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Combing for bees

By Catharine L. Kaufman

About every third mouthful of food that we savor we owe a debt of gratitude to the hard-working honey bees. And if we want to continue enjoying their bounty, we’d better become their Galahads now that danger to their existence is lurking in the environment.

The Herculean pollinating powers of our black and yellow buddies produce more than $15 billion of U.S. crops every year. This weekend’s celebration of honey bees is already causing a buzz around town with Honeyfest San Diego activities hosted by a multitude of venues: The Red Sea Restaurant -- Ethiopian Dinner with Honey Mead Wine and a screening of “Vanishing of the Bees;” The Peace Resource Center of San Diego — workshops on the Introduction to Beekeeping and Honey and Herbs Cough Syrup; The Prosperity Hive – an UnBEElievable Hive Anniversary and Fundraising Party with music, sweet plates and honey tasting; and Casa del Prado, Balboa Park — Salve demonstration, BEE in the Know Festival and Vendors Bazaar, and What’s BEEyond Panel Discussion. Honeyfest San Diego is the first festival of its kind in America’s finest city to “promote awareness of the complex and vital relationship between bees and humans by exploring the benefits of bee products, the art of beekeeping, and the issues around environmental risks to bee populations.” For additional information, contact Amy Lint at 760-936-7756, honeyfest@growstrong.org.

Even though bees can be pesky critters, party crashers at picnics and other outdoor events, they keep the agricultural sector of our economy humming and our tables bountiful with everything from apples, oranges, lemons, limes, blueberries and cherries to cantaloupe melons, cucumbers, broccoli, onions, almonds, avocadoes and Halloween’s mighty pumpkin. Let’s not forget bees’ signature honey packed with a motherlode of vitamins and minerals such as, B6, amino acids, calcium, potassium, iron and zinc. Other healthful bee products include, antiviral and antibacterial bee pollen to fight assorted seasonal allergies, antioxidant-loaded royal jelly and honey wine or mead, which was the first alcoholic drink ever brewed, even older than wine or beer.

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Sadly our sweet friends are vanishing into thin air — 25% of the U.S. honey bee population has buzzed off the planet since 1990. Before this shrinkage really starts to sting our food supply we need to get a grip on this bizarre phenomenon aka Colony Collapse Disorder. Researchers speculate that it’s a combo of factors including global warming which tinkers with the seasonal blooming of flowers; pesticides used on crops to kill bugs might now be killing bees as these toxins have been found in the hives along with genetically modified organisms (Frankenstein crops); loss of habitat by urban development and abandoned farms; predators like harmful parasites, and perhaps even the bombardment of cell phone signals in the air that confuses bees so they can’t find their way home. So our global community needs to protect our precious bees by using organic and other sustainable practices, maintaining wild habitats with crops that are pollination-worthy and cut back on cell phone usage (yah, right, fat chance).

California is a honey bee-dependent state requiring pollination for roughly130 crops, especially the lucrative almond industry. This $2.3 billion crop has been severely threatened by the bee shortage so much that beekeepers from around the nation have been making hive calls, renting their bees to nut growers in this state. And imported bees don’t come cheap, ergo the recent sticker shock for almonds and other crops.

Ending on a sweet note, we’ll pay homage to the honey bee with my family’s favorite recipe for honey apricot chicken. For dessert, if you’d like to try my honey cake, please give me a buzz at kitchenshrink@san.rr.com or check out our healthy food blog —

www.FreeRangeClub.com

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Honey Apricot Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 tablespoon of oil (half olive, half canola)

3 tablespoons of apricot preserves

1/3 cup of chopped dried apricots

1 tablespoon of orange juice

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

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1/4 teaspoon of ginger powder

4 teaspoons of organic honey

Sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste

In a saucepan combine the apricots, preserves, juices, ginger and honey. Heat on low for 10 minutes and set aside.

Season the chicken with salt and cayenne. In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium and cook the breasts for about 7 to 9 minutes on each side until cooked through. Pour sauce over chicken and cook for another 3 minutes. Serve over couscous, quinoa, egg noodles or your favorite grain or pasta. Garnish with chopped scallions.


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