BUZZKILL

It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Most people accept that flowers such as roses and daisies are beautiful, desirable, and therefore go to great lengths to cultivate them. How is it that some other flowering plants are called weeds and mowed down or treated with chemicals to kill them?

In some cases, it’s just a case of certain plants falling in and out of merit.

A study of “yesterdays” shows that certain so-called weeds of today were valued in the past and used for various purposes. There is one “weed” at the side of the road at this time of the year that is both beautiful and useful, at least by one beholder.

Masses of yellow flowers in more “wild” areas have been in blossom during the last couple of weeks. They are growing along the roadside and in uncultivated fields. This flowering plant is goldenrod and the beholder is the honeybee. She has just about three weeks or so left in which to collect as much pollen and nectar as possible before the end of the season. It’s the last chance to pack in food stores for the long winter ahead. The survival of the hive depends on it. Knowing the critical importance of the hive to people should make weeds such as the goldenrod fall back into favor. It would be beneficial if goldenrod were given more space to grow freely.

Some of our most nutritious food is pollinated by bees. Indeed, about one-third of our food supply depends on their work. Love apples, almonds, blueberries, and other assorted fruits and vegetables? Thank our honeybees. In their short lifetime they make a concentrated bee-line to visit thousands of flowers and fly hundreds of miles which in turn makes so much of our food possible. In their busy-bee quest to bring back nectar and pollen for the hive, they also produce what a beekeeper would call “liquid gold.” Yes, there is almost no other name to describe the valuable gift of honey.

Many of the miracles of honey and its make-up have not even been identified, but we know it’s one of the best foods on earth with over 180 properties not found in any other food. Because of its low water content, it is a food that really never spoils. It has more vitamin C than most fruits and vegetables. In fact, it has vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, amino acids, bioflavonoids, and a mix of natural fructose and glucose in a pre-digested solution that is great for our immune system and energy, both for immediate use and stored for later energy needs.

This was certainly known by the first Olympians of Greece. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, ate honey and used it to treat sores. Honey has propolis in it, which has antibacterial properties so it was used on wounds on battlefields of the past and certainly by Grandma. Many people with allergies also know that a teaspoon or so of honey a day will eliminate or at least alleviate their symptoms because immunity is developed from the pollen it contains. Many people eat honey for a plethora of health problems from ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, fatigue, colds, the immune system and a host of other concerns that can be readily researched, including a study that showed that 75 percent of the oldest people on earth have eaten raw honey on a daily basis. Of course, this has to be local honey purchased from a known source. Honey from the store has likely come from several questionable sources in and out of the country and in the filtering and pasteurization process has lost all of its beneficial qualities.

So what is killing our wonderful honeybees? A recent article in Time magazine headlined “The plight of the honeybee,” highlighted the mass deaths of bee colonies and the possible disasters ahead of us. The hundreds of pesticides and various chemicals used by both farmers and residential home owners is a likely culprit, including seeds that are soaked in chemicals before even planting them. Beekeepers have been experiencing record numbers of “dead-outs” where the bees of the hive have died. As far as food, it was noted in the article that there are barely enough honeybees in the U.S. to pollinate just the almond crop in California, which alone is worth about four billion dollars. The loss of the honeybee would be disastrous, and the current signs should sound an alarm that much more is at stake in our environment than just the honeybee.

Behold the beauty of the yellow goldenrod. It’s not only a sight for the eyes, but also a necessary plant for the honeybee to forage for its food. A beekeeper will tell you that this type of honey initially has the smell of “stinky feet,” when in the hive, but when harvested has a pleasant and distinctive flavor.

Make it a good week and make honey a part of your day. As noted in one of many great books about honey, think of it as a “spoonful of sunshine.” Don’t waste a drop though, because it takes one honeybee’s lifetime to make just 1/12 of a teaspoon. Think about bee friendly plants for the spring and alternatives to pesticides, one of which is vinegar.