At this time of year, the Blue Ridge Mountains look like a sunset melted all over them.
Amid the brilliant gold of hickories, the hazy purple of sweetgum, the pale orange of maples, the anchoring hue is the rusty red of the sourwood tree.
Named because of the sharp, sorrel-like taste of its leaves, the sourwood is sometimes known as the lily-of-the-valley tree because of the fleecy white blossoms it produces.
These flowers, in turn, are responsible for what experts cautiously agree to be the finest honey in the world.
Sourwood honey has a deep, burnt sweetness like caramel and a spicy aftertaste of anise; some compare the flavor to gingerbread.
Equally remarkable is the pale, water-white color of this honey…that is, if you can find it. Lack of rainfall, colony collapse and seasonal vagaries have made undiluted sourwood honey increasingly rare. As a result, it’s rarely sold outside of its native region.
…We ate it this morning on biscuits.