It has greatly helped with my plant allergies in both Spring and Fall to the point I stopped having any plant allergy issues when I was outside. Two year back I ran out of local honey and was so busy with my gardens I felt there was no need to go to the Farmers Market. I had been out of honey for two years and this fall I noticed my allergies started up again. That’s when I realized it did work! I went back to the Farmers Market to my trusted Bee Keeper and bought my honey. I’m back on my teaspoon a day and I know it will take a while but hopefully by Spring I’ll not have any allergy issues. Just so you all know, during the years I faithfully took the teaspoon of raw unfiltered honey, I didn’t take allergy medicine. Sadly, this fall I’ve had to, but hopefully by Spring I won’t since I’ve been taking the Spring honey. If you think about it, our ancestors used honey not just for cooking but for eating straight from the honey jar as a sweet treat and they didn’t have plant allergies.
    Next time there is a local event in your area that have Bee Keeper booths set up, go talk to them. Ask question about their honey, how they process it, ask if they use fillers like Karo Syrup to extend the amount and if they do, don’t buy it. Some won’t tell you, but look at the honey and if it looks perfectly clear, then it’s got fillers and it’s been filtered. Raw unfiltered honey will look thicker, have a film on the top of the honey, sometimes looks yellow, but it’s very thin layer. Turn the jar upside down and if it the air bubble takes a bit to go to the bottom of the bottom of the upside down jar, it doesn’t have fillers in it. See if the bee Keepers can tell you all the benefits of raw unfiltered honey and if they can’t give you an extended explanation of benefits of honey, then move on and find a Bee Keeper that can. Ask if they use their own honey, if they don’t, then why should you. Bee Keepers that use their own honey, don’t use fillers, that care about learning how beneficial their honey is to health, then they are the ones to buy your honey from. Now I know there are some older people that have their own bees and collect honey to sell or share that might not know all the science behind honey, but they will tell you the colors are different in spring and fall, but not sure why, that they just pour it through a screen to get all the big stuff out and put it in clean jars, they eat some on a biscuit or toast every day. They most likely don’t have any plant allergies they can recall. They are good to buy from too. They have simply done what their people have done for generations and that works too!
    No, I’m not an expert, nor do I keep bees, but I ask a lot of questions, I listen and I try my best to research the best I know how. I’m only sharing what I learned and experience myself with the benefits of honey in helping with my own plant allergies.

    • Reply
      January 10, 2022 at 2:32 pm

      Thank you for all this information. I learned a lot.

      • Reply
        January 10, 2022 at 9:50 pm

        Holy moly Christine. Thank you so much for this great information about Honey. Needed and appreciated!

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      January 10, 2022 at 3:33 pm

      If you buy comb honey you can be sure it hasn’t been filtered or pasteurized. The honeycomb is completely edible and might be good for your digestion and your liver function among other things. It also makes a tasty substitute for chewing gum although it doesn’t last as long. Honeycomb is safe to swallow when the teacher says “Do you have gum in your mouth?”

  • Reply
    Ron Bass
    January 10, 2022 at 10:56 am

    I have kept bees for several years and they are a lot of work. The most prevalent problems are varroa mites and hive beetles. I’ve had hives swarm and have no idea why. Other beekeepers tell me they have the same problems. It can get expensive but I have a much more productive garden since I started keeping bees.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2022 at 10:47 am

    My Grandmother had two hives out by her garden back in the early 1900’s and I think she learned bee keeping from her Father. My Father told me as a young boy he would lay down by the hive and was fascinated to watch all the worker bees coming in with a load of pollen. He loved to eat the comb of honey. I did know that honey could be used on wounds for healing. In fact, when my Husband was sick the home care nurse ordered honey for me to put on a wound.
    I really enjoyed the video – One Year in Appalachia.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2022 at 10:45 am

    We usually called a beehive a bee gum or a stand of bees and I have wondered if bee gum came from using hollow sections of blackgum trees. I haven’t seen anyone use hollow logs for bee gums for probably 60 years.

    I have a neighbor who is from the mountains of SE.KY. who gave us a jar of linden tree honey and it was as clear as water. Has anyone else ever had linden tree honey?

  • Reply
    January 10, 2022 at 10:44 am

    So glad you’re back, Tipper. Honey is soothing on a scratchy throat, and nothing is better than honey and butter on a homemade biscuit!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    January 10, 2022 at 10:44 am

    Tipper–Odd that you deal with honey today, since I’ve asked several times recently: “I wonder if Tipper is using honey to treat her sore throat?” A lot of old timers swore by it as a folk remedy for sore throats and in fact all kinds of “miseries,” and I for one put a great deal of credence in this enduring folk wisdom.

