Hermant is looking at native pollinator plants in bloom, particularly a beautiful specimen of common milkweed – Asclepias Syriaca. She lights a pipe before inspecting the hives, making use of smoke to keep the bees docile. Portrait by Riley Salyards.
Honey has long been used as food and offered as gifts for the gods, for thousands of years. Yet people have also considered honey a salve for wounds and a treatment for fevers and stomach ailments – going all the way back to the Stone Age, in cultures throughout the world.
These days, honey and its numerous nutritional properties are being rediscovered by such “pollinator-friendly activists” as they’re called, as Juliette Hermant, the founder of Fish & Bicycle, based in Narrowsburg, New York. It’s a “collaborative that is devoted to the Catskills permaculture way of life, offering genuine skills and knowledge through workshops and feasts.” Just in time, too, for as experts report, the world’s pollinator population is being decimated by climate change, pollutants and the destruction of their natural habitat among other reasons.
“Bees are some of the world’s greatest pollinators,” Hermant notes. “They transfer pollen and seeds from one flower to another, fertilizing the plants so they can grow. Without them, roughly 30 percent of the world’s crops and 90 percent of our wild plants would fail.”
In addition, bees make nectar that we can use to enrich our cuisine. Hermant says the honey from her bees – apis mellifera or the European honey bee – provides a flavorful ingredient for such Fish & Bicycle favorites as lamb tagine with fire-roasted fall vegetables, tarte-tatin and Gold Rush cocktails or vin-chaud (mulled wine). Whether used as a sweetener or seasoning, honey adds a special touch.
Honey is also gaining converts due to the increasing numbers of people, including those in the medical community, who agree on its healthful attributes. Groups such as the renowned Mayo Clinic say that honey is rich in antioxidants, which are perhaps associated with reduced risk of heart disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, honey can be a reliable cough suppressant for some with upper-respiratory infections. Honey might also relieve gastrointestinal tract conditions; promote wound healing; help prevent memory disorders; and act as an antidepressant, among many other health benefits.
PEOPLE ARE CATCHING ON
The apiaries, or hives Hermant set up on her roof – and the pollinator friendly herb and edibles gardens she’s planted in the heart of Narrowsburg – allow visitors and locals alike to interact with the bees. “It’s wonderful when people tell me they saw the honey bees at the post office’s flowerbed cared for by the Narrowsburg Beautification Group and at the Tusten Heritage Community Garden, one of my permaculture projects for the public. It means they’re paying attention!
“Step by step, people are becoming more aware of what so many of us here are doing, that is practicing, demonstrating and sharing the ethics of permaculture: Care of the earth. Care of people. Fair Share (the return of surplus time, energy and money to the cause of bettering the earth and its people).”
To involve the community and Fish & Bicycle patrons even further, Hermant conducts an introductory class to beekeeping, geared for a few guests at a time. She also started a sponsorship program which enables people to buy shares that go to the purchase of a colony and its queen bee; in return, sponsors receive a generous amount of honey, as well as honeycomb tastings and private tours of the beekeeping operations.
“Being a beekeeper feels like a privilege,” she adds. “It’s humbling to do my weekly check of the hives and observe their life rhythms. They’re deeply inspiring creatures.”
Photo by Juliette Hermant.
Honey Baby (Dutch Pancake) By Ana Ortiz, owner of Day Into Night Kitchen
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup flour
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons butter
Honey Butter Topping:
2 ripe peaches
8 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup honey
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon bourbon, optional
- Preheat oven to 400 Degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a small bowl blend together eggs, honey and milk. Add flour and salt and blend until smooth.
- In a 9-inch cast-iron skillet, melt butter on low heat. When butter is melted, remove from heat and swirl to cover sides. Pour batter into the skillet and place in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, until the pancake is golden and puffy.
- While the pancake bakes, slice 2 peaches in half. Remove the pits and slice each half into 4 pieces lengthwise. In a small heavy pot, melt butter. When butter begins to get foamy, gently swirl occasionally until the butter turns a deep amber color. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Whisk in honey, bourbon and salt.
Cut a wedge of the Dutch Pancake, and dust with confectioners sugar. Top with a few peach slices and honey butter topping.
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