Rome wasn't built in a day.
But learning how to make mead?
You can learn the process from "honey to the bottle all in one day" on Thursday, Jan. 23 at the University of California, Davis.
Mead, the world's oldest alcoholic beverage, is a fermented blend of pure honey and water. Meadmakers often add fruits and spices to produce a dry, semi-sweet, sweet or even a sparkling mead, according to Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center.
Harris just announced that the popular Mead Making Bootcamp course on Jan. 23 will take place from 8 to 4:30 p.m. in the LEED Platinum Teaching and Research Winery, located near the Honey and Pollination Center on Old Davis Road.
Under the direction of Chik Brenneman, former winemaker for the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology along with meadmakers Lily Weichberger of the Oran Mor Meadery, and Dan Slort of Strad Meadery), students will learn how to make mead: "from honey to the bottle all in one day."
The hands-on course, limited to 40, will follow a basic mead recipe. The participants will be divided into small learning groups of 5 to 6 people, each with its own UC Davis leader. Finally, students will bottle the mead made in previous workshops.
As Harris earlier told us: "More and more people are becoming familiar with mead right now. Meaderies are opening at the rate of one every three days here in the United States. And there are quite a few new ones right here in California!"
Reservations for the bootcamp course are underway at https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/591. The fee is $225 per person. Continental breakfast and lunch are included.
While you're at it--registering for the bootcamp course--you can also enroll in two courses that follow:
For more information contact Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org or events manager Liz Luu at email@example.com
If you're having pumpkin pie or butternut squash this Thanksgiving, thank the squash bee.
Squash bees are specialists (not generalists) that pollinate only the cucurbits or squash family, Cucurbitaceae, which includes pumpkins, squash, gourds, cucumbers and zucchini.
Last summer we saw dozens of Peponapis pruinosa pollinating our squash and cucumbers. Peponapis pruinosa is a species of solitary bee in the tribe Eucerini, the long-horned bees.
"Isn't that a honey bee?" a friend asked.
"No, it's a squash bee; it's smaller than the honey bee."
"Never heard of it."
Other factoids, as shared with us by the late Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis:.
- Both the males and females are golden brown with a fuzzy yellow thorax. The males have a yellow spot on their face.
- Males sleep in the blossoms at night. There they wait for the females to arrive.
- Squash bees are early risers (they rise before the sun does). They begin pollinating the blossoms as soon as they open in the morning. Other bee species, such as honey bees, don't visit the flowers so early. The squash blossoms close after several hours so there's a limited amount of pollination time.
If you're aiming to photograph them, get there early. If you don't, you will find the blossoms closing.
Manuka honey is produced in New Zealand and Australia, but New Zealand claims the manuka honey trademark. Australia says that's not fair. They want to use it, too.
Manuka is to honey what Château Cheval Blanc 1947 is to wine connoisseurs. Buy a bottle of that wine and you'll fork over $304,375. Buy an eight-ounce jar of manuka honey and you'll lighten your wallet by $1790.
Bees make manuka honey from Leptospermum scoparium, also known as "The New Zealand tea tree" or more accurately, "bush." The honey prized for its health benefits, including its antibacterial and antifungal properties and anti-inflammation qualities.
According to webmd.com, "The major antibacterial component in manuka honey is methylglyoxal (MG). MG is a compound found in most types of honey, but usually only in small quantities. In manuka honey, MG comes from the conversion of another compound, dihydroxyacetone, that is found in high concentration in the nectar of manuka flowers."
"The higher the concentration of MG, the stronger the antibiotic effect. Honey producers have a scale for rating the potency of manuka honey. The rating is called UMF, which stands for Unique Manuka Factor. The UMF rating reflects the concentration of MG. To be considered potent enough to be therapeutic, manuka honey needs a minimum rating of 10 UMF. Honey at or above that level is marketed as UMF Manuka Honey or Active Manuka Honey.
reports that New Zealand's honey producers have long argued that it's the only country that can produce true manuka honey, because it's the only place where the manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium) is found. Australian manuka, they argue, comes from other different-but-related species. (The New Zealanders have previously suggested that the Australian version should be called tea tree honey.)recently wrote in Wine and Food: "The New York Times
Manuka honey? Tea tree honey?