    I’ve never worked with bees but have always been intrigued by them. One of your readers, Lisa Snuggs, has raised them and she has a wonderful story about work with her bees, a bee in her blouse, teenage boys, and the need to shed some attire. Get her to tell you the hilarious tale the next time you see her.

  • Reply
    Sandra Myers
    January 10, 2022 at 10:36 am

    Love bees, I would like to have some hives myself, but, the expense is too much. Thanks for your info, Tipper. I love hearing about your life.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2022 at 10:25 am

    My Uncle that I spent alot of time with growing up was a bee keeper, aside from his job at the Reynolds Wrap plant. It was fun to watch and see that up close as a young child. To see him suited up and walking to the back of the field with his little bee smoker was so fascinating to me! Even at an early age, I was taught the healing properties of raw honey. I hope you’re all feeling better!
    – Julie

  • Reply
    January 10, 2022 at 9:54 am

    I remember those days of finding bee trees with an uncle. He was really good at coursing bees and after watching several bees water he would have a good idea of where to look for their tree. After locating the tree he would notch it as a claim to the tree and honey which would be shared with the landowner. The landowner didn’t have to let the finder cut the tree but I don’t remember any finder being refused. This was in Elliot county KY. ( Ellet county)
    Both my papaws kept bees and so did my dad and I did for a short time but it got to be too much trouble while working a full time job and having too many hobbies like hunting and fishing. I do like honey and keep it on the table and always buy the raw honey. All the other honey has been pasteurized and the enzymes are destroyed.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2022 at 9:39 am

    We have bees. I don’t find it hard to keep them but it is heartbreaking when they die or swarm. It makes you feel like you done something wrong. If they swarm and you can find them they don’t sting you. I’ve picked them up and held them in my hand. They’re like pets to me. I tell people that I give them names. Like Bar-bee or Bee-atrice. Ha! But when they share their honey with you it’s a great treat. So glad you are feeling better Tipper.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2022 at 9:34 am

    Mites and bears have put many of the beekeepers here in East TN out of business. I only know of two locally that continue. I always noticed the fruit stands always advertise sourwood honey. I have no idea what the attraction to it is taste like marshmallow.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 10, 2022 at 9:27 am

    I love the taste of honey but am leery of eating it in its pure form. I have been strangled several times by it. If you’ve never had this happen to you it’s like you’re being smothered by an invisible force. I thought I was going to die then and there! I’ve been strangled by candy too but to a lesser degree. Maybe it is just my body’s reaction to so much sugar at one time. Maybe it is benign. The effect soon passes but at the time it is terrifying.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2022 at 9:25 am

    We started beekeeping several years ago when a swarm showed up in our yard one day. A friend helped us get set up. We’ve had some interesting adventures through those years, have enjoyed many gallons of honey, and usually sold enough honey to make “Christmas present money” for the grandkids.
    We’ve since turned the bees over to our son who has done an excellent job keeping them. He has studied and read many things in order to learn more about those amazing little creatures. In the past couple of years he has taught our county 4H beekeepers much of what he has learned.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2022 at 9:04 am

    I bought my daughter and her husband beekeeping supplies for Christmas several years ago. They got really excited about having their own honey to share with the family. They lost every bee in their colony the first year and blamed it on the weather. They didn’t give up and bought more beehives and studied all the beekeeper information they could find only to lose all their bees again the following year. The chemicals used on the adjacent farm seems to be the problem.
    Bee trivia makes me stop and think about some things I take for granted. A working bee only makes about 1/12 teaspoon of honey in it’s lifetime.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2022 at 9:01 am

    Pap was right – keeping bees IS a lot of work and it can be mighty disappointing when you open a hive and find it’s dead. Too many diseases, pesticides and predators (skunks love to sit in front of a hive, tapping on the entrance to eat all the bees that come to guard the hive) I kept bees for a few years but eventually sold my hives for this very reason. But, with that said, I do miss my bees, especially in the spring. Watching the bees emerge from their hives in search of the first flowers is exciting. Opening a strong hive and seeing all the honey, pollen, and all the sister bees working is a sight to behold. You may already know this, but honey is one the best wound care medicines. It not only stops bleeding, but it heals the wound must faster than any antibiotic on the market. Just apply some honey on the wound and cover it with a bandage. Of course, you need to use pure honey marked as “Raw” or “Unfiltered”.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    January 10, 2022 at 8:54 am

