Posts Tagged With: Honey Bees

It is nearly National Pollinator Week!

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Linda here this first, and very hot, Friday in June.

June brings us all sorts of gifts. The sun is nearing it’s solstice this month (around June 20th), and the heat is intensifying. It is this very heat helps bring the summer rains here in the Southwest. The moon is a New Moon tomorrow – this Saturday – and will be full again around the 20th – just in time to shine light on National Pollinator week!

Most of us know that pollinators are cornerstone species for planet earth. But lets look a little deeper at a few pollinators and link them with some foods/drinks we might have overlooked as pollinator dependent.  And with the references to the sun and the moon above –  lets look at which pollinators are doing what, and when.

Bees shown below, for instance, are solar beings. They actually have five eyes, not just the two that we can easily see with our own two human eyes. The other three are on top of their head, and they navigate using the sun. So while they spend much of their time inside dark hives, they forage for nectar and pollen while the sun is out, and are not active outside the hive at night. Keeping this in mind can be very helpful for how a beekeeper moves and where she stands in relationship to the sun,when working with bees is important. More about this another time.

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Queen Cups (middle comb) being formed in a friend’s hive.

Bats on the other hand, are evening/night pollinators. Among the many many many pollination activities that bats perform are agave flowers! And from agave flowers, grow agave plants. And from the careful work of bats, to the careful work of people (who harvest these plants and bake the “hearts” in the earth to make liquors) come Agave drinks.

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Agave Liquors are thanks to bats. That that tequila in your hands and that makes such an impression on your tounge is there because bats pollinated the agave flower. The Bacanora. The Mescal. All the Agave Liquors … are thanks to bats. Try an Agave Flight sometime. I did for my birthday just this week and it made quite and impression.

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Honey bee at a citrus flower

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Citrus along side of Tequila Flight are thanks to bees.

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Honey bee at a stone fruit flower – peach and nectarines and plums are examples of stone fruit

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Bacanora infused with peaches is thanks to both solar bees and nocturnal bats.

If you have never tried bacanora, consider doing so. It has a smoky flavor that is both surprising  – and kind of grounding.The hearts of the plants are cooked in “ovens” in the earth for extended periods of time. I also like that smoke is of the “air” –  as are bats and bees and flies – well all pollinators.

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The peach infused bacanora infuses not only flavor but a beautiful peach color as well.

 

And while you are at it, you can thank a tiny fly as well. Why flies?  They pollinate the flowers that become CHOCOLATE.

It is a strange and wonderful world:  flies and bats and stinging bees offer such gifts.  I am grateful for the pollinators who enrich both the earth and my culinary world as well . Please write me if/when you connect a pollinator with a favorite food.

Celebrate National Pollinator week in your own way. And consider checking out and even giving to an organization like XERCES ( http://www.xerces.org ) that is doing powerful, quality work. 

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Brick and Mortar Brownies

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Linda here. It’s  ranged from breezy to downright windy here in the Old Pueblo this spring, affecting the moods of humans and non humans alike.  Bees, for example,  do not “like” wind, and on windy days I do not check Apis hives.  Red eyed and sneezing humans and are affected by the dust and pollen. Like so much in life, winds have a  mixed effect on things, both negative and positive.

One of the positives of pollen on the wind is that it can reveal a lot about older ecosystems. I recently learned about this in an article I came across on the science of archeobotany – which is basically the archeology of Things Botanical.

On a windy spring day such as we have experienced here – but in the early 18th century in Colonial Williamsburg  – masons were at work laying brick.  A mason “slather(s) mortar as he buil(ds) row after row of the buildings foundation”. Unbeknownst to him, he is also building an archeological record of the trees and plants growing at that time.  As pollen rode the waves of the winds it came to rest on/in the the mortar and  became encapsulated in the building itself.

The mortar acts like a kind of time machine where the pollen of old is extracted and analyzed by archeologists, revealing what plants lived and thrived at the time, in that town: trees, for example, were abundant –  (pine oak maple and hornbeam) revealing a tree filled ecosystem in Williamsburg in the early 18th century. Contrasted to pollen from the same town in the later in the 18th century/early 19th where/when the mortar reveals that the trees had been cut down – and mostly ragweed and goosefoot pollen are found in that time-frames pollen-mortar revelations. Pretty interesting.

In a similar way  Zander (1941) describes honey comb from Apis mellifera (found in a tomb from the Nineteenth Dynasty in Egypt), that was dissolved in water and found to contain mostly pollen from Egyptian avocado and desert dates  “which indicate that the plants of Egypt have changes considerably since the time of the pharaohs.”

 

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RECIPE INGREDIETNS: (inspired and amended from  the cook book NOURISHING)

-2 medium sized sweet potatoes

– 11-12 fresh dates (pitted)

– ¾ cup cup ground almonds

– 2/3 cup buckweat flour

– 3 tablespoons cacao nibs

– ¼ cup raw cacao powder

– at least 3 tablespoons honey

– zest of one orange – plus the juice

– ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

– ¼ t salt

– 1 tablespoon oil of your choice (olive oil/coconut oil)

– 1 tablespoon almond milk/ or coconut milk if you feel it needs moisture

– Optional 1-2 teaspoons ground chiltepin – seeds and all

HOW TO:

Steam peeled sweet potatoes until soft (approximately 18 minutes) and blend in food processor with the dates and honey.

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Mix the dry ingredients together and fold in the sweet potato/date/honey mixture.

