• Sunday , 21 January 2018

Rooftop Gardens and Beehives: A Farming Trend That Never Grows Old

Photos, story by Cassie Hepler

Just because you live in the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection doesn’t mean that you are completely out of touch with your neanderthal roots. Sometimes you want to dig your fingers (and toes, c’mon don’t deny it) in some fluffy, scruffy dirt… or maybe some grass. And if that means you can eat the bounty of your fruit (and vegetables), even better!

Many city dwellers go to the rooftop to build an urban jungle, a sort of high-as-the-sky garden and zen place to get away from the hustle and bustle below. Restaurants are savvy to organic and home-grown cooking as well as producing nature’s best sweetener there is – honey from beloved, endangered honey bees. And The Philadelphia Bee Company is the bees knees and on the city’s scene with all sorts of buzzing information.

The Philadelphia Bee Co. provides residents with locally produced bee products including honey, wax and pollen all gathered and made within city limits. Bees are of vital to our way of life as the plants they pollinate plants that make up more than 1/3 of our diet. Apples, pears, almonds and even beef (due to their alfalfa and clover feed stock) are all pollinator dependent.

Some sections of the city taste differently than others due to flowers and trees available that the bees colonize. For instance, Paradiso had a slight lavender flavor and Liberte Lounge is very herbal due to the bees using the nearby garden as a pollen source. These two amazing area restaurants, the delicious Italian cuisine at Paradiso on thriving Passyunk Avenue and delicate French dishes at Liberte Lounge in the Center City Sofitel, are both garden savvy with thriving bee colonies and rooftop gardens.

If you ever wonder what makes food taste so good, it’s freshness first, skill and genuine love of cooking. These restaurants and the chefs attached – Chef Lynn Rinaldi of Paradiso and Chef Justin Perdue of Liberte Lounge – are all heart, soul and good food lovin’ – it’s no wonder plants, bees and patrons adore them so much. We’re sure you will too!

We're looking to the left where the beehives are kept, at the tallest point of the building.

We’re looking at you, Center City, on top of Paradiso.

Climbing onto the rooftop of Paradiso is a pure Philadelphia experience.

Climbing onto the rooftop of Paradiso is a pure Philadelphia experience.

We spot a ripe and tasty bell pepper hanging high above the city.

We spot a ripe and tasty bell pepper hanging high above the city.

Ever have fresh-picked eggplant parm? Now you know where to go.

Ever have fresh-picked eggplant parm? Now you know where to go.

A peek beyond Passyunk Avenue on the rooftops.

A peek beyond Passyunk Avenue on the rooftops.

Meet Don from Philadelphia Bees who begins the smoking process because smoke doesn't anger the bees, just calms them.

Meet Don from Philadelphia Bees who begins the smoking process because smoke doesn’t anger the bees, just calms them.

He cracks the top off the beehive and discovers... wait for it... tons of bees!

He cracks the top off the beehive and discovers… wait for it… tons of bees!

Don seems happy with this batch of honey and claims it's time to harvest sooner than later.

Don seems happy with this batch of honey and claims it’s time to harvest sooner than later.

Also wearing a bee suit for these photos, we picked a good day as the ladies were calm and busy - as bees.

Also wearing a bee suit for these photos, we picked a good day as the ladies were calm and busy – as bees.

The honey is literally dripping off the honeycomb.

The honey is literally dripping off the honeycomb.

So naturally you just stick a finger in and eat some.

So naturally you just stick a finger in and eat some, clear and pure as water here on Don’s finger.

The "Bee Expert" carefully places the beehives back into place.

The “Bee Expert” carefully places the beehives back into place.

Fearless Don opens up the top of one of the beehive boxes to discover the bees have built their own artistic honeycomb, with excellent bounty.

Fearless Don opens up the top of one of the beehive boxes to discover the bees have built their own artistic honeycomb, with excellent bounty.

He carefully cuts a piece to use on the night's menu and not disrupt the structure.

He carefully cuts a piece to use on the night’s menu and not disrupt the structure.

Both chef and beekeeper are thrilled with the results.

Both chef and beekeeper are thrilled with the results.

Now that's a fresh stack of honeycomb!

Now that’s a fresh stack of honeycomb!

Don finds another honeycomb filled to the brim!

Don finds another honeycomb filled to the brim!

We're pretty sure Don loves his job and who wouldn't with this view!

We’re pretty sure Don loves his job and who wouldn’t with this view!

Back down to the garden and we spotted some tomatoes!

Back down to the garden and we spotted some tomatoes!

Who can guess what these green creatures are?

Who can guess what these green creatures are?

A lone pea pod was growing against all odds.

A lone pea pod was growing against all odds.

The finished product of all the bee's hard work was this delicious tasting honeycomb back at the restaurant.

The finished product of all the bee’s hard work was this delicious tasting honeycomb back at the restaurant.

After quick, delicious catch-up lunch sandwiches at Paradiso with fellow media man James Zeleniak from Punch Media PR, we were off to Center City to take a peek at the rooftop world of Liberte Lounge.

The stairs leading to the roof had some telltale signs that there may be a garden ahead.

The stairs leading to the roof had some telltale signs that there may be a garden ahead.

Including this Welcome to our Garden sign on the way to the top.

Including this Welcome to our Garden sign on the way to the top.

A lone cherry tomato greets us first.

A lone cherry tomato greets us first.

Tons of lavender grows like a weed in the humidity.

Tons of lavender grows like a weed in the humidity.

Chef Justin Perdue tends to the garden, along with other staff members.

Chef Justin Perdue tends to the garden, along with other staff members.

Delicious smelling and tasting spearmint is nestled in the dirt.

Delicious smelling and tasting spearmint is nestled in the dirt.

That's a mighty fat cucumber, courtesy of Robersstons Flowers who gave them pre-started plants through a partnership with Sofitel.

That’s a mighty fat cucumber, courtesy of Robertson’s Flowers who gave them prestarted plants through a partnership.

We spy some more, beefy tomatoes great for burgers.

We spy some more, beefy tomatoes great for burgers.

A bell pepper hides behind some leaves.

A bell pepper hides behind some leaves.

A lone eggplant was given to the garden by Chef Justin's wife who works on a farm.

A lone eggplant was given to the garden by Chef Justin’s wife who works on a farm.

Sweet basil tastes great in drinks and food - and the bees nearby seem to love it too.

Sweet basil tastes great in drinks and food – and the bees nearby seem to love it too.

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Jalapeno peppers give a nice kick to anything you can imagine (even honey!)

Jalapeno peppers give a nice kick to anything you can imagine (even honey!)

This bee knows where to go to get the good stuff.

This bee knows where to go to get the good stuff.

This green onion looks like it's growing at sea!

This green onion looks like it’s growing at sea!

Parsley is an essential ingredient to most any delicious dish.

Parsley is an essential ingredient to most any delicious dish.

Beehives line up behind the hotel heating and cooling systems.

Beehives line up behind the hotel heating and cooling systems and were just harvested a few weeks ago.

These bees seem a lot more active than Paradiso's gang so we stayed a good distance away.

These bees were a lot more active than Paradiso’s gang so we stayed a good distance away.

Chef Justin Perdue taking charge of this rooftop garden, and hopefully providing some farm fresh food this fall with help from his wife.

Chef Justin Perdue taking charge of this rooftop garden, and hopefully providing some farm fresh food this fall with help from his wife and Teens For Good.

 

 

 

 

 

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