Well, we just think of the bees and that beautiful plant.
For five years, we grew a Leptospermum scoparium keatleyi, the tallest and rangiest variety of the Leptospermum scopariums. It bears our family name, Keatley; New Zealand sea skipper/horticulturist Capt. Edward John "Ted" Keatley (1875-1962) discovered it and named the variety "keatleyi."
Factoids: According to the Maritime Museum in Wellington, New Zealand, Capt. Keatley once commanded 28 of the Northern Steam Ship Company's vessels. He also was considered an authority on the flora of the Auckland province. In June 1961, the Royal Horticulture Society awarded Capt. Keatley the "Award of Merit" for his discovery of the keatleyi, or "royal pink manuka."Sadly our "Keatley" plant didn't make it past five years. But generations of honey bees nectared on the blossoms while the plant thrived in our yard.
The UC Davis Computer Science Club.
And, now the three-year collaborative project is a reality.
Using this innovative app, strawberry growers can better combat such pests as two-spotted spider mites, lygus bugs and leafrollers--and save money.
Hats off to the ag expertise of Nansen and the app development skills of three student computer scientists.
“Many variables are known to affect the actual spray coverage in crop fields,” said Nansen, an associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology said. “These include tractor speed, spray nozzles, spray volume, boom height, adjuvants, and weather conditions. But which ones are the most important ones? And are there possible interactions among some of these variables?”
Through Smart Spray, an app designed for both iOS and Android phones, growers can optimize and perform quality control of pesticide spray applications in their strawberry fields, Nansen said.
Computer science major Krishna Chennapragada, now an alumnus, launched the programming and initial design, tallying some 500 hours before his graduation. Today's team, in addition to Nansen, is comprised of recruits Gabriel Del Villar, a 2019 computer science graduate, and Alexander Recalde, a senior majoring in computer science. Together they have amassed nearly 400 hours on the project.
The Smart Spray app, they said, allows a user to predict spray coverage under different operational scenarios, including type of nozzles, spray volume, and tractor speed, as well as weather data, such as temperature, relative humidity and wind. A key part of the process: the user places a water-sensitive card in the field prior to a spray application, photographs it, and uploads it into the app.
“If you're a grower, you might expect that when you go out to spray, that the more that comes out of nozzle, the better coverage you'll get,” Nansen said. “But, for example, if the wind is too strong, the relative humanity is too low, the pressure is too high, or you're going too fast--even when you're spraying large volumes--you can get very poor coverage and it's costly. Excessive spray can also reach other fields or nearby urban developments due to so-called “spray drift”.”
“Typically, a grower will spray 100 to 150 gallons per acre when he or she sprays,” Nansen explained. The water-sensitive card is yellow, but it codes blue when it interacts with moisture. “These cards have been around a long time,” he said. “They cost about $1 a card, not cheap. But it's inexpensive when you're spending thousands of dollars to control the pests. And the pesticide companies can pay for the cards.”
“Using this prediction, you can give it a name, say Field 6, and access it from the database,” Nansen said. “It's about quality control. It's a tool to predict and do quality control. It empowers the grower and also the sprayer to do a better job. For example, if the conditions are bad and the app shows the spraying will be only 20 percent effective, you shouldn't be spraying.”
Recalde said the user can also choose metric or imperial, as well as add the Global Positioning System or GPS.
“The Smart Spray is not just insecticides--it's fungicides, herbicides, and whatever you want to spray,” Nansen noted. “This app was developed for strawberries; if it were used for soybeans, onions and cabbage, it would still be useful but the accuracy would be off.” Pending apps: almond, pistachio and tomato.
The computer scientists enjoy working on the project. Recalde attended a Central Coast sprayers' meeting to talk about the app. “I heard ‘Oh, wow, you look so young!' he remembered. “Then we told them about this useful tool, different ways that technology can be applied to agriculture. They were really interested in how technology can improve what they're doing.”
