29 April 2009

The wild honey bee and my coffee Chicory

The wild bees must have been out and about yesterday, I didn't see any working, but at the end of the day, this little guy must have taken refuge in my nearly empty bucket of potato seeds. It was 70F, sunny and very windy yesterday, unusually warm for April here. But then back down to freezing overnight. I found the bee in the bucket next morning, gone dormant and flightless from the cold, so I set him in the partially covered cold frame to warm up. Within a few minutes he was gone.

This is a true wild honey bee, not a domesticated bee gone feral. They are about 30% smaller than the domesticated bees. These guys are to domestic bees what a wild ox is to a Holstein milker. Domestic bees were bred to be larger so they could carry more pollen, and produce more honey. Many beekeepers are breeding their bees back to the original smaller size, as a protection against varroa mites, Small Cell Beekeeping. The smaller bees hatch out one day earlier, and the mites need that one extra day in order to hatch out with the bee. The smaller bees are also said to be more active, and keep their hives cleaner. We would like one day to start beekeeping, until then, I keep my eyes on the wild bees.

We also had our first glorious salad yesterday, as a noonday reward after a morning of planting seeds under the sun. It is a mixture of Mesculn greens, Mizuna mustard greens, and Dandelion greens. And a salad dressing of homemade goat ghee, homemade apple cider vinegar, apple butter, salt, coriander and a touch of cayenne. We certainly relished it, spreading a blanket in the shade to further enjoy the delight of spring.

I always leave some Dandelions in the garden after the fall harvest, so that I can dig them up in the spring for the nutritious early greens, as well as the nutritious roots. I planted some coffee Chicory last spring as well. I left most of the crop to go to seed, but had to try some Chicory and Dandelion coffee. The coffee Chicory roots are much larger than I expected, and are a crop well worth planting. I scrubbed the roots and trimmed off the fine root hairs from the Dandelions,

chopped the roots, no more than 1/4 inch thick,
and roasted them in a 200 degree oven until crisp and golden brown.
The ground roots smell slightly of chocolate cake.
It makes a surprisingly dark brew, I expected something more like black tea. I used one rounded teaspoon per cup. With honey and milk, irresistible. It has a distinct flavor, and cannot pretend to be coffee, but unless I am really tired, caffeine overstimulates me, giving me the jitters. But I do love to wake up to a warm, sweet, milky beverage, and I cannot imagine the point of importing coffee or tea just to drink it decaffeinated! In contrast to true coffee, chicory is calming to the nerves, is a natural detoxifier, and is said to be a Prebiotic, promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system. Three cheers for Chicory coffee!


el said...

Congrats on your first salad, Freija! You must have been so very happy. I liked your description of the chickory coffee. I am perhaps the only person who feels guilty when I pull out my dandelions, and I grow (intentionally and otherwise) LOTS of different kinds of chickory so I have always been curious about it. (Have had it at Tom's grandma's and it was nasty but it was from a jar.) We're aspiring beekeepers too but are really freaked out about the upfront costs so have hesitated. According to my bee guy, though, all his colonies have made it through the winter; such a difference from 2 years ago when he lost 15 of 16.

Robbyn said...

I've never had chickory coffee but have heard about it through the years. I wonder if it's the same chickory I read about that adds so much to the soil and is such fantastic forage for livestock? It's on our list!
We also have looked into the smaller cell beehives and arent sure if that's the same size cell naturally built in Top Bar hives (allowing the bees to make their own)...we LOVE bees and met a man nearby who keeps them in his suburban backyard naturally, no meds applied. He put a 10' tall fence around the hives and has had no negative feedback from neighbors since their flightline height corresponds with the fence height (and therefore not running smack into humans at the lower heights)

ChristyACB said...

I was also wondering if this is the same chicory recommended for soil improvement? If so, then wouldn't that be a wonderful dual purpose plant to grow!

As for coffee. I love it. I'm an addict. I take my lumps! So...I've started growing some! Bathrooms with a small window are perfect for them because of the occasional steamy shower fog. We'll see how that goes. My first ones, in Hawaii, grew very well but you don't get much per plant really.

Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

El, glad to hear your neighbor's bees all came through the winter this year. I searched for wild chicory for a couple of years before I bought the seeds, doesn't seem to grow locally, though it is said to be in this region. How many kinds of chicory do you have?

Robbyn, the coffee chicory is a variety with an especially large root. Other chicory varieties are grown for their greens. There are some pasture mixes that include chicory, goats and sheep really like it and it is supposed to help against parasites. And with a long tap root, it would pull minerals up to the surface, like Dandelion does.
I've only just looked into the Top Bar Beehives, actually, the link I refer to in the body of the post about Small Cell Beekeeping, he also does Natural or Foundationless Beekeeping, and prefers it to the small cell foundations. Has fewer problems than either foundation method.
The tall fence is a great solution for beekeeping in populated areas.

Christy, Leaf chicory is also called endive, though it is not the true endive, and is grown for salads, as well as improving the soil with long taproots. Root chicory is mostly used for coffee, and would condition the soil, but I assume also takes up more nitrogen due to the large carbohydrate root than the leaf chicory would.
Good luck with your bathroom coffee plants! You could even grow a baby banana tree in there!

Pampered Mom said...

The salad sounds very tasty! I'm growing some wild chicory this year, but had planned on seeking out a suitable variety next year as it's an ingredient in a couple of my favorite herbal teas!

disa said...

I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.

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