The Valley Hospital, in Ridgewood, N.J., has a potentially sweet approach to using locally produced foods. The hospital has installed two colonies of bees on the roof of the healthcare system’s Lucklow pavilion in nearby Paramus. “The hospital is trying to be as green as possible and this fits in with our goals for sustainability,” says Dawn Cascio, director of food and nutrition services for the hospital.
The bees are expected to produce about 100 pounds of honey by the end of the season, of which 30 pounds will be harvested. The rest will be left for the bees to feed on during the winter. Much of the harvest will be used in patient foodservice, with the rest being packaged and sold in the hospital gift shop. Executive Chef Joseph Graziano expects to use the honey as an ingredient in a variety of applications, from salad dressings to barbecue sauces.
Cascio explains that the first step is to allow the bees to establish the colony. The bees are being fed sugar water, which they use to create the beeswax that supports the hive. Then the bees will be able to fly out in search of plants from which they can extract nectar. Where the bees forage will determine the flavor of the honey, Cascio adds.
In addition to supplying the hospital with honey, the project may serve another purpose: to help repopulate the species. Since 2006, bees have been dying off in large numbers. Cascio says the approximately 1,000 bees that started this colony could grow to 60,000 strong by summer’s end.