April is National Garden Month. Gardening is a beloved American pastime with a regional flair depending upon one’s climate. Temperature ranges, sunlight levels and precipitation amounts all influence what types of plants are best suited for particular areas of the country. Regardless of where one lives, gardens offer people the ability to express themselves through nature, similar to how artists, musicians and other creators express themselves through their respective medium.
We love the month of March. It signals the much-anticipated end of winter and promises the welcome renewal of spring. It’s fun to have a holiday in the middle of it that everybody can enjoy—even if you’re not Irish. While we make Irish soda bread all year round, it’s a particular favorite in our household around St. Patrick’s Day.
If you’ve ever enjoyed a teaspoon of honey stirred into your tea or drizzled over your granola, you’ve essentially eaten the essence of 25,000 flowers. That’s right, it takes the nectar of 25,000 flowers to make a single teaspoon of honey. It’s almost unimaginable.
Honey can do a lot to help combat the ravages of winter weather on one’s health, skin and stress levels. Taking two teaspoons of honey before bedtime can help control the frequency and severity of coughing. Doctors believe that honey soothes raw sore throats, thins mucus and suppresses the urge to cough. Moreover, the antioxidants present in honey help to strengthen the body’s resistance against infections and relieve cold symptoms.
One of my favorite indulgences during the holidays are gingerbread cookies. Not only are they delicious to eat, they are fun to make and can turn a Saturday afternoon into a festive activity for the whole family. With regard to baking with honey, a general rule of thumb is to use ¾ cup of honey for every one cup of sugar, reduce the liquid in the recipe by 2 tablespoons, and lower the oven temperature by 25°F. I know I’ll be tempted to overindulge in all the yummy treats that come with the holiday season.
Today’s Thanksgiving celebrations typically include one or more of the following: feasting, family reunions, football games, turkey trots, parades, and holiday sales shopping over the extended four-day weekend. A lot has changed since the “first Thanksgiving,” which was a simple gathering to celebrate a bountiful harvest in 1621 after a grueling first winter in Plymouth.
How do you know you’re buying real honey? If you’re not purchasing it directly from a beekeeper, it may be overwhelming to decide between the different brands and varietals available on the market. It has been estimated that almost three-fourths of honey on sale at some US grocery stores, discount clubs and big box retailers is not actually honey. It’s a processed product that has been stripped of pollen, nutrients, enzymes, and vitamins. What’s left in the jar is just sweetened syrup.
It’s not only school children wearing backpacks these days; an international team of researchers is equipping honey bees with tiny RFID backpacks. Led by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) of Australia, the Global Initiative for Honeybee Health is investigating the global decline of honey bee populations by outfitting insects with these miniature high-tech backpacks.
It’s honey harvest time at the Bee America Apiary—something our family looks forward to with great anticipation. It’s really not until the hives are opened up and the frames carefully extracted that we get a sense as to whether the bees had a bountiful season. There’s nothing sweeter than tasting honey directly from the hive—knowing that one is afforded a special gift from nature. We’re big supporters of the farm-to-table movement and feel that our honey contributes to the network of locally produced food that is enjoyed by many in our neighborhood and surrounding communities.
Every summer since our children were old enough to toddler around, I have taken them berry picking at a local family-run farm, Butler’s Orchard. While we all enjoy the delicious fresh fruit and the resulting jam and baked goods we make from our haul, it is the ritual of the outing that appeals to me most.