Posts Tagged: Amina Harris
The "miel de lavande" produced by "apiculteur Marc Agnel" is creamed, as most lavender honeys are, she says. It arrived in San Francisco from France last week via my relatives (who love it).
"Honey from a specific plant doesn't always taste like the plant," Harris is saying, as she turns the wheel of the center's newly published Honey Flavor Wheel, a project benefitting bee health research at UC Davis. "Sometimes there is a bit of a surprise."
"Have the honey at room temperature, or slightly warmer, and covered," she advises. "This keeps all the volatiles inside the jar or cup."
Her observations about the honey and the procedure:
Aroma: The first scent is very floral with a touch of lilac. The next, overwhelming smell is fruit! Something very juicy.
Next: take a taste. Let the honey sit on your tongue and dissolve slowly. Try to assess all the flavors that might be occurring. floral – lilac; fruity – cherry
Primary taste: This honey is simply sweet.
Texture: This is a smooth and creamy honey. Quite unusual.
Finish: Notice how the taste lasts. This honey is delicate – that is, it has a very light and very distinct flavor. It has a short duration with a lasting aroma that is filled with a bit of cherry, lilac and the first taste of lavender!
“I have always been astonished by the range of flavors in honey. And its aromas, too. Developing the wheel has been an astonishing learning experience at all levels. I now truly pay attention as I taste many different kinds of foods. I notice flavors from beginning to end.
“I had one wonderful surprise during the tasting series," she recalled. "The sensory scientist we worked with, Sue Langstaff, had been to New Zealand and brought back several honeys. One was a wild flower called Viper's Bugloss. What an amazing aroma! Imagine sitting in a garden. The sun has just set. And the heady aromas of jasmine and orange blossom together crowd the air. This is the scent of Viper's Bugloss. An astonishing honey. Now I want more!”
The front of the colorful wheel lists the descriptors, including fruity, floral, herbaceous, woody, spicy, nutty, confectionary, caramel and earthy. No longer can you just say “sweet” when you taste honey or “sour, salty and bitter.” If it's fruity, can you determine if it's berry, citrus, dried fruit, tree fruit or tropical fruit? If it falls into the confectionary category, can you pinpoint marshmallow, vanilla, maple, butterscotch, toffee, molasses, cotton candy, crème brûlée, burnt sugar or brown sugar? There's even an “animal” category” where you may opine that your sample of honey reminds you of a barnyard.
The back of the Honey Flavor Wheel tells you how to taste honey and shares four honey profiles (Florida tupelo, California orange blossom, Northwest blackberry and Midwestern clover) “so the consumer can get an idea of how to use this innovative product,” Harris said.
(Check out the Sacramento Bee's YouTube video on Amina Harris's demonstration of the Honey Flavor Wheel.)
The Honey Flavor Wheel, measuring 8.25 inches, sells for $10 each, with all proceeds supporting bee health research at UC Davis. The product is available online and at several locations: the Honey and Pollination Center, located at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science on Old Davis Road; at the UC Davis Campus Bookstore and at the downtown Davis Campus Bookstore; and online.
Jar of lavender honey rests next to the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center's Honey Flavor Wheel. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The jar of lavender honey, "miel de lavande," is from France. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Amina Harris sniffs the aroma. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
I managed to capture a photo of her and labeled the image "Golden Bee Nectaring on Lavender," because that's what she was doing. Nectaring on lavender. And she was golden, the most beautiful bee I've ever seen.
Other bees have almost lived up to the "gold standard," but not quite.
So when Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollinator Center, located in the Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, today announced the publication of the Honey Flavor Wheel, I immediately thought of my favorite golden bee and my favorite honey varietal: starthistle. The starthistle is an exotic, invasive weed that farmers hate (and rightfully so) and beekeepers love (and rightfully so).
The flavor is exquisite. And the color is golden.
What's the Honey Flavor Wheel? Well, have you ever sampled wine and overheard the comments about it? You'll hear about the color, the clarity, the swirl, the aroma, the taste and "the finish."
I've heard folks comment "I taste a little corn...Oh, that's a puzzle to my palate."
A puzzle to me, too. I've never tasted "a little corn" in any glass of wine.
Now with the UC Davis Honey Flavor Wheel, you can describe the honey you're sampling.
“I have always been astonished by the range of flavors in honey,” Harris said. “And its aromas, too. Developing the wheel has been an astonishing learning experience at all levels. I now truly pay attention as I taste many different kinds of foods. I notice flavors from beginning to end.
“This gives a huge lexicon to the tastes and aromas we find when tasting honey,” Harris said.
