What, we’ve wrecked wild bees now, too? »
Two fun studies show that bees are having more troubles thriving in the age of modern agriculture than we thought.
First, honeybees aren’t the best crop pollinators; per a study published in Science, they get a lot of help from bumblebees and carpenter bees.
Second, wild bees hate monocultures, and don’t like to pollinate in single-crop areas.
Claire Kremen, a conservation biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who’s a co-author of the first study in Science, says one of the biggest problems for wild bees is the agricultural specialization that has produced huge fields of just one crop.
The almond groves of California, for example, are a sea of blossoms in February. It’s a feast, as far as the eye can see, for honeybees that come here from all over the country.
"But for the rest of the year, there’s nothing blooming," she says.
That means there are no bees. “In fact, in places where we have very large monocultures of almond, we don’t find any native bees anymore,” Kremen says.
So what does that mean for us? Will the fact that large-scale monoculture is bad for bees force us to change the way we farm? Is smaller-scale, more diverse farming financially feasible for modern farmers?
Home gardeners, at least, could learn to plant a variety of flowers and food plants together. As for commercial agriculture, we’ll see.
[Photo by Jimmy Smith via Flickr]
Product review: Tofutti Flowers! »
As I’ve said before, I’m in this for the attention and the free stuff. Recently we got free stuff: Tofutti sent us a box of the new popsicle/ice cream bars they’re making, called Flowers, because they contain real flower and nectar flavors.
Popsicles in general are genius, and I love them, but this popsicle was not the best one I’ve ever had. The chocolate coating was all right, but it made my teeth feel weird if when I bit it, like they were rubbing together the wrong way. Possibly I am having enamel problems, as my long, long unemployment continues and I continue not to be able to afford to see a dentist. Still, this is the same effect that eating food cooked with vinegar has on my little molars, and why the Flowers’ chocolate coating should do that to them.
The Flowers’ creamy insides taste, um, interesting. I’ve had hot hibiscus tea, which I did not like and agua de Jamaica, which is lovely, but never so many flower-flavors combined. The mixture is odd. The strawberry flavor dominates the others, and underneath there are funny hints—should I call them “notes”?—of flavors I couldn’t identify. The chocolate coating, while mediocre, did make a good combination with the ice cream.
I have certainly eaten better vegan ice cream popsicles; but I haven’t had many—any?—that were fruit-flavored, and none that had flower nectar. The novelty is nice, but if I were buying vegan ice cream popsicles at the store, Tofutti Flowers wouldn’t be my first choice. Maybe second or third, you know? But that’s Tofutti, I think; they make some products that no other companies do, or ones that are much better than any alternatives—their cream cheese and sour cream are the best available, and the Cuties were the first tiny vegan ice cream sandwich on the market. Not everything they make is the greatest, but it’s reliably good. If really novel foodstuffs are where they’re going, then that’s great. This is an interesting experiment, anyway.
[for those interested, here are the ingredients lists, directly from the package:
Bar: water, sugar, corn syrup solids, corn and soy oils, isolated soy protein, tofu powder, maltodextrin, cocoa butter, vanilla with other natural flavors, natural flower and nectar flavors (rose, marigold, calendula, citrus blossoms, hibiscus, jasmine and lavender), strawberry flavor, guar, xanthan and carrageenan gums, soy lecithin, salt, veg. mono- and diglycerides.
Chocolate coating: coconut oil, sugar, organic evaporated sugar cane juice, cocoa processed with alkali, soy lecithin, salt, vanilla with other natural flavors.]
Summer Gardening Edition: Very Revealing Hot and Sexy Pictures XXX! »
Vegansaurus is mostly a San Francisco joint, but everywhere else in the Northern hemisphere, it’s hot. The dudes are stripping off their t-shirts and the ladies are adjusting their bikini straps, many of them baking to the golden color of sweet potato fries. At least in Jersey and Europe, where white people still haven’t discovered sunscreen.
To help you make it through the heat and California’s eternal drought, we’re giving you some vegan eye candy to suck on: hot photos of some of the sexiest reproductive organs to be found on common garden edibles! Big, small, purple, or yellow, these flowers show that growing food isn’t just healthy and practical—it’s like totally superficial, too!
Fragile, pale and tiny, strawberry flowers are all the more attractive because you just know they’re gonna grow up to be sweet and juicy. And if you thought that description was sexually suggestive, you are probably not allowed near public parks or schools.
The blossoms of pumpkins and most winter squash are yellow and big, like a nice beach umbrella or a dude who stuffs his Speedo. Most plants produce more blossoms than squash, so you can pick loads of these to toss raw into salads, sauté, or stuff (GET IT?) and bake.
Fava bean make blooms as numerous as sunburnt German tourists on a Mediterranean beach [ed: zing!], but they’re much smaller and more exotic-looking.
I’ve already raved about borage on this blog: it’s an all-around winner, able to repel insects, provide humans with tasty nutrients, and produce attractive flowers and unique hairy foliage. Basically, if your garden is Baywatch, this is its David Hasselhoff.
Radishes grow to tower over most other crops when they’re blooming, spraying the sky with flowers like a bunch of pretty, colorful kites. Or hot air balloons. Or unicorns.
Yarrow is attractive in a quaint kind of way, like quilts and Vermont. Going with that theme, it’s one of the best flowers for dried arrangements (I totally just lost all of my remaining masculinity by typing that) and is delightful when added to salads and sauces.
Sunflowers need no introduction. They are so good-looking you won’t even know what to do with them, and their seeds are incredibly healthy and by far the easiest edible seed to grow and harvest.
And finally, the ultimate summer crush: look at those paper-thin creamy petals holding that cute fuzzy pistil. This thing is like a freakin’ orchid, except a little more common-looking, so you feel like you can identify with it more, right? But while you there wondering what the heck I’m talking about, this awesome flower already up and left. Yup, these cuties only last one day. What happens then? They turn into this slimy thing nobody really eats called okra that just gets thrown away or gummed by old folks at Hometown Buffet. I totally just summed up life, didn’t I?
OK, that’s it! Remember: You are what you eat, and if you’re eating plants like this, you’re one sexy bitch.
Please welcome back guest writer Ben Pearson. He loves to get (and give!) blow jobs.