9th October 2020
The Bat Conservation Trust is inviting chefs, bakers, schools and you to celebrate bats this Halloween by taking part in a themed great British #BatBake.
The aims of #BatBake are to invite people to be creative in the kitchen, using the bat theme, whilst discovering more about how important these incredible mammals are in growing a lot of the food we eat. We also want #BatBake to raise awareness, support, and funds for bat conservation.
So, how do your favourite Halloween foods link to the world’s most iconic creatures of darkness? The answer is found in what they get up to in the dead of the night. Without the help of bats, the baking cupboard would be somewhat skeletal, and it would come with a frighteningly high price tag, enough to send a chill down the spine of any chef.
For example, many folk include sugar in some way in their Halloween baking. Several species of bat hunt over sugar cane fields, saving millions of pounds a year by reducing crop damage because they feed on moths and beetles. One single bat can eat thousands of farm insects in a night. A 2011 study in the journal Science listed the savings made by having bats on farms at $3.7billion a year in the US alone.
And among corn crops, bats save farmers £650 million a year in controlling pests such as corn earworm, stinkbugs, June beetle larvae and cucumber beetle. Bats reduce corn borer insect damage by up to half, giving us cheaper cornflour, cereal, tortillas, syrup and cornflake cakes. Rice and wheat flour are produced with less pesticide use where bats reduce rice borer moth damage too.
Love nutty treats? Some farmers who grow pistachio, almond, walnut, macadamia, cashew and pecan nuts, have realised bats are our friends so they install bat boxes to encourage these predators to dine on the insects that can eat their crops. Not only does this cause less damage to the environment by reducing the use of chemical pesticides but it may save farmers money too.
While bees are important pollinators, it’s easy to forget that around 500 of the foods we eat are pollinated by bats. Among these are cake flavourings and topping such as clove and banana, whilst grapes, raisins, coffee, cocoa, apple, pear and citrus benefit from the fact that bats eat insects. As if that was not enough, fig and allspice seeds are also dispersed by bats!
And if you bake with dairy products such as cream, butter, milk, yoghurt or cheese, organic ingredients make a big difference to farm wildlife, and in particular, where cattle dung is free of pesticides the land supports far more insect-chomping bat populations. In the UK this includes species such as serotine, noctule and greater horseshoe bats, as they all love cowpats or rather the insects that emerge from them if they are chemical free!
If you enjoy a glug of certain Halloween spirits, bats put the kick in your cocktails - they pollinate the agave plant that makes tequila and mezcal. Anything flavoured by peach, vanilla, almond or cocoa benefits from the presence of our furry flying friends. Mulled wine on a chill-inducing evening would be more expensive without bats performing their aerial acrobatics, hunting for insects in the world’s vineyards too.
So nature offers us the best tricks and treats, and bats cast important Halloween-friendly spells that help us grow many of our favourite foods. In return, wildlife friendly farming can greatly improve the populations of vulnerable bats, that roost in trees, old barns and farm buildings, navigating and feeding along insect-rich hedgerows and over pasture. To support bat populations, we should support wildlife-friendly farming when we buy food.
Now the Bat Conservation Trust is inviting chefs and Halloween revellers to share their bat themed baking skills with us and discover more about the stories behind how those food ingredients grow, and why bats are so vital to a good Halloween festival.
Why not get your school or youth group to #BatBake for Halloween and share your wonderful creations with us, using the #BatBake hashtag on social media? And/or share your bat themed Halloween bakes with family, friends, neighbours and colleagues and ask them to make a donation towards bat conservation. Bats are truly magical creatures but they need your help more than ever and joining with #BatBake is a great way of doing so this Halloween.
To find out more about bats and the work that the Bat Conservation Trust does, take a look at the website: www.bats.org.uk
You can support bat conservation in many ways including:
- Joining the Bat Conservation Trust www.bats.org.uk/support-bats/become-a-member
- Donating to bat conservation www.bats.org.uk/donate/pledge
Here are some suggested #BatBake recipes brought to you with help from bats, but perhaps you can think of some too:
Halloween nachos: www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/healthy-halloween-nachos
Batty pistachio cheese balls:
BAT TRICKS & TREATS
Choc bat biscuits: www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/chocolate-bat-biscuits
Cinnamon sugar bats: https://eatwheat.org/inspiration/cinnamon-sugar-bats/
Graveyard cake. There’s plenty of life in a graveyard, they can be superb habitats for roosting and foraging bats. Many of the ingredients in a graveyard cake are grown with help from bats, and many children will enjoy making themed toppings: www.gomakeme.com/2010/10/graveyard-halloween-chocolate-cake-.html
Green cocktail: www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/grasshopper-cocktail
Blood red bat tequila: www.cookswithcocktails.com/raspberry-peach-margarita-and-casa-noble-tequila/
The ultimate bat-boosted treat, a chilling mulled wine jelly: www.cordonbleu.edu/news/recipe-mulled-wine-jelly-ice-cream-speculoos-dried-fruits-nuts/en