One of the best things about living in New York is that you are constantly discovering new fascinating and bewildering facts about the city. Did you know there are rice paddies on Randall's Island? A still-running 19th-century power plant at Pratt University? A rooftop garden with beehives at the Waldorf Astoria?
The last one I just learned about last month. And luckily, I got to see it first-hand as part of the Urban Agriculture Conference sponsored by The Horticultural Society of New York. A few weeks ago I posted about our trips to Battery Urban Farm and Riverpark Farm; now we'll head up 625 feet over Midtown Manhattan.
The roof houses 6 beehives and over a quarter million bees, which produces honey for the restaurant and bar downstairs. Freshly harvested honey is used for cocktails, ice cream, soups, salad dressing, and basically anything chef and culinary director David Garcelon dreams of. The flavor is more intense than your average honey; the bees forage on the roof before moving on to Central Park for more foraging during the day.
Raised beds were installed last year and planting started this February with help from the Hort. The purpose of the garden was to both feed the bees and grow very fresh produce and more unusual produce that you can't normally buy in the markets. Along with kale, red romaine, mesclun, and more familiar herbs, the roof is also home to blue plums, Vietnamese cilantro, sorrel, and alpine strawberries. There are also eight apple trees that are just beginning to bloom.
Oh, and have I mentioned the hops? Hort director George Pisegna mentioned the possibility of having rooftop-farm-to-table Waldorf beer in the future.
If there's one thing the conference taught me, it's that cityscapes in the future just might become a little greener, thanks to the efforts of so many people who are working to increase and improve urban farming.
Oh, and that sampling honey right from the source, against the backdrop of the Chrysler building, is a pretty remarkable experience.