It’s National Pollinator Week and I just read an amazing fact; one third of all agricultural output in the United States relies on pollinators. Isn’t that unbelievable? Without the help of pollinators worldwide, such as bees, butterflies, and birds, we wouldn’t have coffee. Or chocolate. Or tequila! It’s funny, my husband’s favorite beer is Pliny the Elder, an IPA named after the famous Roman naturalist and produced by Russian River Brewing Company. I therefore find it ironic that as I read about pollination today I came across a quote by Pliny the Elder, “Nature is to be found in her entirety nowhere more than in her smallest creatures.” Its profound and true. Seventy-five percent of all of the plants on Earth rely on pollinators. Yet as industry, population, and pollution increase, their colonies are being threatened and destroyed at a disturbing rate. Its something to think about as you watch a bee buzz from flower to flower. I chose to honor pollinators this week in my own way; a trip to our local urban farming store for a jar of their honey, produced by their own honey bees. A day later I have a pitcher of honey lemonade to enjoy on this perfect summer weekend.
The influence and growth of urban agriculture and farming in Oakland in recent years is astounding. As we watch food culture slowly shift back towards local, sustainable, and organic sourcing and production, backyard farmers are becoming the norm in Oakland neighborhoods. My family joined the backyard farming community over three years ago when we welcomed six chickens into our family. It was a stroke of luck that the same month we brought them home, a new urban farming store opened up just a couple miles away in the Fruitvale District, Pollinate Farm & Garden. While most notable as a general supply store for urban homesteaders, Pollinate can also be described as urban farm, classroom, and community gathering space. Owners and long-time friends Yolanda Burrell and Birgitt Evans have created a place that welcomes everyone from master gardener to beekeeper wannabe.
We have been going to Pollinate for three years to stock up on feed and supplies for our chickens. As time has gone by, the range of offerings has grown, and the “best of” accolades have stacked up on the window sill outside the old wood front door. I visited just the other day on a quiet Thursday afternoon. I contemplated a late start to an herb garden and watched the “Pollinate Pollinators” in action. Owner Birgitt’s family was in for a visit; I giggled as her adorable two-year-old niece tested the limits of her “inside voice” while I considered the need for yet another chicken-related home good :o) In the end I left with what I came for; a jar of local honey from the busy bees I watched out back.
With my jar in-hand and my frequent buyer card stamped I headed home and thought about the honey lemonade I planned to make. I decided to try a couple of flavor variations with the addition of strawberry puree in one, and a mint and basil version in another. The final results were fresh, tart, barely sweet, and the perfect addition to our summertime evening last night.
1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup of honey (raw & local, all the better)
4-5 cups of cold water
Pour the honey into the lemon juice and whisk to dissolve the honey
Pour the lemon juice and honey mixture into a pitcher and add four cups of water.
If needed, add another cup of water (or more) to reach the desired flavor
I went for 5 cups and felt that when I poured it over ice, which melted some, it was a bit too diluted.
Purees which you can add if desired:
Herb Puree – blend a small handful of mint and a small handful of basil with 1/4 cup of cold water in a blender until smooth. Add as desired to a full pitcher of lemonade, or to each serving individually. I added about two teaspoons into an individual serving. Adjust to taste.
Strawberry Puree – blend one heaping cup of strawberries in blender until smooth. I defrosted frozen strawberries and then blended, and did not need to add water. Add as desired to a full pitcher of lemonade, or to each serving individually. I added about two teaspoons into an individual serving. Adjust to taste.
Enjoy…and Happy Pollinator Week!
For more information about national pollinator week visit www.pollinator.org
I stumbled across this video with my son on You Tube last week about honey bees, a kid-friendly short done by PBS, I found the information fascinating.
Pollinate Farm & Garden is located at:
2727 Fruitvale Avenue
Oakland, CA 94601
Pollinate is closed on Mondays and Tuesday
All photos by Adrienne Schell