By Patrice Powers-Barker, OSU Extension, Lucas County
The Truth Contributor
Pollinators are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we take. Pollination is important for plant reproduction and food production. Has it been a while since you’ve taken a botany class? Here’s a basic reminder of the importance of pollination. From OSU Factsheet on Attracting Pollinators to the Garden: Pollination is the movement of pollen from the male part (anther) of one flower to the female part (pistil) of another flower. Without pollination, most plants can’t make seeds and fruits. Many plants are wind pollinated but others rely on animals, primarily insects, to carry pollen from flower to flower.
Plants and pollinators have a valuable working relationship. If pollination ensures a bountiful food supply, what foods are we talking about? Five major crops rely heavily upon insect pollination: almonds, apples, blueberries, melons and squash.
Some additional foods produced with the help of pollinators include: strawberries, chocolate, peaches, figs, cucumbers and tomatoes. In addition to those fruits, vegetables and nuts, there are other crops that rely on pollinators. Alfalfa is pollinated by insects and is a staple food in a cow’s diet. From the cow, we enjoy milk as a beverage as well as cheese and yogurt. Sunflowers and canola require pollination for the seeds and oil for cooking.
Around the world, pollinators help pollinate plants like: almonds, apricots, applies, avocados, bananas, beans, beets, blackberries, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cherries, coconut, cranberries, cucumbers, eggplant, figs, grapes, grapefruit, kiwi, lemons, limes, mangos, melons, okra, onions, oranges, papaya, peach, pear, peppers, plums, pumpkin, raspberries, strawberries, squash, tangerines, tomatoes, turnips and zucchini. In addition to herbs, spices, sesame seeds, and vanilla, other favorites that rely on pollinators include coffee and chocolate.
In Ohio, pollinators are primarily insects such as bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, wasps, and others. In addition, hummingbirds are pollinators. Certain bats are also pollinators, especially in tropical and desert areas, but none act as pollinators in Ohio.
Without pollinators, what would we eat? Technically, if we look at the standard American diet that is high in grain-based desserts like cakes and donuts with a lot of sugar, the main ingredients for those foods do not rely on pollinators. What’s the problem? Well, that’s not a healthy diet and our bodies deserve a variety of healthy foods.
A few years ago, a team of researchers determined that the foods that offer us the most nutrition diversity come from foods that are pollinated by animals such as insects, bats, bees and birds. This should not be a huge surprise since we know that plant foods like nuts, fruits and vegetables are high in nutrients like vitamins and minerals A, C, and E, lycopene, calcium, fluoride, and iron. This variety of nutrients keeps our bodies healthy. So, we really don’t want to try a diet that deletes foods that rely on pollinators.
For my summer meals, I will slow down to appreciate and enjoy all of the food that is on my plate, thanks to the work of pollinators. I will search out some recipes featuring ingredients that rely on pollinators. The Pollinator Partnership offers an online cookbook with a selection of foods including the following courses: appetizers, salads, entrees, desserts and cocktails/drinks. Picture the hard work of pollinators when you enjoy salsa and guacamole or apple spinach salad, beef kabobs with a rainbow of vegetables and vanilla ice cream with berries. The following recipe is from the National Honey Board:
Honey Lime Fruit Salad
- 4 cups strawberries, sliced
- 3 kiwis, peeled and sliced
- 1 cup green grapes
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 lime, juiced
- In a large bowl, combine the strawberries, kiwi and grapes.
- In a small bowl, stir together the honey and lime juice.
- Pour the honey-lime mixture onto the fruit and stir well.
- Serve and enjoy!