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On Learning When and Where Things are in Season

As we ambled slowly through Hendersonville, NC, we came across the Curb Market on Church Street where locals were selling local things. The last time we had visited our friends in the foothills near Zirconia we had bought sourwood blossom honey at a roadside stand on US 25 heading south down the mountain toward Greenville, SC, and M. wanted to do the same this time. The Curb Market in Hendersonville offered, perhaps, a short cut to this quest. Sure enough, we found a table in the old market hall with honey but alas, no sourwood. Upon asking the woman behind the table where to find said sourwood honey, they told us that it was a bit early and that that type of honey would be available in two to three weeks. Ok, we’ll wait. Before we leave the Curb Market, one of the women suggested we try J and D two blocks down on Church Street. But we first hike back to the Visitor Center around the corner on Main Street to buy some postcards and inspect the plumbing. Then back down the hill to J and D, a small shack where busy young men sell fruit and vegetables, and, behind the counter, different kinds of honey, but alas, no sourwood here either. The answer is the same as at the Curb Market: “Wait two to three weeks and we’ll have it in stock.” To me this agreement on when the honey would be finally available was a sign that the people of this region understand their land, and what it provides; that they are connected to the seasons, and by extension to the honey bees who make that sweet and sticky stuff while dancing through the thick North Carolina air in July.

Post Script: Now that I’m writing this in the Pisgah Inn’s dark motel room at around 5000 feet altitude, there are two glass jars of sourwood honey safely stashed away in the trunk of the car out in the parking lot. I found that honey in one of those roadside shacks, a day after a failed search in Hendersonville (elevation about 2100 feet), heading again south on US 25, just north of Greenville, at elevation 1100 feet. The reason—I think—for finding that sourwood honey here, is linked to the elevation. It is markedly hotter at 1100 feet (about 94 degrees on this particular day) than at 2100 feet (in the mid 80s), and so, I presume, the sourwood has already bloomed down here but is only now getting ready higher up. And that’s how I learned when things are in season where…