Our newsletter from August 4:
Dear CSA members,
After three years of beekeeping, we finally have a honey harvest! Just a bit, because we want to make sure that the bees have enough to get them through the winter—that’s why they’re storing it up in the first place, after all! As most of you probably know, honeybees (and wild bees and other pollinators too) have been having a tough time of it this past decade or so. We have yet to get a hive of bees to survive through the winter, but we’re not alone—one national beekeeping survey reported a 44% loss of bees over this past winter. We think our losses have been due to several factors including harsh weather, varroa mites, and in one case, very possibly newbie beekeeper incompetence. (Knocking over four supers full of bees is not a great feeling, let me tell you.) But this hive appears to be the strongest one we’ve had so far and we’re hopeful that this will be the one that makes it to the next spring. If it does and is still strong next year, we’ll try to split the hive and increase our colonies that way.
Unlike most honey you’ll find in stores, this honey is raw and unfiltered and we have not used any pesticides in the hives to control mites. Parasitic mites are such a big problem for bees right now that most beekeepers feel they have to treat their colonies with miticides in order to protect them, especially if they are large beekeepers with many hives that move around to different parts of the country during different times of year. Other beekeepers think that by over-relying on pesticides, we are not allowing the bees to develop their own methods of surviving mite infestations. There’s some interesting work being done right now in trying to breed “hygenic” honeybees which kill mites and “mite biter” honeybees, named for their habit of biting the mites’ legs, causing them to fall to the bottom of the hive.
The idea of working with nature to develop resistance to pests and diseases rather than having to continually use toxins to keep pest problems at bay is at the heart of how we approach farming, so that’s how we’re approaching beekeeping as well. But we’re also trying to learn how to better monitor the colony for mite problems so that we can better understand how mites are affecting our bees and how our beekeeping practices may play a role in this.
Because the honey is raw and unfiltered, bits of pollen and beeswax caught in the honey may cause it to crystalize more quickly than honey that’s been heated and forced through a filter. If that happens, simply put your honey jar in a pot of warm water to re-liquefy it. Or just use it as is—I sometime like using crystalized honey because it doesn’t drip all over when I try to spread it!
One pest problem that has been plaguing us for the past several years is the carrot fly. This year we rotated the carrots into an entirely different garden plot and purchased an expensive insect net to put over them to exclude the fly. Well, we dug them this morning and guess what we found—lots of carrot fly damage. Plus because this plot has a little heavier soil, the carrots didn’t turn out as pretty either. But we found enough undamaged ones to put a few in shares today even if they are a bit blocky, twisty, and not very uniform! Here’s an adaptation of a simple recipe for cooked carrots from the cookbook From Asparagus to Zucchini by the FairShare CSA Coalition that uses both honey and carrots:
Honey Glazed Carrots
Ingredients: 1 lb carrots; 2 Tbsp butter; 1 ½ Tbsp honey; salt and pepper. Optional: 1-2 Tbsp fresh mint, parsley, or basil.
Cut carrots into chunks. Combine carrots, butter, honey, and ½ cup water in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Bring to simmer and cook until carrots are tender and most of the liquid has reduced to a glaze, 10-15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you like, sprinkle on chopped fresh herbs and toss well before serving. Or you could splash on a little lemon juice at the very end as well.
We haven’t yet caught our woodchuck, but we threw a shade cloth over the eggplants last week, which seems to be keeping him at bay at least for the moment. Thus, the eggplants in your shares today. One of our favorite ways to eat zucchinis and eggplants this time of year is to slice them and grill them. John makes up a marinade (which is essentially the same as his basic salad dressing) that he brushes on them prior to grilling:
John’s Salad Dressing/Marinade
Ingredients: 3 Tbsp Olive Oil; 1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar; 1 tsp (or so) of Mustard; Salt & Pepper
Whisk all this together and use to dress greens or brush liberally onto zucchinis and eggplants before grilling.
If you like garlic (and if your digestive system, unlike mine, is able to digest it), you could also mince a little garlic into the dressing. We grew three different types of garlic this year. We pulled it several weeks ago and hung it in John’s barn to cure. We’ll be pulling it out for your shares over the next month. This week we have Nookta Rose, a variety with small cloves that we grow every year because John really likes its mellow flavor. We’d love to hear which variety you like best, so keep notes and let us know!
Happy eating! Amy & John