Pollinators are important in any garden, but they are essential in a vegetable garden. Squash blooms, for instance, stay open for only one day. If no pollinators happen by on that particular day, that potential fruit is lost. Over the long haul, if you have no pollinators hanging around your vegetable yield will suffer. Although it is possible to hand-pollinate, I have never done it. I know others who have, with a tiny, clean paintbrush in hand, gone out to do the work of a bumble bee. I admire their patience and assume they have very small gardens.
My strategy is to plant flower specimens that will attract bees, butterflies and other flying creatures to my garden. There are three colours of bee balm (monarda)–pink, mauve and red–plus other herbs like thyme, borage and mint. I included some annual flowers in my front yard vegetable beds, too–white allysium, yellow margolds, and deep pink nicotiana. This year I have noticed an increase in honey bees, which makes me think my strategy is working!
Those honey bees have also been on my mind because while in Quebec we saw a sign advetising the sale of “honey wine”. This confused me. I know honey and I know wine. But how exactly would the two go together…? Was it some kind of sauce or a euphemism for some other gourmet food?
A rainy day prompted us to turn into the driveway where we had seen the ‘honey wine’ sign. Vieux Moulin is a lovely old barn with pretty displays and honey products for sale. The kids were fascinated by the clear glass beehive where we could see the queen bee and watch the bees come and go through a pipe that led to an outside window. I liked the tasting section (no surprise, given my sweet tooth!). An array of honeys were put out, and I discovered for the first time that the kind of flowers bees visit has a huge impact on the final taste of the honey. My favourite? Spring meadow.
The next tasting was quite different, however. Although almost everyone at the store spoke only in French, one young man was gracious enough to speak to me in English . When I asked him about honey wine, he became very animated and asked if I would like a sample. Mais oui, I said! and he proceeded to open several different bottles.
Mead is a wine made from fermented honey. Some say that it is the oldest alcoholic beverage anywhere in the world, having been enjoyed by everyone from the ancient Nordic people to the Romans, with archeological evidence of its use having been found in China, Ethiopia and Russia. It is now enjoying quite a revivial and there are plenty of places here in Canada or in the US where you can visit a meaderie or buy your own.
Not surpisingly, I found it to be quite sweet, although I was suprised at how delicious it was. Additions like blueberry, apple and raspberry give it not only beautiful colour, but nice flavour, too. I chose three bottles to bring home. I am going to drink it carefully, however. Rumour has it that a mead hangover is quite different than a regular hangover and has been known to last for days!