The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) targets the yellow starthistle on its "How to Manage Pests; Pests in Gardens and Landscapes" site.
But in the opinion of many a honey connoisseur (including Eric Mussen, emeritus Extension apiculturist, UC Davis), starthistle makes one of the best honeys.
What about the mead (honey wine) made from starthistle? What's that like?
You can find out at the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center's "Mead Making 201" course, where you'll taste "Star Thistle Ambrosia," from St. Ambrose Cellars, Beulah, Mich.
Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, says you can take take Mead Making 201 "in the comforts of your own home." The online course covers core information including guided tastings with selected meads and honey. "Each participant will go on virtual meadery tours and get to directly ask our mead makers questions."
The online course is scheduled June 22-23 and June 25-26, from 8 a.m. to noon each day, Pacific Daylight Time. The deadline to register is June 1.
The course, sensory-driven to help mead makers learn more about their craft, is designed for mead makers who have made six more fermentations and "have a lot of questions about how to improve," the officials related. "This mead maker knows that it isn't always beginner's luck and needs to do much more work to learn how to be successful each and every time."
The full-bottled meads to be featured:
- Blackberry - Schramm's Mead
- Statement - Schramm's Mead
- John Lemon - St. Ambrose Cellars
- Razzputin - St. Ambrose Cellars
- Tom Cat: Gin Barrel - Sap House Meadery
- Echoes: Rye Barrel - Sap House Meadery
- Coveters B2 - Lost Cause Meadery
- Snow Melt - Superstition
- Star Thistle Ambrosia - St. Ambrose Cellars
- Melia - Rabbit's Foot Meadery
Other items on the agenda:
- Spiked mead samples for defect tasting
- Mead Tasting Wheel
- Honeys for Honey to Mead Tasting
- UC Davis Aroma and Flavor Honey Wheel
All you mead is love--plus a little money (well-spent) and the time (well spent) to learn more about how to craft the world's oldest alcoholic beverage.
Mead or honey wine is the "in" thing, and the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, directed by Amina Harris, has announced plans for three mead classes for January-February and a feast on Feb. 9 that celebrates mead and honey.
"More and more people are becoming familiar with mead right now," Harris said. "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!" In the classes, you'll learn how to make a good mead and what makes a good mead, she said.
- Thursday, Jan. 11: Mead-Making Bootcamp
- Friday and Saturday, Jan. 12-13: Beginners' Introduction to Mead Making
- Friday and Saturday, Feb. 9-10: The Styles and Nuances of Mead Making
- Friday, Feb. 9: The Feast: A Celebration of Mead and Honey
The Mead-Making Bootcamp, set from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 11 in the LEED Platinum Teacher and Research Winery, will be directed by Chik Brennerman, winemaker for the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology, along with assistant winemaker Melissa Pellinii. The hands-on class is limited to 40. The class will feature small learning groups, each with its own UC Davis leader. Each group of 10 will follow a basic mead recipe, completing each step. Finally, students will bottle mead made in previous workshops. The agenda includes a welcome and introductions by Harris; a lecture by Brenneman and Pellini on "What Is Mead? A Recipe for Sweet Success?" Continental breakfast and lunch are included. The cost is $200. Registration is underway here.
The Styles and Nuances of Meadmaking is a two-day course on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 9-10 in the Robert Mondavi Institute Sensory Building, featuring keynote speaker Chrissie Zaerpoor of the Williamette Valley of the Pacific Northwest. She is a meadmaker, organic farmer and author of "The Art of Mead Tasting and Food Pairing." The book is billed as "the world's first complete mead appreciation book, with pairing suggestions for all types of mead and food, including Paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian. Zaerpoor offers some 50 recipes in her book. In addition to keynoting the event, she will be help develop each of the tastings that will take place over the two days. Registration is underway here. The "early bee" special is $775, and after Jan. 7, it's $825. A centerpiece of the program will be the Center's annual Feast: A Celebration of Mead and Honey on Friday evening.
Feast: A Celebration of Mead and Honey: This is the fifth annual celebration and will take place from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 9 at the the Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. A pollinator-inspired menu will be paired with a selection of meads, including a variety of UC Davis products and campus-grown produce. The menu will feature mead pairings by meadmaker Chrissie Manion Zaerpoor. This is billed as an elegant fundraiser to help support the Center's mission of making UC Davis the world's leading authority on bee health, pollination and honey quality. The cost is $150. Registration is underway here.
The Honey and Pollination Center, launched in 2011 and affiliated with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is located in the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science on Old Davis Road, UC Davis campus. Professor Neal Williams of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology serves as the faculty co-chair. Among the many affiliated with the center are department faculty Elina Lastro Niño, Extension apiculturist, and Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist emeritus.
The center, Harris says, aims to increase consumer, industry and stakeholder understanding of the importance of bees, pollination, honey and other products of the hive to people and the environment through research, education, and outreach. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The inaugural California Honey Festival, to take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, May 6 on a four-block stretch in historic downtown Woodland, will draw folks from all over state and beyond. And it's free and open to the public.
Coordinated by Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, the festival will offer honey sampling, mead, live bands, talks on beekeeping and bee friendly plants, and vendors offering bee-related wares. And that's just the "bee-ginning."
At the Honey Lab, located in the UC Davis booth, members of the UC Davis Master Beekeeper Program and knowlegeable volunteers will teach festival-goers about "all things honey."
