A gift for the bees

Posted in All posts, August, on

As a grow your own gardener, I’m constantly aware of the relationship between bees and fruit and other produce.  If the weather takes a turn for the worse when the blossom is out, I prepare for a poor apple harvest.

And it gives me great satisfaction, on a warm summer’s day, to watch bees methodically visiting every flower. Nectar for them, produce for us.

It’s even better when I find something that we both love.  Raspberries fall into this category; the flowers are always alive with bees, as are tayberries and blueberries.

But I think the bees’ all time favourite down on the plot is the artichoke.

At this time of year when the enormous flowers break open, the bees bury themselves deep within the purple petals, emerging eventually, blissfully covered in pollen.

Artichoke plants aren’t at all difficult to grow.  Mine are Gros Vert de Laon, a fat-budded French variety, that I raised from seed.  They like a warm, sunny spot in well drained soil and a manure mulch in spring.  In late autumn I cut them back to the ground.  Other than that, they require very little, although they do not cope well with very cold wet winters.

In return they provide a steady supply of globes from the end of May, when they’re a real luxury after the root vegetables of winter and the hungry gap of spring.  After the first flush of huge buds, there will be plenty of smaller even tastier buds.

I like to boil them whole until tender, then take off the stalk and the tough outer leaves and use the delicious hearts in pasta or on pizza.

But around the beginning of July I start to leave the buds to mature.  I could eat them all (quite happily), but the bees appreciate the flowers so much that I always like to leave them plenty.  On a warm dry day it’s such a pleasure to watch them foraging through the mauve fronds.  There’s nothing at the plot or in the garden that they love more.

Thanks for reading,