Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Secret Life of Bee Keepers

I never thought much of bees, outside of not wanting to be stung by one. Once at a girl scout outing, a fellow camper was stung on her tongue by a really pissed off bee. It had been enjoying a bit of black cherry soda when Tracy did the same. The bee defended itself and Tracy ended up with a swollen tongue for two days. The visual may be funny, but bee stings are serious stuff.
Then, at friend's wedding, the bride and groom thought it would be lovely to have a photo of all the wedding guests together.   As we were dutifully posing, outside a beautiful venue on a beautiful day, the photographer suddenly went down, screaming. She had stepped upon an underground beehive and was being stung by the swarm of bees. Very scary and very dangerous. The poor woman had to be rushed to the hospital. It's no wonder we flail and flee when bees come around.
I am not allergic, but still being stung isn't comfortable. I try not to freak out when a bee is hovering. I remain still, so as not to agitate it. Not really sure that is a valid approach, but its the only one I've got.  I have to admit; as far as insects go, honey bees are my favorite. Their purpose produces such a wonderful nectar--bee stings be damned!
When I was young, I was a competitive swimmer. We used to "dose up" on honey before a race. At the end of a meet, the side of the pool would be strewn with plastic bears, left behind, like a junkie's fix. We were real renegades. 
Honey gave us the extra energy, but not the complete crash that sugar does.
And it somehow feels healthy.

I had never really thought much about beekeeping. It always seemed like a big production. I figured one would need a space suit, a smoker, acres and acres of lavender. It never occurred to me that beekeeping in the city was a reality. Then I went to Paris.
I was wandering through Luxembourg Gardens and happened upon beehives and a beekeeping school. I stood on the periphery and watched some budding beekeepers practice their craft. And it didn't look that difficult. As far as I could see, it is pretty straight forward.

I have been wanted to have bees for almost 10 years now. And until Mike and I bought our cabin, I haven't had anyplace to keep them. While there are stories of New Yorkers keeping bees on their balcony and people with rooftop hives, I just didn't feel I could swing it in our condo complex. People here tend to complain if there is a wilting plant in the window, I think a beehive might raise some concern.

Because we finally have a place that could sustain a bee colony, Mike and I have been talking about it quite a bit. Imagine our surprise that while cruising around the LA County Fair we stumbled upon a honey bee exhibit.
 Just for clarification...the LA County Fair is one of the worst fairs I have ever been to. Let's just say the best thing about the fair is the commercials.
 Coincidentally,  the most interesting part of the fair (the bees) was sequestered in the farthest corner, behind a small garden. There we met a representative of the Los Angeles Beekeepers Association and geeze was she knowledgeable. I really want to be her friend.
bee colony at the fair
My new best friend (from the fair), whose name I didn't catch, explained that we shouldn't start our hive until next spring.  Which gives us a good 6 or so months to get our act together. In the meanwhile, we are going to join the beekeepers association and gather our supplies.  In our planning, we anticipate our first honey harvest in Spring 2011.  Put your orders in now people!

Talking about honey, made me want to eat honey.  So I have been playing in the kitchen and made a couple of honey kissed yummies.

Tropical Fruit Crumble with Vanilla-Honey Yogurt

3/4  cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup rolled oats or granola
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter--cold and cut into pieces
1/3 cup sweetened coconut flakes
handful of toasted macadamia nuts
pinch of ground ginger

Mix the dry ingredients together.  Toss in coconut flakes.  Cut in butter, then add nuts.

8 cups tropical fruit--bananas, pineapple, mango, papaya, orange segments (all chopped into equal size pieces)
juice of 1/2 lime
3 Tbs honey
3 knobs candied ginger, finely chopped
Heat oven to 375.  In a large bowl mix together the fruit.  Heat the honey with the lime juice to make a syrup, then pour over fruit.  Add more honey if you desire more sweetness.  
Remember your crumble will be sweet, so don't over-do it.  Scoop the fruit mixture into individual ramekins, leaving about a 1/4" to the rim.  Top with loads of crumble mixture.  Place in oven and cook until it bubbles and juice oozes.  Meanwhile, make the vanilla honey yogurt.  Remove the crumble from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes.  They should be warm but not steaming.  Top with a large dollop of Vanilla Honey Yogurt.

Vanilla Honey Yogurt
1 large tub good greek yogurt (i like fage total 2%)
"caviar" from 1 vanilla bean or 11/2 tsp vanilla or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 generous Tbs (or to your taste) honey
Mix all together and return to the refrigerator to meld the flavors.

Tropical Fruit Parfait
great for breakfast, a snack, or even a light dessert
Use the fruit mix from the Crumble recipe.  Layer with Vanilla Honey Yogurt. Top with a bit of granola or toasted nuts and a drizzle of honey. 

Watch this space for more honey buzz (get it?!).  I would sure bee grateful if you have any honey favorites of you own you want to share.



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