The Plight of the Honeybee
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The health of honeybees is a constant worry for Peter and Sandi Dickey. “The last three years have been a struggle,” confesses Sandi Dickey, who owns and operates Dickey Bee Honey in Cookstown with her husband, Peter, a fourth generation beekeeper. “Last year, we lost almost 50 per cent of our honeybees.” Normal loss is usually between 10 to 15 per cent.
To maintain hives, the beekeepers have imported bees from California and Australia. “We've been running around like crazy trying to keep our numbers up.” 
The problem, explains Dickey, stems from neonicotinoid pesticides, or neonics. Poisonous to bees in any amount, neonics are applied to the seed and grow systemically with the plant. Dickey Bee Honey, along with other local beekeepers, are part of a class action lawsuit against two pesticide companies after their product was found in millions of dead bees. Neonics are said to be partly to blame for the rise in bee mortality rates, worsening the effects of viruses, mites (a common problem for beekeepers) and long winters.   
“The honeybee, although small, plays a very significant role in food, farming and the environment,” says Dickey. “The bees and the beekeeping industry are extremely important to the health and vitality of Canada's agricultural industry and the country's economy. If we don't have honeybees, we will lose approximately 30 per cent of our food.”
Honeybees play an indispensable role in the pollination of our essential crops. In fact, honeybees are responsible for the health of more than $200-million worth of crops in Ontario each year.
Concerns about bee health and neonics are valid, says the local beekeeper. “We've got some great medical support behind us,” notes Dickey. “The doctors and nurses are saying no to pesticides.”
 Best known for its award-winning wildflower honey, Dickey Bee Honey offers various honey specialty products, including gourmet condiments, salad dressings, a health and beauty line and beeswax candles. Products are sold on-site and at select retailers and grocery stores (see website for a complete list).  
The local apiary is also home to a 4,000-square-foot educational centre and honey house. Approved by the Simcoe County District School Board, Dickey Bee Honey runs a science program for kids from Kindergarten to Grade 12. “Along with interesting bee facts and how honey is made, we teach about the importance of the honeybee, and its role in our food chain.”
Dickey Bee Honey also offers educational tours and beekeeping courses to groups. But you won't find many bees on-site. Instead, the hives are located on various farms around Simcoe County and beyond. “Our bees stay where the farmers need them to pollinate crops,” she explains. 
Morris Gervais of Barrie Hill Farms rents Dickey Bee honeybees to pollinate 40 acres of blueberries. “For that three to four week period when blueberries are in bloom, we need anywhere from 40 to 60 hives to help with pollination,” explains the farmer. Unlike strawberries, which can be somewhat pollinated by wind, the flower of a blueberry is shaped like a bell, so the bee has to crawl up into the bottom of the bell to help pollinate the blueberry.
“It's a real partnership between the farmer and the beekeeper,” explains Gervais. “Pollinating the blueberries is a perfect example of why honeybees are so important to food production. And it's why farmers, such as myself, don't want to do anything that compromises bee health.”
The health of the honeybee also ensures a strong supply of that sweet liquid gold. A popular spread, honey is also perfect for baking and cooking. And it's healthier. Local honey is a natural, unrefined, sweet fluid produced by honeybees from the nectar of flowers, it contains important vitamins and nutrients – such as vitamins A, B, C, D and K, along with niacin, riboflavin, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. But honey's health benefits don't stop there, it also contains flavonoids and phenolic acids which act as antioxidants.
As for the local beekeeper's favourite way to enjoy honey? “Along with cooking and baking with honey, I'm a huge bee pollen fan and add it to my smoothy every day. My husband, Pete, loves comb honey and eats a teaspoon with his breakfast every morning.”


Dickey Bee Honey is located at 4031 3rd Line, Cookstown. For more information, call

(705)458-1258 or visit dickeybeehoney.com.

FRUITY HONEY SMOOTHIE
(recipe courtesy of the Ontario Beekeepers'
Association ontariohoney.ca)

1 cup (250 mL) frozen strawberries
1 banana
1/3 cup (75 mL) 100% Ontario honey
1 cup (250 mL) skim or nonfat milk
1/2 cup (125 mL) plain or vanilla low-fat yogurt

PREPARATION
  1. In blender, combine all ingredients; process until smooth.



RACK OF LAMB WITH CARAMELIZED SHALLOTS AND HONEY CRUST
(recipe courtesy of Sandy Dickey of Dickey Bee Honey dickeybeehoney.com) 
“You can also use this honey crust for ribs,” says Sandi Dickey. 

1/2 Tbsp olive oil 

3 large shallots, chopped (about 1/2 cup) 

Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

3 Tbsp Dickey Bee Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette 
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs 

1-1/2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped or 2 tsp dried thyme, crumbled 

1 rack of lamb (7 or 8 ribs), Frenched, at room temperature, trimmed of as much fat as possible 

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp  Dickey Bee Honey (Wildflower or Buckwheat)  

1 Tbsp Dickey Bee Honey Mustard

PREPARATION
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
    In small skillet, heat oil over moderate heat until hot, but not smoking. Add shallots sprinkled with salt and pepper, and cook (while stirring) until golden, about 5 minutes. Add vinaigrette, and boil until liquid is evaporated.
  2. Remove skillet from heat and stir in bread crumbs and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Season lamb with salt and pepper. Heat vegetable oil in a sauté pan and sear the lamb on all sides. Transfer, rib side down, to a small roasting pan. Spread the meat side with mustard and honey and pat on crumb mixture, making an even coating.
  4. Roast lamb in middle of oven until a meat thermometer registers 120F for medium-rare, about 25 to 30 minutes. Carefully transfer lamb to a cutting board and let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Slice lamb into chops. Serves 2 to 3.



