This honey and Rooibos tea granita is like eating a frozen spring garden with all the earthy floral and fruity flavours you would imagine it tasted like. The recipe comes from Babylonstoren where you will also find the most exquisite food garden in South Africa and maybe even the world. Its one of my favourite places to go to feel reminded about the perfections of Mother Nature. Any season, whether summer or winter (and everything in between) its beautiful and inspiring. Alive with small animals, birds and millions of insects, my favourite of all being the honeybee.
Bees are little miracle works who are responsible for around a third of all the food we eat. They live for about 6 weeks and literally work themselves to death – beating their wings 200 times per second pollinating plants and making honey. 99% of all bees are female – the worker bees, and you will always hear bee experts refer to them in the feminine. Every little thing about a bee is fascinating to me, so I was thrilled to have been invited to the recent Bee Workshop at Babylonstoren.
It was a full day workshop hosted by Mike Allsop from the Plant Protection Research Institution who shared as much of his vast knowledge as the time frame would allow. We learned that bees had been in Africa for thousands of years but commercial beekeeping only started around the 1920’s after the establishment of Eucalyptus plantations (this is a really important food for the bee). The day involved a guided walk through the garden looking at the type of plants bees like to forage on, lectures, a lunch in the Greenhouse and an opportunity to put on a bee suit and open up the hives.
There are number of issues surrounding bees and bee keeping in Southern Africa and the world: disease, infestations, a shortage of food, diminishing colonies, theft and colony collapse disorder. The issues are complex and controversial, but bees are critical to us and for our food security. The problem of the vanishing of bees is a combination of factors but their protection and those of bee keepers should be a priority at government level and in our society.
The demand for bees has increased 400% because our food needs are changing. Human population increases and the demand for non-seasonal fruit and vegetables puts pressure on bees to pollinate. This along with chemical farming and monoculture agriculture have an interlinked and adverse affect on bees.
“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly….This is the interrelated structure of reality”. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
The bee problems are part of a bigger problem – a sign that our food system as it currently stands is not sustainable. I highly recommend two films on bees which do a deep dive into a few of the issues. ‘More than Honey‘, and ‘The Vanishing Of The Bees‘.
What can we do about the bee problem?
When faced with such a huge and complex issue as the bee crises, its difficult to imagine that we as individuals could have any influence on the improvement of the overall situation as this really is a problem that needs to be addressed at government level. However, as with any major environmental crises we can all play our small part. Like with recycling, minimising waste and rejecting bottled water, we can make choices everyday that are friendlier to bees and become part of the solution.
‘Nurture the food systems that will take better care of the bees’ – Michael Pollan
- Support diversified and organic farming systems.
- Create a garden filled with plants bees love to feed on instead of planting wasteful and useless lawn.
- Make decisions three times a day when deciding what you eat, and eat food that comes from sources that are kinder to bees. Vote with your fork.
- Take up bee keeping as a hobby if you have enough garden space to allow it.
- Protest and ban the use of harmful pesticides in farming.
- Become aware and spread your knowledge to make others aware and conscious.
- Support organization that fund research and lobby government.
Honey is the delicious product we get from bees, make sure when you buy it you look for more expensive, raw varieties that come from farmers that look after their animals. A bee produces one teaspoon of honey in its lifetime, this is nowhere near a commodity food item.
*Cooks Notes ~ I altered the quantity of honey to 250ml as I felt that was sweet enough. I increased the aromatics a little but think one can throw in a few more as the flavours as very subtle
Recipe – Slightly adapted from Babylonstoren
- 1 L Babylonstoren rooibos tea (brewed)
- 250 ml honey
- 4 juniper berries
- 2 star anise
- 4 white pepper corns
- 60 ml lemon juice & grated rind of 1 lemon
- 1 orange or clementine
- tonic water
Simmer the tea, honey, juniper berries, star anise and white pepper corns for 10 minutes.
Remove and strain through a cloth or fine sieve.
Add 60 ml lemon juice and the grated rind of 1 lemon and place in the freezer. When the icicles start to form, loosen the mixture with a fork. Place back in freezer and loosen again after 2 hours. Freeze once more, loosening again before use.
Add a tot of gin to each glass.
Spoon the granita to fill the whole glass and add the tonic water. Garnish with a slice of orange or lemon.
For Rooibos Granita, follow the recipe as above and add 400 ml crushed strawberries, raspberries or blackberries, or 400 ml grated pineapple, or 400 ml grapefruit juice after 2 hours. Freeze and loosen again before use.
Babylonstoren host a range of wonderful Grow Yourself Workshops, and I want to go on all of them. Check out their website for the upcoming classes.