NEWARK, Ohio, June 4, 2019 – In 2016, John G. Tammen, Rebecca G. Tammen, Susan Tammen Bryant and Lauren E. Bryant donated more than 31 acres of pristine, undeveloped, wooded property on Country Club Drive known as the Camlin-Tammen Reserve to Central Ohio Technical College (COTC). Although the land is owned by COTC, the college operates the property as a cost-shared land lab with The Ohio State University at Newark. Those 31 acres have provided students of both institutions hands-on learning opportunities ranging from a forestry identification project for Ohio State Newark biology students to a foraging project for COTC culinary students. In fact, the two ended up being linked through an unexpected collaboration during the spring 2019 semester.
J. Andrew Roberts, PhD, associate professor of biology at Ohio State Newark, has led students in Biology 1114 through a forestry identification project in the reserve each autumn since 2017. Students define four plots, and then count, ID and tag the trees in each plot. This project has resulted in the conclusion that maples (sugar and red) are the dominant species in the reserve. In February 2019, Roberts decided to test a student research seminar idea based on that conclusion.
"I thought it might be interesting to develop a seminar that uses maple syrup to tie together the physics of light and energy, the chemistry of molecules and chemical reactions, the biology of photosynthesis, and, ultimately, sugar use in complex living systems, such as human consumption," said Roberts. "Enter the COTC culinary science technology program. Matt Russo, culinary science technology program director, and his students can develop a lab in the kitchen to demonstrate production, quality monitoring and use of the maple syrup to develop a creative, nutritious culinary product."
With this idea in mind, Roberts set to work using skills he developed as a youth in Maine to tap 12 of the identified sugar maple trees in the reserve. In total, he collected 178.2 gallons of sap that were boiled down into 3.5 gallons of maple syrup in the COTC culinary science technology program teaching kitchen located in the John Gilbert Reese Center. He donated one gallon of the finished product to the spring 2019 semester culinary science class for use in food labs.
"When Dr. Roberts approached me with the collaborative seminar idea, I immediately said yes," said Russo. "This test run of the maple tree tapping, syrup production and use of the final product in food labs was a success. The syrup was used in multiple food labs including one in which my students foraged for edible plants in the reserve and Blue Owl Hollow with guidance from a local naturalist."
Janell Baran, owner of Blue Owl Hollow Forest Farm, led Russo's students on an hour-long hike through the reserve. She directed students on what native and invasive edible species they could use in their culinary lab. Baran also noted types of environmental factors to pay attention to when foraging such as animal tracks and proximity to civilization.
Culinary science technology student Lily Gardner said, "The foraging experience was pretty enjoyable. I learned that you can take stuff like dandelions, garlic mustard, violets and stinging nettle that might literally be in your own backyard and make delicious meals." The students used dandelion leaves, garlic mustard, violets and other foraged greens to make a salad that featured the maple syrup obtained from the reserve and donated by Dr. Roberts.
Gardner's favorite dish from the foraging lab was their stinging nettle soup made from stinging nettle, a plant that actually causes skin irritation when touched, but has been used both in cooking and in medicine since the times of ancient Greece.
Kylee Disbennet, culinary science technology student, added, "I learned that when you forage for edible plants, make sure you really know what you're picking. Learn about native and invasive species, the appropriate time and way to pick them, and how to clean and cook them before you set out." Disbennet's favorite dish was a knotweed chutney that also included the maple syrup and topped a locally raised piece of pork.
"We're still in the development phase, but I think this could turn into a really productive, collaborative educational effort for students and faculty of both Ohio State Newark and COTC," said Roberts.
All agreed that the Camlin-Tammen Reserve offers a unique learning experience and is an invaluable resource for education.
Central Ohio Technical College and The Ohio State University at Newark have forged an outstanding array of educational opportunities for the central Ohio region and beyond. This partnership is viewed as a model for higher education in the state of Ohio. At Central Ohio Technical College, students gain hands-on, applicable experience to begin working in the field, or to transfer those credits toward a bachelor's degree program. The Ohio State University at Newark offers an academic environment that's challenging but supportive with world-renowned professors and access to Ohio State's more than 200 majors.