Building on a growing repertoire of post-harvest research, Salinas-based Enza Zaden decided to enhance its flavor expertise by engaging local chefs and winemakers in an innovative Saturday-morning flavor masterclass for the summer of 2018.
Marleen and Greg Burch, of www.flavorsiseverything.com
Alan Mello, of Monterrey County Business Development, Marina High School
Steven Siglin, of www.edibleabmassador.com
Marta Kraftzeck, of www.scheidfamilywines.com
Annette Hoff, of www.cimacollina.com
Kari Bernardi, Director, Living Light Culinary Institute www.rawfoodchef.com; Owner, Super Natural Foods Company www.supernaturalchef.com
Whether their individual expertise is wine or food, the common thread that bound this incredible group of collaborators was their commitment to professional knowledge-sharing, integrity and authenticity. “I believe Enza Zaden is cracking the code to more vegetable consumption worldwide by developing seed varieties that are flavor forward and building a lexicon to explain the character and taste of each one” explained Kari Bernardi.
First on the agenda for the team leads of Sandra Escribano, PhD, Flavor, Nutrition and Produce Quality Researcher, Enza Zaden, and Marc Clark, Station Manager North America, Enza Zaden, was to teach and certify the group in free choice profiling methodology. Next, they delved into carefully orchestrated sensory analysis of select Enza Zaden varieties. The final challenge was to dig deep into the extensively trained palates and vocabularies of the experts to develop a comprehensive lexicon of flavor elements for vegetables. Here Enza Zaden is charting exciting new territory, targeting the same sophistication, detail and accuracy used to describe a Chardonnay, to describe a tomato, a melon or a pepper.
For Enza Zaden’s Avalantino tomato, the results are in. Described to date as a “wonderfully tasty smaller dark red tomato,” Avalantino’s flavor experience can now be described in a way that more accurately reflect the full sensory experience of Avalantino: “a rich, sweet tomato with savory tones, well-balanced aroma, with a crisp, firm texture perfectly balanced by a meaty nature.”
The group was able to leverage each other’s strengths to achieve desired results. Winemakers accustomed to complex tasting exercises learned from the culinary perspective of how each item could be prepared and enjoyed. The effort is part of Enza Zaden’s overall commitment to better understand flavor and to breed for it, alongside yield, ease of harvest and related agronomic factors.
“Breeding for flavor sounds like a slam dunk, but it’s not really the case. We’re often breeding for agronomic factors because our traditional customers are farmers. When we look at our retailer customers, however, and then consumers, they are looking for different things. And as you move toward the consumer, flavor becomes bigger and bigger, and trumps everything,” said Marc Clark.
Clark noted that the team at Enza Zaden learned a lot from the panel; and enjoyed working collaboratively with such a committed group of experts.
“It was a unique opportunity to apply analytical sensory methods to different products. It was a big learning experience,” said Annette Hoff, Winemaker, Cima Collina Winery.
Expectations based on smell or presentation were not always met when the product was tasted. Similarly, tasting launched conversations about differently slicing or arranging the produce to achieve the full sensory experience. For Enza Zaden, the variance highlights the untapped flavor potential for the vegetable industry, as it begins to emulate ‘flavor forerunner’ industries, like wine, chocolate and coffee.
Universally, participants applauded Enza Zaden’s effort to bring the sensory attributes of flavor back into food, and the overall healthy experience.
“Enza Zaden is very enthusiastic about their flavor work. I’m excited to be a part of it, and I applaud their efforts,” said Marta Kraftzeck, Winemaker, Scheid Family Wines.
Participants also acknowledged the value of consumer commitment, particularly for a global organization like Enza Zaden.
“I loved the collaborative effort of this experience. It would be great for the public to know just how much Enza Zaden cares about food education and the consumer experience,” said Steven Siglin, Chef and Proprietor of Edible Ambassador.
Enza Zaden and the chefs and winemakers will reconvene for another masterclass in summer 2019.
About Enza Zaden: Enza Zaden is a global leader in vegetable seed breeding, with operations in 21 countries around the world. In the U.S., the company offers top breeding programs in more than 30 vegetables. The onion portfolio currently features 14 superior varieties, leveraging research from breeding stations in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Italy.