A Home for Champion Pollinators

Mason bees 1There is a lot of press these days regarding the health and decline of honeybees in America.  Honeybees were introduced to our country by Europeans only 4oo years ago.   The Mason bee (Osmia family) however, is a bee native to North America, and has been around for millions of  years.  Here at the Garden center, we have enjoyed learning about and observing these humble and hard-working bees this summer.

Mason bees are also known as Orchard bees, and do a great job of pollinating early spring fruit trees, blueberries, raspberries and a variety of ornamentals.  Unlike honeybees, they don’t produce honey or beeswax.  They are also non-aggressive and won’t sting unless stepped on.  In fact, the males don’t even have stingers!  They are solitary creatures, and get their name from building their nests using mortar-like applications of mud to seal their eggs until next spring.

The photo you see is one week’s worth of work by a solitary female using a Mason bee nesting kit that we offer at the Garden Center.  The female bee seeks out hollow tube-like structures  to leave her eggs until next spring.  She will use already existing areas and won’t create any damage doing so.  Hollow reeds, woody plants, holes in dead trees and even abandoned snail shells will do!   We found these nesting kits to offer the  public and hung one about 6 feet high under the eaves ( is this the right word?) of the store.  We placed oleander trees around it for a little privacy and a source of nearby nectar.

In the course of a week, we watched her visit flowers to collect pollen and nectar, known as a ‘provision mass’ or ‘food store pellet’.  It is usually enough food for a 10 day supply for the larva/larvae once they hatch.   She lays down the collected food pellet, leaves an egg on top of it, and flies away to find mud to bring back and seal the structure. Each tube consists of several ‘partitions’ of eggs that are walled-off with the mud.  Females are placed in the back and males in the front, so when spring comes the males can chew their way out and then let the females emerge for mating.  It has been fascinating to watch these creatures go about their solitary business with bumble bees, wasps and monarchs co-exisiting with  them while they lay eggs for next spring.  “Busy as a bee” has certainly been the case here in the courtyard and we look forward to watching them come out of dormancy next spring.

Bacon Tomato WHAT?

A great way to use up fresh tomatoes!

 

Article and recipe provided by Becky Garoutte, Greenhouse Production Manager, Rosehill Gardens

 

From the time I was big enough to pull a chair up to the kitchen counter, I have loved cooking and baking. Maybe it is my bacontomatopiecreative nature or simple rebellion … or a blend of the two, but I have never been good at sticking to a recipe. I read a recipe and can tell right away if it will be something tasty or if I need to embellish it. I read cookbooks like other folks read a good mystery novel. This has led to my family often arriving to the table for the evening meal and asking “What are we having tonight?” to which I reply, “Dinner! If you like it, we can name it and keep it.” Thankfully, my family loves a good food adventure!

About four years ago, our garden was turning out a shocking number of tomatoes and I needed a creative way to cook them up. We had guests coming for dinner and as is often the case, I had not been to the store for quite some time. Breezing through some cooking magazines and cookbooks it came to me! BACON TOMATO PIE! Three things I love! What could be better? As the day drew near for our guests to visit, my husband asked if I had something in mind to serve. My idea was greeted with far more suspicion than enthusiasm, but that didn’t dampen my creative spirit one bit. It is with great pleasure that I tell you that my Bacon Tomato Pie was not only a huge hit with our guests, but is now one of our favorite meals!

Here is my version of Bacon Tomato Pie:

INGREDIENTS

1  9 inch deep dish pie crust – unbaked

FILLING:

4  large tomatoes sliced thin
1  cup red onion sliced thin
½  pound thick sliced bacon – cooked till crisp and crumbled
½  cup fresh basil leaves chopped or torn small
1  teaspoon dried Oregano or 1 TBSP fresh Oregano chopped fine
½  teaspoon Garlic Powder

TOPPING:

2  cups shredded cheese – I like Sharp Cheddar. Use your favorite!
¼  cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup Mayonnaise
Sriracha or other hot sauce to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place tomato slices on several layers of paper toweling to remove excess moisture. Allow about 10 minutes on each side for this process. In large skillet, cook bacon till crisp. Remove from skillet and drain on absorbent toweling. Reserve 1 TBSP drippings. Over medium heat, sauté red onion slices until caramelized and soft. Drain well. Add crumbled bacon, oregano and garlic powder to the onions and mix. In the pie shell, layer the bacon mixture, cover with a single layer of tomato slices, top with half the basil and repeat.

For the topping, combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix to form soft dough. Drop by spoonful on to the top layer of the pie. Use a damp spatula to spread the cheese mixture over evenly over the top of the pie.

Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes on the center rack in the oven. After 30 minutes, remove foil and bake an additional 20-30 minutes until golden brown and bubbly. Serve warm with a generous salad.