 

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Add the juice of the orange whose peel you just “zested”. If the batter is still a little dry you might add a little milk and/or oil.

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Add this super power batter to a parchment paper lined baking pan – and cook at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Let cool. Sprinkle with cacao powder, or honey, or chiltepin. Refrigerate – the cold brownie has a wonderful taste (whereas the warm are not so flavorful. )

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Housekeeping and the Hive – – HoneyBee Ice Cream

Housekeeping in the Hive:  And Honeybee Ice Cream

Aunt Linda here:

Honeybees and Housekeeping. These may not be two words that we naturally put together. Yet, to enter the hive and meet a day-old worker bee, it is surprising to see first hand that her first tasks involve housekeeping.

Bees don’t wait for the springtime urge to purge; their system is employed year round. Genetic testing of honeybees preserved in amber reveal that bees have changed remarkably little over 60 million years. Nature selects “what works”, and hives with strong “housekeeping” and hygiene habits are more resistant to disease, and thus more able to put their energies into filling their pantries and nurseries, and do not waste precious energy battling diseases and infections.

In the brood nest of the hive, we see that immediately after a baby worker bee emerges from her cell, she grooms herself — and then feasts mightily on pollen and honey. Her very next task is to clean out the cell from which she has just emerged. In fact, between her first and third day of life, baby workers clean, and even polish, cells so that those cells are ready to receive either a new egg that the queen will lay or to store freshly gathered nectar and/or pollen. The photos below are from my hives, taken yesterday.

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Note in the photo above that the newly emerged bee is a bit lighter and fuzzier than the slightly older bees. This flat capped part of the hive is the worker nursery and the fuzzy bee has just emerged. You can see that slightly older house bees are adding nectar to the cells; which they will transform into honey.

In the bottom portion of the photo below at least three young workers are “working” in the cells, their little bee butts protruding upward, their heads tucked into the cells. In the upper left of the photo two holes (one small, one large) in the capped cells show bees which are just emerging, The open cells nearby have nectar. The open cells in the upper right of the photo look to me as if they are being readied for more eggs/brood.

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During the next few weeks of her life, (up until about her day 16 or so) she and other young workers remove dead bees. They carry the corpses as far away from the hive as is possible. Watching them efficiently struggle in this task always amazes me; I attempted to take a photo of a bee corpse being carried out of the hive, but the fates didn’t align with a wanted photo opportunity. If I come across one in the next few weeks, I will post it.

Bees use propolis ( a substance made from plant resins, which has remarkable antimicrobial/disinfectant qualities) to varnish the hives walls, reinforce and stiffen comb, to seal up holes and spaces they feel are too big. Fascinatingly, they also used it to seal up the corpses of invaders, such as mice or larger insects, that are stung to death, but are too big to remove. The propolis essentially mummifies the creature, thus reducing significantly the chances of illness or infection to the hive. A hive that is a bit hard for a beekeeper to open because it is sealed with propolis usually indicates a thriving hive.  In the photo below, the bees have created a smaller entrance for protection from marauding bees. I added this photo so you can imagine how bees might “seal” a mouse.

(The bee you see at the entrance may be a guard bee; age of bee is between 18-21 days).

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I like to take bees on their own terms, and not romanticize them, demonize them, nor to project values onto them. I will admit, however, to feeling inspired by them. Personally, I am not a very skilled housekeeper. I am, however, startled by how remarkably good it feels to remove “dead” energy, let’s call it Clutter, from the hive I call home. As I do this, I find my energy freed up. Often, after some deep culling, new ideas arise; fresh insights beckon, solutions present themselves.

Today, let’s be like that freshly emerged worker bee. After grooming ourselves, we’ll feast on honey and pollen (recipe below) to fortify ourselves for our own version of housekeeping.

Honeybee Ice Cream – (the basic) recipe:

Prep the ice cream maker of your choice; I love the old style hand crank kind, using ice and rock salt – but you may use the lighter, more user friendly ones – where you freeze the container ahead of time.

2 cups organic milk

2/3 cups honey – as local as you can get

½ teaspoon sea salt

2 large eggs

2 cups heavy cream

1 tablespoon vanilla

Over medium to low heat, and being careful not to scald it, heat the milk in a stainless steel pan, about five minutes, whisking in the honey and salt as the milk warms.

Beat the eggs in a small bowl, and add ½ of the milky mixture above, and whisk it – slowly – into the eggs. Stir this milk/egg mixture back into the milk in the pan and heat again over the med-low heat for another 5 minutes, stirring consistently so that you don’t scorch it.

Remove from heat – pour mixture into a glass/ceramic bowl and let it cool completely. Once cooled; whisk in the heavy cream, vanilla. And process in the manner you prefer (by simply freezing it, milling it in one of those cold -ice cream machines, or the old fashioned “arm crank” method)

Beyond the basic recipe: Considering the 60 million year old dance between flowers and honeybees, why not consider adding a few of the edible flowers that Carolyn wrote about this month. Below are some Elderberry flowers (with a few scented geranium, in purple) that I added to my ice cream.

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You might also sprinkle pollen on top, or even put it into the mixture of ice cream itself. There is honey already in the this ice cream, but drizzling some on top in place of caramel or chocolate might be sweet.

Note: Conventional thinking is that raw honey may not be healthy for infants under one year, pregnant women, or breastfeeding mothers/babies. It is worth talking with your health care practitioner about. And though uncommon, some people find that they have a reaction to pollen, so start with small quantities.

 

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