Female Amergilla bees build nests, which they also sleep in. But male Amergilla bees, which are nest-less, often settle down overnight on a choice grass blade in a sheltered spot. During dusk, a group of male bees may be seen buzzing about the area as they congregate to choose a grass stalk for the night, groom themselves, and eventually quiet down for some rest. One grass blade often hosts multiple bees.
Chaste Tree berry has a peppery perfumy flavor that is reminiscent of coriander and clove, and is used throughout the Middle East in culinary spice blends.
The medicinal use of chaste tree dates back several thousand years, and it is still one of the most popular herbs in America and Western Europe for treating gynecological conditions. The origin of the name lies in the old belief that the herb would help reduce “urges of the flesh.” Monks often chewed both the leaves and berries, and chaste tree berry syrup was given to nuns to repress sexual desire.
Carob is an evergreen plant, suited well for unimproved soil and able to produce a reliable and versatile food source even during poor conditions. Its tap root can extend over 100 feet down, enabling it to survive long droughts.
Every part of the fruit (produced only by female carob trees in the wild) is edible. The pod is roasted and then ground up to be used as a ‘chocolate substitute.’ The seeds are used to make locust bean gum – an emulsifier and thickener that is used in food applications such as confection, but also in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
Carob seeds, which tend to be very consistently sized, are thought to have been the original measurement for the ‘carat,’ used by jewelers.
Mastic is an evergreen plant in the pistachio family. Ikaria has mastic trees like the one pictured above, which are utilized by Ikarians as medicine. However, the most well-known kind of mastic is the variety that grows in Chios, Greece, which weeps resin when cut. These “tears of Chios” or ‘mastic gum’ are harvested in summer by locals in the traditional way, then dried and marketed throughout the world. The name of the plant may originate from the Greek word “masso,” ‘to chew,’ or may also come from the ancient Greek verb “mastix,” ‘to whip,’ due to the old practice of whipping (instead of the modern practice of cutting) the mastic bark in order to produce the resin.
Mastic gum has a strong resinous flavor. It has been used since ancient times for gastrointestinal issues, and it is still marketed today as a natural treatment for conditions such as ulcers.