Del Villar, whose computer interests also include teaching youth how to code, said he eagerly looks forward to making the Smart Spray app even better and more useful. Fluent in Spanish, as well as English, he plans to translate the app into Spanish. Other language translations are also in the works.
Now the team is seeking feedback to improve the app. “We're hoping growers will embrace it,” Nansen said, “and help us find ways to improve it.”
One feedback from Eric Flora, global field development and manager of Crop Enhancement, Inc., Paso Robles: “I think Smart Spray is a very helpful tool for growers and advisers as a guide to select spray tips, spray volumes, tractor speed, and other important factors to maximize sprayer coverage. Using spray cards is the best and simplest way to know, if you are penetrating everywhere in the canopy your pest target is a problem--placing cards where the specific pests attack the host gives the best information.”
State, federal and industry grants, including the California Strawberry Commission and the Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative (FNRI) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, help fund the project.
California grows about 88 percent of the nation's strawberries on approximately 34,000 acres along the California coast, according to the Strawberry Commission. Strawberries are available year-around in California.
Statewide, fresh strawberry production averages 50,000 pounds per acre each season. The approximately 300 strawberry growers hail from five distinct areas of California: Watsonville/Salinas, Santa Maria, Oxnard, Orange County/San Diego, and the Central Valley. They include multi-generation farming families growing both organic and conventional strawberries.
For more information on the Smart Spray app, access the manual at https://bit.ly/2q3lsL3 or contact Nansen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-752-2728.
In this case, "all systems are sweet."
The three-day certificate course covers "everything in the world of honey," says director Amina Harris. It takes place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day in the RMI Sensory Building.
Attendees will taste, discuss and analyze approximately 40 varieties of honey from across the globe to hearing the latest in bee sting allergy research, Harris says. "The focus is on tasting honey using both the well-known Italian method taught at the Registry of Experts in Bologna alongside our own UC Davis research tasting protocols and techniques."
Joyce Schlachter, director of Food Safety and Quality, Crockett Honey, Tempe, Arizona. She worked in the honey business for 12 years. She audits honey processing facilities in foreign countries, and works with U.S. authorities, including Customs and Border Patrol in identifying fraudulent honey shippers.
Amy Myrdal Miller, nutritionist and owner of Farmer's Daughter Consulting, Sacramento. She is an award-winning dietitian, farmer's daughter, public speaker, author, and president of Farmer's Daughter® Consulting, Inc., an agriculture, food, and culinary communications firm.
Chef Mani Niall of Mani's Test Kitchen "Baker of the Stars." Niall is a professional baker and the author of two cookbooks, "Sweet and Natural Baking" and "Covered in Honey." Mani has traveled the U.S. and Japan, presenting varietal honey cooking demos for culinary students for the National Honey Board.
Orietta Gianjorio, member of the Italian Register of Experts in the Sensory Analysis of Honey. She is a professional taster, sommelier, and international judge of wine, olive oil, chocolate and honey. She launched her career in sensory evaluation 18 years ago at the Italian Sommelier Association.
Among the other instructors:
- Suzanne Teuber, M.D., a UC Davis professor in the Department of Medicine, who focuses on allergies
- Hildegarde Heymann, a world-renowned professor of sensory science, will explain exactly how our sensory apparatus works. (See more)
The introductory course uses sensory evaluation tools and methods to educate participants in the nuances of varietal honey, Harris says. Students will learn about methods of evaluation, stands and quality in this certificate program. It's geared for anyone interested in learning how to critically taste and assess honey. Using standard sensory techniques, packers, chefs, beekeepers, writers, food manufacturers, honey aficionados will learn about the nuances of varietal honey.
Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty and director of the California Master Beekeeper Program, will provide an update on UC Davis bee research from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Friday. (See program)
A few openings remain. The fee is $799 for the three-day course.Contact Amina Harris at email@example.com for more information.