The Honey Flavor Wheel production involved six months of research and development. “We brought together a group of 20 people--trained tasters, beekeepers and food enthusiasts--who worked together with a sensory scientist to come up with almost 100 descriptors,” Harris said. “This wheel will prove invaluable to those who love honey and want to celebrate its nuances.”
“I had one wonderful surprise during the tasting series. The sensory scientist we worked with, Sue Langstaff, had been to New Zealand and brought back several honeys. One was a wild flower called Viper's Bugloss. What an amazing aroma! Imagine sitting in a garden. The sun has just set. And the heady aromas of jasmine and orange blossom together crowd the air. This is the scent of Viper's Bugloss. An astonishing honey. Now I want more!”
Harris' favorite honey? Sweet clover, not to be confused with clover. “Sweet clover is a tall, five-foot wildflower that grows in profusion in Montana, the Dakotas and elsewhere in the high plains of the United States,” Harris said. “It is light in color, spicy with a wonderful cinnamon hit!"
“When we tasted it, one of our analytical panel members said: 'There is really only one word for this. Yum!'
"And that is how I feel, too!” Harris said.
The front of the colorful wheel shows the descriptors, including fruity, floral, herbaceous, woody, spicy, nutty, confectionary, caramel and earthy. No longer can you just say “sweet” when you taste honey or “sour, salty and bitter.” If it's fruity, can you determine if it's berry, citrus, dried fruit, tree fruit or tropical fruit? If it falls into the confectionary category, can you pinpoint marshmallow, vanilla, maple, butterscotch, toffee, molasses, cotton candy, crème brûlée, burnt sugar or brown sugar?
There's even an “animal” category” where you can opine that your honey sample reminds you of a barnyard.
Retired Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who has coordinated and conducted the annual honey tasting at the UC Davis Picnic Day for 38 years, remembers tasting buckwheat honey in Oregon that reminded him of “goat.”
“Maybe the honey bees drank goat pee,” he said, smiling. “Actually, the environmental conditions where the plants are growing can have quite an effect on the odors and flavors of some honeys, while others just seem to be the same everywhere. The ‘goat' honey that I tasted was buckwheat. In many cases, buckwheat honey seems more similar to blackstrap molasses than anything else. It is normally quite robust, but can be mild. In some cases it has been described as having a ‘barnyard' odor and flavor--goat? A search of websites suggests that the mild-tasting samples can become more pungent, with off-flavors developing if it's left sitting around for some time or if it's been heated.”
The back of the Honey Flavor Wheel relates how to taste honey and shares four honey profiles (Florida tupelo, California orange blossom, Northwest blackberry and Midwestern clover) “so the consumer can get an idea of how to use this innovative product,” Harris said.
The Honey Flavor Wheel, measuring 8.25 inches, sells for $10 each with all proceeds benefitting bee research at UC Davis. The wheel is available at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science and soon will be available online, at the UC Davis Campus bookstore and at the downtown Davis Campus Bookstore.
This will be a definite conversation piece for all honey enthusiasts.
However, when I taste wine, I don't get "corn." When I taste honey, I don't get "goat."
Now what if a honey enthusiast tasted both corn and goat...and a wine aficionado tasted both honey and goat?
And maybe a little starthistle thrown in for good measure...
A golden honey bee (Cordovan of the Italian subspecies) nectaring lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee sipping nectar from lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Did you count pollinators on Thursday, May 8?
That was "Be a Scientist Day," sponsored by the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Day of Science and Service to commemorate 100 years of Cooperative Extension.
UC ANR asked that you take three minutes out of your day and count the honey bees, bumble bees and butterflies and other pollinators.
Amina Harris and Art Shapiro did.
In the Good Life Garden.
It's a little treasure located in the courtyard of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science on the UC Davis campus.
The Good Life Garden's ever-changing edible landscape features lots of organic and sustainably grown vegetables, herbs and flowers--all for the faculty, students, staff, and visitors to enjoy.
And for pollinators, too.
Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, and Shapiro, a butterfly expert and distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, happened to be enjoying the garden at the same time.
The count: 150 honey bees, two yellow-faced bumble bees (Bombus vosnesenskii) and one skipper butterfly. Most of them were foraging on the lavender or the catmint.
As a bonus, they saw dozens of lady beetles and immature lady beetles.
A good life. A very good life. A very good life in the Good Life Garden.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, talks pollinators with Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee foraging on lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) on catmint. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Skipper butterfly on lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology is showcasing insects in the Floriculture Building, where displays include a bee observation hive from the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, butterfly and other specimens from the Bohart Museum of Entomology, and arts and crafts from the Honey and Pollination Center.
