By: Anna Hanau, farm manager at ADAMAH
Rosh Hashanah is such a wonderful excuse to indulge the delicious, sweet treat of honey. We forget when the Bible describes Israel as a ‘land flowing with milk and honey’ that sweet food wasn’t readily available as it is to us today, and that to describe a land—not just the food in it, but all the land—as being full of honey was sweet indeed.
Honey is made from nectar in flowers. Bees take the nectar and store it in their “honey sack.” When the sack is full, they return to their hive and deposit the nectar into the honeycomb. In the honeycomb, worker bees fan the honeycomb with their wings to help the water evaporate, leaving behind the honey. The worker bees then seal the honeycomb with wax secreted from glands in their bodies to store it for later use.
Like so many of nature’s beautiful systems, while they solve their own problem (producing food) they are solving other problems as well: pollination. Over eighty percent of the food we eat, depends on bee pollination, including CSA fruits and vegetables like squash, melons, cucumbers, apples, peaches and raspberries. A bee landing on a flower gathers pollen, which it then deposits on subsequent flowers. Some plants reproduce on their own, some have male and female species whose spores must mix to produce new plants. Bees are essential in this process. Sometimes the window for pollination is tight: the flowers of many curcurbits (cucumbers, melons, squash) remain open for only one day—if they aren’t pollinated that day, the flower drops without forming fruit. Pollination can take many visits, too—cucumbers may need as many as nine different visits by a bee for adequate pollination.
No amount of fertilizer can make up for a lack of bees. Currently, natural bee populations are in major decline, affected with the rest of the ecosystem by forest clearing (bees live in hollowed out trunks) and pesticides. To compensate for this decline, farmers now often buy bees in bulk and release them in their fields to help with pollination.
This year take an extra moment to appreciate the beers (and bee keepers) who made your honey possible. Is there a local honey producer in your area? Check http://www.localharvest.org/store/honey.jsp?m&p=8 to find out. If it fits in with your kosher observance, consider serving their honey at your table (with, hopefully) local apples. It is important that we try to do all we can to help keep the bee species alive. You can even plant bee garden – Rosh HaShannah is a great time to start your planning. To learn more about how visit: http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/urbanbeegardens/