    Our daughter also wants to have bees. They just seem like an essential part of a farmstead. But your Dad was right; they are quite a bit of work and – depending on how deep one gets into it – can be expensive. And like with foreign garden weeds, there are mites and fungi that attack the hives and have to be eradicated. A friend who keeps bees tells me wild hives are just about a thing of the past now because of the number of bee-killing threats. The same friend tells me the labeling of honey as a particular kind; orange blossom, clover, sourwood, wildflower, etc requires having a sample checked for pollen composition to determine what it is made of.

    I have no doubt honey is healthier that refined white sugar. And it certainly is beautiful as well as being sweet. Not accidental that “honey” is a term of endearment.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2022 at 8:43 am

    My Grandpa had many talents, one being a beekeeper. We spent many sunny days barefoot nursing stings from stepping on his honeybees. We were comforted by the fact that honeybees are supposed to die after losing their stingers. Honeybees and bare feet not a good mix. Many old pictures capture his row of hives in the background. Not once did I ever hear of him having a sting from his beloved honeybees. He also captured swarms.
    There was always honey with biscuits, but I never cared for honey. We never figured out if it was an overlooked stinger or the honey I was allergic to, but I once had a swollen mouth after eating raw honey. Since then I have eaten small amounts of processed honey without problem.
    Not sure if it was all the honeybees or butterflies, but the gardens seemed loaded with vegetables and wildflowers in those bygone days. Of course, we always look back through rose colored glasses to our childhood.

  • Reply
    Cathy Sparks
    January 10, 2022 at 8:29 am

    So happy you are back Tipper! My mornings weren’t the same without my taste of Appalachia to start my day.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    January 10, 2022 at 8:22 am

    Where I live, there are plenty of beekeepers and even bee classes for those interested. There are laws within the city stating how far bees must be kept from the general population and they have to be in an enclosure to keep kids, etc out. I concur it is a noble cause with unequaled taste and gastronomic satiety! Tipper, I’d say go for it and maybe hang out with some beekeepers and see if you’re up for the challenge. I think you may be indeed a potential bee lady!!!! Honey is tasty and good for you. It’s been used in wound care since ancient days. Honey is God’s sugar! Much love and health to all!!! Have a tonic water on me!!! It’s good for what ales ya.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    January 10, 2022 at 7:21 am

    I too use honey as much as possible. I love the fact that honey tastes like the flowers the bees gathers pollem from. I am a fan of dark honey with its bold flavors. An aside, honey often helps in lowering blood pressure along with it’s vitimine content.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 10, 2022 at 7:06 am

    Tip, I’m so glad you are back, my mornings are just not the same without you! I love honey, I use it in place of sugar in tea, coffee and other things. I find it soothing to my nervous system. Buy it by the case!

  • Reply
    donna sue
    January 10, 2022 at 6:51 am

    Honey is so comforting to think about. I have never seen white honey, but the golden color of honey gives me a calm, peaceful feeling. I use it for food and medicine. It is good to put on a burn right away, and when you cut yourself when dicing food. It takes away the pain, plus it heals the burn or cut – after a few days, there is no evidence on your skin that you ever hurt yourself. For a burn, I pour honey into a bowl and submerge where I got burned in the honey for about twenty minutes. For a cut, I apply the honey to it and cover the area with a bandage. I put fresh honey and a clean bandage on once or twice a day for a few days, and then leave the area open after that. I cut my finger to the bone once, and ended up with no pain and no scar because I put honey on it immediately after washing the area with soap and water. I had the best dog ever that I named Honey. She was an English Cocker Spaniel the color of golden honey. I also had a golden honey colored lab about the same time, too, but his name was Odie. I now have a golden colored Rhodesian Ridgeback, named Elise, living in my house, but she actually belongs to my foster child. I do prefer golden colored dogs. I guess they give me comfort like thick, sweet, golden honey does. Thank you for this post! Now I want honey and biscuits with my bacon and eggs this morning!

    Donna. : )

  • Reply
    Martha D Justice
    January 10, 2022 at 6:46 am

    Honey bees are our BEST FRIENDS!

  • Reply
    Angie Graeber
    January 10, 2022 at 6:43 am

    I switched long ago to using honey as the sweetener in my morning coffee and no longer use
    sugar in it. A small change, but I feel healthier for doing it.

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