Campus-harvested honey sweetens the menu at Michigan State

Locally Sourced: MSU Culinary Services has begun incorporating honey harvested on campus in its menus, including in the vinaigrette for its Spring Vegetable Grain Bowl.
Spring Vegetable Grain Bowl
The Spring Vegetable Grain Bowl features an assortment of fresh produce from the MSU Student Organic Farm. | Photos courtesy of Harley Cook at HCookMedia

Locally Sourced

Around four years ago, the culinary team at Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing, Michigan debuted its Spring Vegetable Grain Bowl at its dining halls.

The dish features a grain (such as couscous) paired with an assortment of spring produce.

Though the dish is offered at several different locations on campus, one thing all the bowls have in common no matter where they’re prepared, is the use of local ingredients.

Building the bowl

The bowl features a rotating selection of produce that is sourced from the MSU Student Organic Farm on campus. Ingredients like beets, kale and spring onions all make appearances in the dish based on what is available for harvest.

After compiling the grain and fresh produce, the bowl is then topped with a citrus vinaigrette that incorporates local MSU Honey. It is prepared by first combining orange juice and lime juice with the honey, apple cider vinegar, garlic fresh basil. Olive oil is then blended in to create an emulsion.

“It’s very simple, but it’s very tasty,” says Interim Corporate Executive Chef Bryan Latz.

The MSU Student Organic Farm has had a presence on campus since the late 1990s and became certified organic in the early 2000s. At just over 15 acres, it grows an assortment of produce including a variety of fresh greens.  

While the farm has worked with the dining team for many years now, its partnership was recently strengthened after the farm became a part of the Culinary Services Division within the Student Life and Engagement department.

“They have stake in us and we have stake in them and it's really bloomed into a beautiful partnership,” says MSU Student Organic Farm Manager Darby Anderson.

Each week, MSU chefs receive a list of available produce and place their orders for it to be delivered every Tuesday.

“As chefs on this campus, we're always looking at that availability that [Anderson] sends out weekly,” says Latz. “Then, we look at our menus and we try to order our needs of whatever they have.”

Preparing the grain bowl

The bowl is topped with a citrus vinaigrette that incorporates honey harvested on campus. 

Strengthening local partnerships

Unlike the relationship between the farm and the dining team, the partnership between the dining program and the MSU Pollinator Performance Center is relatively new. The team received its first shipment of honey back in December, and it’s been popular with students ever since, says Latz.

MSU’s Pollinator Performance Center has several bee colonies on campus, including the farm. The honey is typically harvested twice over the spring and summer; however, the team recently opened their own processing facility on campus allowing them to increase their harvest if they so choose.

Right now, the center is working with the culinary team to establish what their needs are in terms of deliveries.

“We’re kind of an on-demand service,” says MSU Pollinator Performance Center Manager Dan Wyns. “With a week's notice, we can provide what's needed.”

Along with the grain bowl, the honey is currently offered in other dishes as well as at the coffee and tea stations inside the dining halls around campus. The dining team is looking forward to finding other uses for the honey in its menu as it continues to find new ways to expand its use of fresh, local ingredients.

“You can't beat the flavor [of local ingredients],” says Latz. “If it's been shipped across the country, you know, it might be fresh, but I guarantee it does not taste nearly as good.”



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