In Today's Youth Building, six-year-old Mieko Heiser of Dixon is displaying "My Bug Exhibit," telling fairgoers how to catch, identity and pin insects. Her pinned insects include a honey bee, lacewing, field cricket and ladybug larvae. And, oh, yes, a spider (not an insect, but an arthropod).
"It's an amazing exhibit," said Sharon Payne, building superintendent and president of the Solano County 4-H Council. It won a best-of-show award, spotlighting the fair's theme, "Best of Show."
Here's what's "buggy" in the Floriculture Building, headed by florist Kathy Hicks:
- Entomologist Jeff Smith of the Bohart Museum will let fairgoers pet and hold a 22-year-old rose-haired tarantula from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., both Saturday and Sunday, May 10-11. He also plans to bring along Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks. Those are a few of the live critters, permanent residents, in the Bohart Museum's "petting zoo." The UC Davis-based museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology, is home to nearly eight million insect specimens.
- Billy Synk, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, is scheduled to answer questions about bees from 11 to 4 p.m., Friday, May 9.
- Cameron Jasper, bee scientist with the Brian Johnson lab at UC Davis, plans to share bee information with fairgoers from 4 to 6 on Friday, May 9.
- Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, headquartered in the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, will show youngsters how to make bee/flower puppets from 1 to 5 p.m., Saturday, May 10.
- You can also expect to see native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, there, too, schedule permitting.
Meanwhile, over on the UC Davis campus, a special event will take place on Friday, May 9 in the department's bee garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. The occasion: National Public Gardens Day. The open house will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and includes a guided tour from 6 to 6:30. Haven manager Christine Casey says "We'll also be giving away sunflower plants along with information about how to monitor them for bee activity."
The half-acre bee garden is open daily from dawn to dusk. Expect to see lots of bees and other pollinators, plus the amazing work of the UC Davis Art/Science Program.
Sharon Payne, superintendent of the Today's Youth Building at the Dixon May Fair, stands by a 6-year-old's bug exhibit, which won a blue ribbon and best of show. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, will engage youngsters in arts and crafts. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Entomologist Jeff Smith of the Bohart Museum of Entomology will show fairgoers his rose-haired tarantula. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's the taste of honey AND mead--coupled with a gourmet dinner on the UC Davis campus.
The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center is sponsoring the Mid-Winter Beekeepers Feast: A Taste of Mead and Honey on Saturday, Feb. 8 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. in the foyer of the Sensory Building, Robert Mondavi Institute of Food and Science, 392 Old Davis Road.
It's like "Bee My Valentine."
"The air will be redolent with the sweet smells of roasting lamb and flavored honey," said executive director Amina Harris.
It's billed as a Valentine's Day event and a celebratory meal benefitting the Honey and Pollination Center.
The main course features roasted lamb shank with rosemary infused sage honey, polenta squares with mushroom ragout, oven-roasted brussel sprouts with thyme butter, and Musqee de Provence with walnuts and a lavender honey glaze
The guests will start with these appetizers: Cracked Dungeness crab on Belgian endive and shitake mushroom soup shots. And the drinks, of course, will feature mead from Heidrun Meadery, along with sparkling water and a wine selected for each course. Salad is next: navel and blood oranges over winter greens with a tupelo honey vinaigrette.
Following the main course, a cheese course with honey comb will be served. For dessert: Häagen-Dazs Honey vanilla ice cream with old-fashioned butter cookies.
And then, a mead flight with three meads.
Harris says the printed menu will be something folks will want to take home. Vicki Wojcik, a member of the Honey and Pollination Center Advisory Committee and the research director at Pollinator Partnership, will add pollinator notes to the printed menu--indicating which foods are pollinated by bees.
The dinner, designed by Ann Evans and Mani Niall, will be catered by the Buckhorn, Winters. Evans is the founder of the Yolo County Slow Food, the Davis Farmers' Market and the Davis Farm-to-School Program. Niall is the author of numerous cookbooks including "Covered in Honey" and "Sweet." He describes himself as the "chief cupcake froster" at his newly opened Sweet Bar Bakery in Oakland.
Darrell Corti, an international wind judge, will lead the mead flight tasting.
Also planned: music and a silent auction. "Prizes are still coming in," said Harris, who can be reached at email@example.com. Tickets for the one-of-a-kind event are $125 per person, or a table for eight for a $1250 sponsorship.
It sounds like a bee-utiful evening, made possible by the bees!
Bee on honey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)