Some of the activities at the Honey Lab booth:
- Taste honey from around the world and check out the giant honey flavor and aroma wheel
- Learn about UC Davis beekeeping and the California Master Beekeeper Program
- Follow how honey is made from flower to bottle
- Marvel at the life cycle of a honey bee, starting with an egg and resulting in a bee just a couple weeks later
- Learn what is harming our bees
- Peruse the different kinds of bee hives and how they work
- Purchase books and UC Davis honey from the UC Davis bookstore
"The California Honey Festival's mission is to promote honey, honey bees and their products, and beekeeping through this unique educational platform, to the broader public," said Harris. "Through lectures and demonstrations, the festival will help develop an interest in beekeeping by the younger generation. Attendees will learn about the myriad of issues that confront honey bees including pesticide use, diseases and even the weather! In addition, attendees can learn how to creatively plant their gardens to help feed all of our pollinators. It is important for the community to appreciate and understand the importance of bees as the lead pollinator of many of our crops adding to the food diversity we have come to enjoy."
Brandi, who spoke at a 2015 symposium at UC Davis, said that the major issues that negatively impact colonies include pesticides, varroa mites, nutritional issues and diseases. "It's much more difficult to keep bees alive and healthy today than it was in the 1970s," he told his audience. "I had a 5 percent winter loss in the 1970s, and a 13 to 45 percent winter loss in his operation during the past 10 years."
Among the many other speakers: Extension apiculturist Elina Niño, booked from 11 to 11:45 a.m. and from 2 to 2:45 p.m., and Billy Synk, director of pollination programs for Project Apis m., and former manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Honey Bee Facility at UC Davis. Sync speaks from 12 to 12:45.
The California Honey Festival website includes a program schedule.
Expect lots of honey--which has been described as "the soul of a field of flowers."
But did you know that there's another celebration bee-ing hosted on Saturday, Feb. 11? And that you and your honey are invited? It's an event often billed as "the" Valentine's Day present.
For the fourth consecutive year, the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center will host “The Feast: A Celebration with Mead and Honey," a five-course fundraiser set from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Sensory Building Foyer, Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, Old Davis Road.
Ann Evans, co-author of the Davis Farmer Market Cookbook and former mayor of Davis, has created a seasonally inspired menu, to be served amid a candlelight and musical ambience. The evening begins at 6 with hors d'oeuvres and honey stingers, featuring ginger mead from Schramm's Mead, Michigan. Mead, a fermented blend of honey, water and often fruits, yeast, or spices, dates back to 7000 BCE.
Then comes The Feast! Each course will be paired with select wines, honey lemonade or sparkling mead. Guests will dine on a rich tomato aspic salad, followed by chicken with plumped dried figs and apricots. The main course? Roasted musquée de province squash with couscous. A cheese interlude will accompany a dessert mead flight led by legendary Darrell Corti. The dessert? Show me the honey? Yes. It's a dessert of pears with blue cheese, walnuts, and honey. What's a feast without honey?
Proceeds from the dinner will be used to support the outreach and education programs of the Honey and Pollination Center--its mission is “to make UC Davis a leading authority on bee health, pollination and honey quality," Harris said. Funds are earmarked for stipends for UC Davis graduate students, ongoing development of the Master Beekeeper Program at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, and sponsorship of the third annual UC Davis Bee Symposium, "Keeping Bees Healthy," set Sunday, May 7.
There's still time to register. Tickets are $150 per person and registration is underway at https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/264. For more information, contact Amina Harris at email@example.com.
One more thing: when you walk into RMI for The Feast, odds are that honey bees will be foraging and feasting in the newly renovated Good Life Garden, just outside the front door.
When you see honey bees foraging on the early blooming oxalis, that's a sure sign that February is approaching.
And that means it's time for some mead, music and a bee-influenced dinner.
The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center is hosting its third annual fundraiser, The Feast: A Celebration of Mead and Honey, from 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 6 in the Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science. Reservations are now underway. (See registration page.)
Mead, says Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, is "the world's oldest fermented beverage."
What's mead? "It's a fermented blend of honey, water and often fruits, yeast, or spices that dates back to about 7000 BCE," Harris says. Ceramic shards found in Jiahu, Henan Province, China held a mead-like residue, according to Patrick McGovern, the leading authority on ancient alcoholic beverages. According to the BBC the number of meaderies in the United States has increased from 30 to 40 to more than 250 in the last 10 years.
The event, to take place in the Mondavi Institute's Sensory Building on Old Davis Road, will begin at 6 with cocktails, live music, hors d'oeuvres and the featured ginger mead from Schramms Mead in Michigan. Select wines, honey lemonade and sparkling mead also will be served.
Ann Evans, author of the Davis Farmer's Cookbook, and Kathi Riley, caterer and former chef at Zuni Cafe, San Francisco, will serve a Mediterranean-style dinner.
Harris says the menu will include a triple avocado salad, followed by "a tagine of chicken, vegetables and couscous served family-style. A light cheese course will accompany a dessert mead flight with a wonderful citrus almond torte closing the festive evening."
Proceeds from the dinner will be used to support the outreach and education programs of the Honey and Pollination Center. Its mission is “to make UC Davis a leading authority on bee health, pollination and honey quality," Harris says.
Tickets for the dinner are $125 and are available online at http://honey.ucdavis.edu/. For more information contact Amina Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.