RHUBARB HONEY CRISP
(recipe courtesy of Foodland Ontario foodlandontario.ca) 

This is a sweet and crunchy mix that will become a family favourite dessert. Vanilla ice cream, anyone?

5 cups (1250 ml) Ontario rhubarb (greenhouse or field), chopped
1/2 cup (125 ml)  Ontario Liquid Honey
1 Tbsp (15 ml) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (5 ml)  cinnamon
1/2 tsp (2 ml) ground ginger (optional)
1-1/2 cup (375 ml) large-flake rolled oats
1/3 cup (83 ml) packed brown sugar
1/3 cup (83 ml) Ontario liquid honey
1/4 cup (63 ml) butter (melted)
1 tsp (5 ml) cinnamon
1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt

PREPARATION
In mixing bowl, stir together rhubarb, honey, flour, cinnamon and ginger (if using) until well combined. Spoon into greased 8-cup (2 L) baking dish.

TOPPING
In same mixing bowl, stir together oats, sugar, honey, butter, cinnamon and salt; sprinkle evenly over rhubarb. Bake in 375F oven 40 to 45 minutes or until fruit is tender and topping is browned.


RICOTTA AND HONEY TART
(recipe courtesy of Three Brothers Honey)
This recipe requires a 9-inch round tart pan with removable bottom. It uses ricotta cheese, which should be drained overnight, or at least for a few hours.

CRUST
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

FILLING
1 lb (454 grams) ricotta cheese (drained — the drier, the better)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup Three Brothers Honey
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

PREPARATION
  1. For the crust: Place melted butter, sugar, zest, and salt in a large bowl and stir until combined. Add flour and stir just until a soft dough forms, about 1 minute.
  2. Evenly arrange small pieces of the dough over the bottom of a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom. Using a measuring cup or your fingers, press the dough to form an even layer over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, flouring the cup or your fingers as needed.
  3. Cover the tart shell with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat oven to 350F and arrange a rack in the middle.
    When the shell is chilled, prick it all over with a fork and place it on a baking sheet. Bake until golden brown all over, about 20 to 25 minutes.
    Meanwhile, prepare the filling.
  5. For the filling:
    Place the drained ricotta, eggs, honey, zest, and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Process, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl often with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is smooth and combined, about 1 minute.
  6. Spread the filling in the warm tart shell and evenly sprinkle the almonds over top.
  7. Bake until the centre of the tart is just set, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely on a rack before serving.


HONEY SALAD DRESSING & STRAWBERRY SALAD
(recipe courtesy of the Ontario Beekeepers' Association ontariohoney.ca)
A tasty and sweet spring salad for everyone to enjoy!

DRESSING INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup Ontario honey
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried minced onion
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup poppy or sesame seeds (optional)

SALAD INGREDIENTS
Baby spinach or spring mix
1 cup (or more) strawberries, sliced (can substitute with mandarin orange segments)
1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds
1 purple onion, finely minced (optional)

PREPARATION
  1. Using a blender, combine all dressing ingredients (except for oil and poppy seeds). Blend on high until smooth.  Place blender on medium speed and slowly add the oil and poppy seeds until all ingredients are incorporated. Shake well before using.  Keep unused portions in the refrigerator.
    Wash and cut the fresh strawberries and add them to washed salad greens with almonds and sliced purple onion. Top with the honey dressing.


APPLE HONEY CAKE
(recipe courtesy of Foodland Ontario foodlandontario.ca)
A perfect snack for your coffee break. If you don't have cardamon, just substitute it for ground cinnamon.

1-1/3 cups (325 mL) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (150 mL) ground almonds
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each baking powder and baking soda
3/4 tsp (4 mL) ground cardamom
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp (1 mL) each ground cloves, nutmeg and salt
1 Ontario egg
1/2 cup (125 mL) packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 mL) each milk and vegetable oil
1/4 cup (50 mL) Ontario Liquid Honey
2 medium Ontario Apples, peeled, cored and chopped

GLAZE
1/2 cup (125 mL) Ontario Liquid Honey
2 Tbsp (25 mL) apple juice or water
1/8 tsp (0.5 mL) ground cardamom
1/4 cup (50 mL) toasted sliced almonds

PREPARATION
  1. Line 9-inch (2 L) square baking pan with foil, allowing 2-inch (5 cm) overhang on 2 sides of pan; grease foil.
  2. In medium bowl, combine flour, ground almonds, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt, mixing well.
  3. In large bowl, beat egg with brown sugar until thick and creamy. Combine milk, oil and honey; add to egg mixture.
  4. Stir in dry ingredients.
  5. Fold in apples; spread in prepared pan. Bake in 350F (180 C) oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.

GLAZE
  1. In small saucepan, bring honey, apple juice and cardamom to boil; reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.
  2. Place cake on wire rack and gently poke several holes in cake with fork. Carefully pour warm glaze over cake. Sprinkle with toasted almonds. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then lift cake out of pan using foil “handles”.
  3. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into squares. Serves 9. 



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