Friday, July 11, 2008

Biodiversity, Honeybees, and my Gluten-Free Diet

If you are one of those people that define a "beautiful lawn" as a homogeneous expanse of green grass without "weeds" and without exception, then you will not appreciate my yard. But, if you enjoy eating fresh fruits and vegetables, you may wish to consider some bee-friendly biodiversity action, especially with commercial honeybee populations in steady and alarming decline. Fact is, those important gluten-free diet elements (vegetables / fruits) overwhelmingly require pollination in order to exist on your table.

I personally find it anything but surprising that honeybees and other bees are disappearing in conjunction with America's obsession over their "perfect" lawns, and our practice of single-crop planting over massive geographic regions. What are the bees to feast on when vast areas are stripped clean of any naturally flowering plants to make room for grass and/or commercial farming of non-flowering grains? I won't even address the issue of pesticides.

I prefer to give the wild bees in my area a chance to eat a balanced diet of pollens, from various flowering plants (both wild and cultivated flowers, fruits, and vegetables), since I need bees to get the fruits and vegetables I want in my gluten-free diet.

My yard is not just Green

Our yard is naturally attractive and encouraging to bees of all kinds. We have many honeybees, bumblebees, wood bees, and a host of other pollinators circulating throughout our yard. The yard is the attraction, the garden is the destination I aim to entice the bees to locate and pollinate.

Our yard region surrounding the garden consists of all sorts of organic wild flowers and flowering "creepers" like clover, thyme, yarrow, flowering vinca-vine, and yes, even some dandelion (which our gold finches and groundhogs truly love!) And, this relationship is working quite well, as our garden is producing a superb amount of vegetables thanks to the constantly busy corridor of bees between our bee-friendly yard and our flowering vegetables.

Honeybees on Wild Creeping Thyme (in our yard)
Wild Thyme Spreads Nicely after started...
...and, Wild Yarrow and Clover abound...
All lead to Wonderful Garden Vegetables...
This year's gluten-free garden is shaping up quite well thus far. We have some drip-hose irrigation for efficient watering during the dry days, and a nice tall (8 foot) deer-proof fence to protect the bounty. The veggie selection this year includes:
  • Celeriac - which I wrote about in this blog entry about gluten-free baking with Celeriac.
  • Tomatoes - a "must" for so many dishes, be it Italian or Indian or American.
  • Various Greens - lettuce, mustard greens, kale, turnip
  • Zucchini - and here is a gluten-free recipe using zucchini, tomato, and pesto in a way I really enjoy.
  • Watermelon - though I don't know if they will mature in time here in Ohio, I sure do love them!
  • Cantaloupe - another delicious sweet treat for us gluten-free folks (well, everyone else too I guess)
  • Peppers - jalapenos, habaneros, and a few less spicy ones.
  • Eggplant - great for a variety of dishes like eggplant Parmesan, Chinese garlic-eggplant, or some varied Mediterranean dishes
  • Cucumbers and Pickles
  • Radishes
  • Basil - an essential component of our various recipes using Pesto
  • Potatoes
  • plus, a few other things I am sure I am forgetting off the top of my head.

In general, most of my favorite foods require those bees for pollination Sure, I even like the honey the bees produce, but that is just an added bonus.

I encourage biodiversity in your own lawn, and chances are you can find some pleasing additions like the flowering creeping-thyme that make for a beautiful lush carpet-like ground-cover that is green for most of the year (it flowers wonderfully for a few weeks as shown above).

Another wonderful thing about the organic non-grass "grass" (like the thyme), is that it requires very little maintenance and mowing, since it tends not to get very tall, and it forms gentle rolling short waves (few inches) of green and/or flowering pink/purple. And, given the price of gasoline, the less lawn mowing the better!

Oh, did I mention how wonderful all that thyme smells as you take a stroll through it... ahhhhh.


Vittoria said...

I love that you're able to let you property grow as you wish! The neighbors practically came after my dad with pitchforks when he refused to kill the dandelions in their yard. But they still have more diversity than anyone else in the neighborhood.

Shirley said...

I love, love your yard. My husband is forever trying to grow grass around our house, but we live int the woods and on a hill--not good for growing grass. I am trying to convince him to just let the yard go back to its natural state, but a "lawn" like this would be much better. :-)

We raise honeybees. You must have someone nearby who raises them also to have them on your flowers. Sadly, wild honeybees are almost non-existent, now. I so miss seeing them everywhere on clover and wildflowers. We have just one hive at our home (1 1/2 acres in a subdivision) and my husband help his mother take care of 20+ hives on her farm of a few hundred acres. We got 3 gallons (36 lbs) of honey from our hive this year and MIL got 800 lbs. We use honey instead of syrup for topping GF waffles and pancakes. I also use it as a sweetener in hot tea and for certain baking recipes. Honeybees are so important!

Shannon said...

I amso jealous of your garden. That is the one thing I miss since moving to the city. I have no yard in which to plant flowers and veggies. I tend to raid my parents' garden, but dad is not very good about checking the soil, weeding the garden, properly maintaining the area. It pretty much hit or miss each year.

I am especially jealous of the tomatoes, basil and eggplant. I just made eggplant tacos today. Now I want more eggplant to cook with!

Dianne said...

Wow! Well done Mike! Your garden and the produce in it are awesome!


Lynn Barry said...

What gorgeous go MIKE!

Anonymous said...

I'm so jealous. I wish I had a yard or even a tiny square of outdoor space for a garden. As it is, my basement apartment gets very little sunlight and I haven't even been able to grow herbs in my window. Sigh. One day... :) Gorgeous garden!

Mike Eberhart said...

Thanks everyone for the comments and feedback. I'm glad I'm not the only one that finds honeybees important, and important enough to consider a rather "natural" lawn.

For those of you wishing for the space to have a nice garden, I definitely feel for you these days with fresh veggie prices going skyward. If I didn't have "extra" space for a garden, I would have converted my entire yard into one if needed.

I really think central-city regions need to have some open lots for shared garden plots. Certainly roof-top gardens where possible for apartment dwellers to get a bit of space for some potted plants - tomatoes, etc. Again, I find myself quite lucky to not have to go in search of space for a garden. Now I find myself wondering if some of the cheap, abandoned lots in the inner city could be purchased and turned into shared garden "squares" that could essentially be rented cheap to people. hmmmm. I wonder?

STEPcoach said...

we have the opposite problem of other gardeners - room, but no time to garden. (I counsel families in the evening and teach during the day.) So we have created a pretty little container garden outside our front door, right by the car port. We have finished our lettuce and spinach and are still getting tomatoes and squash. Our potatoes are ready to dump (no digging required!) and our carrots and okra are coming along nicely.
I've read you can do the same thing in an apartment by a sunny window, but haven't tried indoor gardening. See the story about city gardens on my blog here.

Yasmeen said...

HI mike

I have some gluten free recipes in my blog which may interest you.
Health Nut

Margaret Cloud said...

First thanks for comong by my blog, could not find your email address, the flowers are very pretty, my favorite color, your garden is lovely.

Mike Eberhart said...

yeah, I don't make the email very easy to find, as it seems to attract tons of spam. Thanks for stopping and for the kind words. The thyme is nearly done blooming for the year, and now the mint and sage are really the dominant flowering herbs. They look AND smell so nice (and it sure beats having grass to mow in their place)