Honeybees, Wildflowers, and “Weeds”
Today is Earth Day and at The Kentucky Castle we’re very committed to taking the best possible care of our little piece of earth here in Versailles, KY. A week ago we installed approximately 100,000 honeybees with the help of our friends at Blewegrass Apiary.
Our goal at Castle Farms restaurant is eventually to produce as much of the food that we serve as possible. There’s a profound difference in both the quality of nutrients and flavor of food when it is produced locally in organic soils, free from chemicals and other unnatural processes. That mindful production would not be possible without the help of these wondrous pollinators. The majority of the vegetables and fruit you taste in the restaurant were produced with love and the help of a honeybee or other pollinating insect.
To produce 1 pound of honey, our tiny farmer friends have to fly 55,000 miles and collect nectar and pollen from 2 million flowers! If you’ve ever tasted raw, unfiltered, local honey you know that it’s worth it, though. Each worker bee in these hives will produce about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in their lifetime, so be sure and savor it when you taste the honey in a dish at Castle Farms. Close your eyes and picture the little bee and her life’s work as you enjoy the fruits of her labor.
Speaking of flowers, yes they’re beautiful, but flowers are so much more. They’re food and medicine for our bees and contribute to the natural biodiversity and lifeforce of our farm. You’ll notice beautiful ornamental flowers like lavender, roses, and others that you or your friends and family may plant at home. We have plans in the near future to plant lavender fields in the front entrance of the castle walls both for your enjoyment and for the bees.
However, you may also notice dandelions, violets, or other wildflowers that some spray for and try to keep
their lawns clear of. Did you know that up until the 1800’s people would pull grass out of their lawns to make room for dandelions and other useful “weeds” like chickweed, malva, and chamomile?
We purposefully do not kill these flowers and “weeds” out of respect for your health and the health of our bees and other guests. We believe very strongly than we should honor our land with natural, chemical free methods, as we’re all connected and everything we put onto our soil directly impacts our animals and us. The bees feed on dandelions and any chemicals we put on them would go directly into the honey that we will use in our restaurant. This is unacceptable to us. We respect your health and care about the long term health of our farm, our animals, and our guests.
Did you know that dandelions and violets are edible by us as well? In fact, they’re very nutritious and packed with vitamins. Violets contain twice as much vitamin C as oranges and double the vitamin A as spinach by weight!
Every part of the dandelion is edible. The greens, which contain vitamin C, B6, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, iron, potassium, and manganese are a nutritional powerhouse when added to a salad. The yellow flower is both a beautiful, nutritious, and tasty addition to a dish. And the root can be made into a medicinal tea which has been shown to help the liver eliminate toxins, strengthen the immune system, balance blood sugar levels, and relieve heartburn and soothe digestive issues. Go ahead. Pick one and try it. You can be confident that no chemicals or pesticides have been sprayed on our grounds.
Today take a moment. Look around at all the insects, wildflowers, perhaps a honeybee, and marvel at creation. Noticing the wonder and beauty around us is the first step in preserving it for future generations.
Dandelion greens and almonds
1 large bunch dandelion greens
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 scallions, thinly sliced, whites and about 2 inches of the greens only
⅓ cup sliced blanched almonds, toasted
¼ teaspoon salt
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop the greens into the boiling water and cook until bright green, stirring once or twice, 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Drain in a colander.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and scallions; cook, stirring, until the garlic starts to turn golden brown, 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Add the greens and cook, stirring, until tender and heated through, 1 to 3 minutes. Stir in almonds and season with salt. Serve immediately.
Happy Earth Day!