The Edgy Veggie

Honey bees keep crops and gardens humming

Bee-friendly: The mango and citrus in this Mango Freeze come from good fruit trees for local honey bees.
Bee-friendly: The mango and citrus in this Mango Freeze come from good fruit trees for local honey bees. For the Miami Herald

This Saturday, we honor the little guys who make our food — it’s National Honey Bee Day.

Without honey bees, we wouldn’t have honey, but we also wouldn’t have chocolate. Or coffee. Bees give us these and so many other delights, including mangos, blueberries, avocados, citrus and dozens of other South Florida crops, just by working their natural pollinating magic.

Globally, honey bee pollination accounts for a whole lot of a whole-foods diet — a third of the food we eat. It would be a sad world without them.

Since first noting the pollinator decline 20 years ago, we’ve named the phenomenon Colony Collapse Disorder and seen our honey bee population dwindle by a third. What we haven’t done is find a cure. Researchers link Colony Collapse Disorder to GMOs, climate change, monoculture and commercial pesticides — or all of the above. The USDA has allocated $20 million over the next five years for Colony Collapse Disorder research. In the meantime, here are four sweet ways to honor honey bees now.

1. Buy organic. Many beekeepers, growers and researchers consider chemical pesticides, especially those containing nionicotoids (or nionics) Honey Bee Enemy No. 1. Organically grown produce is chemical-free — naturally. Bees like that.

2. Buy local. When growers can sell their produce locally, they tend to farm more sustainably. Honey consumers, source your honey locally, too — you owe it to the bees. Support South Florida beekeepers like Rigo and Eliza de la Portilla (aka the Tattooed Beekeeper’s Wife) and Miguel Bode. They practice the traditional art of beekeeping, resulting in happy, healthy South Florida bees.

3. Leave the honey to the bees. It’s the vegan thing to do. But that doesn’t mean sacrificing sweet and sticky. Maple syrup has replaced agave nectar as fitness geeks’ fave liquid sweetener. It’s plant-based, mineral-rich and, unlike agave, low in fructose.

For another sweet, plant-based option, meet Bee Free Honee, honey’s bee-free twin, offering the same sweetness, slightly tart finish, golden glow and viscosity. Created by a beekeeper’s daughter, it’s organic, made with apples and without bees ($5.99 for 12 ounces). Available at Whole Foods.

4. Make your garden bee-friendly. Avoid pesticide spray and plant native bee-attracters. Six worth planting: hibiscus, field peas, thyme, mint, rosemary and buckwheat.

On National Honey Bee Day — and every day — honor the honey bee. Because happy bees make for a happy world. Sweet.

Ellen Kanner is the author of “Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner.” On Twitter: @edgyveggie1.

Mango Freeze

Mango and citrus, two local pollinator-friendly fruits, team up with creamy coconut milk for this cool, tart, tropical treat. It’s a great use for mango overage and requires no ice cream maker. Don’t thank us, thank the bees.

1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk

1 tablespoon evaporated cane sugar

1 1/2 cups mango pulp or puree (1-2 ripe mangos)

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (1 lime)

4 tablespoons fresh orange juice (1 orange)

1 teaspoon rum, optional

Optional garnishes: diced mango, diced crystallized ginger, shredded coconut, mint leaves

Pour coconut milk into a small saucepan and set on high heat. Add cane sugar, stirring to dissolve. Continue stirring occasionally and let mixture come to a boil. Boil for 5-7 minutes, or until coconut milk thickens. Remove from heat and set aside to cool briefly. Pour coconut milk into a shallow freezer-friendly container (silicone, plastic or metal), cover and freeze for about 2 hours, until coconut milk is just shy of being frozen solid.

In a blender or food processor, blitz together the mango pulp, lime juice and orange juice until smooth, about a minute. Scrape the coconut milk into the food processor and optional teaspoon of rum and process again, until mixture is creamy. Pour into freezer-friendly airtight container and freeze for least at 8 hours or overnight. Remove from freezer and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes to soften slightly before serving. Makes 3 cups, serving 4 to 6.

Source: Ellen Kanner.