“Without the bees, our menu would be looking very sparse,” says Lori Hilyer, the general manager of Tupelo Honey’s downtown location.
Phyllis Stiles, the director of Bee City USA, echoes that sentiment on a grander scale. “One in every three bites is owed in part to some kind of bee,” Stiles explains. “The most nutritious and most interesting parts of our diets are attributable to pollinators. All the fruits and vegetables and nuts — chocolate even.”
To ensure this message continues to reach the public, Bee City USA (an organization formed in 2012 by the Buncombe County Chapter of the N.C. State Beekeepers Association) will host its fourth annual Pollination Celebration, a weeklong effort aimed at advocating for and educating about pollinators. The week kicks off Thursday, June 16, at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel with a party featuring libations, music and finger food.
Throughout the week, as in years past, keynote speakers, talks and tours will be offered all across Asheville. This year, however, Asheville’s culinary community will participate in the celebration as well. “We went to [restaurants] that we knew were really conscious of local food and healthy food and would seem the most receptive at trying to get the message out … that a large part of our diet depends on the pollinators,” says Stiles.
Curate, Nightbell, Writer’s Bistro at the Renaissance Hotel, Tupelo Honey, Twin Leaf Brewery, Copper Crown, Sovereign Remedies, Smoky Park Supper Club, Chestnut and 5 Walnut Wine Bar will all be joining the Pollination Celebration’s newest addition, Buzzin’ for Bees in Foodtopia. Each establishment will offer a featured dish or drink, donating 10 percent of the proceeds to Bee City USA. In addition, pamphlets will be available to customers, providing information on how individuals can help sustain and grow the pollinator population.
“It’s a great event to create awareness,” says Kate Bannasch, co-owner of Copper Crown. She adds that the event allows the restaurant’s sous chefs and bartenders a chance to experiment with new flavors and ingredients. “They get to think outside the box.”
Joe Scully, chef-owner of Chestnut, sees it as a win-win for all parties involved. His restaurant will serve a peach Old-Fashioned with Haw Creek honey, fresh peaches and bourbon. Staff members will also be provided talking points regarding the pollinators. In general, Scully notes that his employees take pride in and appreciate when Chestnut participates in environmentally conscious practices and events. “These young kids really get behind it, and they get excited about it,” he says.
Twin Leaf Brewery owner Tim Webber (who is in the process of adding beekeeper to his title) is in the midst of mixing a special batch for the event. “It’s a saison, Belgian-style, and we’re going to have Yunan black tea in it,” he says. “But we’re also going to add in chamomile and rose hips so it’s a really flowery beer.” For every pint sold, Webber will offer seed bombs with a notecard that discusses the importance of wildflowers to the pollinators.
There is plenty of information Stiles hopes to get across through these participating restaurants. One element in particular is the fact that Western North Carolina is the most biologically diverse region in the temperate world. This provides gardeners a wide variety of flowers, plants and trees to choose from. Stiles encourages individuals to reintroduce regional plant life to their yards. “Indigenous insects don’t recognize most exotic plants as food or places to raise their young,” she says. “The Siberian iris and English ivy and Japanese maple do nothing for them. It’s like having a statue in your yard.”
Bee City USA also advises planting at least three varieties of plants blooming in succession from spring to fall. Pesticides, of course, are discouraged. However, if used, individuals are encouraged to spray early in the morning or late in the evening, when pollinators are least active.
“It’s a really great thing,” says Kristie Quinn of 5 Walnut Wine Bar and Smoky Park Supper Club. “If we continue to promote awareness, hopefully things will get better.”
Stiles adds, “We’ve got to bring nature home. We’ve got to bring it to our backyards and our front yards and our schoolyards and our church grounds and throughout the city.”