Spice of the week: Aniseed

Anise flavour is surely one of the most divisive flavours in the world. But love it or loathe it, anise is on our blog today as our “Spice of the week”.

As a spice, anise is the dried seeds of the Pimpinella anisum, a plant better known as aniseed. Its notable for its taste, but it can also be used to remove the characteristic smells from fish, meat and oil! And what’s more, in oil form it causes paralysis in some pirates, so it’s an effective lice and roach repellent.

Aniseed’s positive effects (ranging from breath freshening to medicinal properties) have made it one of the most celebrated plants in history. Discover its fascinating story (which includes Ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire and the Reign of Charlemagne) and illustrations in the Biodiversity Literature Exhibition! 

Aniseed’s positive effects (ranging from breath freshening to medicinal properties) have made it one of the most celebrated plants in history. Discover its fascinating story (which includes Ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire and the Reign of Charlemagne) and illustrations in the Biodiversity Literature Exhibition! http://www.biodiversityexhibition.com/

Anise macaroons

2 whipped egg whites
100 g fine sugar
1 teaspoon ground aniseed
Grated lemon peel

Preheat oven to 100°C. Whip egg whites until very stiff, mix in grated lemon peel and ground aniseed. Spoon mixture into a piping bag with star-shaped attachment and pipe small blobs onto a cookie sheet lined with baking paper. Bake for about 1 ½ hours on center rack. Allow to cool.

Spice of the Week: Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice that has been known for over 2,500 years.

Curcuma longa

Related to ginger and galangal, turmeric has a spicy taste with an aroma that is stronger than that of ginger. It’s the main ingredient in curry, and it’s also found under the monikers “golden ginger”, “golden root” or “Indian saffron”.

Do you feel like making chicken dopiaza? Then head over to the BLE. And for small inspiration we are offering you an Oat burgers recipe. We will show you how to prepare Rice cooked in coconut milk and turmeric next week. Stay tuned. You can find more about Turmeric at our virtual museum or in the literature under this link http://www.biodiversityexhibition.com

And now the Oat Burgers recipe:

200 g milled oats
½ l water
100 g sausage
50 g grated cheese
1 egg
1 sliced onion
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cardamom
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
pinch pepper, nutmeg
1 tablespoon bread crumbs
1 tablespoon flour
5 tablespoons oil, salt

Soak oats for 20 minutes in ½ liter salted water, then cook for 5 minutes while stirring constantly. Allow to cool, then mix in onion, garlic, egg, sausage, cheese and spices. Form into small patties, coat with bread crumbs and flour, then fry. Serve with spinach, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts or carrots and potatoes.

BHL-Europe Final Meeting: 4 June 2012 – 6 June 2012

Officially, the BHL-Europe project already came to an end on 30 April. But for the BHL-Europe consortium members, the end came last week – after the final meetings and final review of the project in Berlin. It’s safe to say we went out with a bang… Here’s a recap of the final events, which included a symposium on the Convention on Biological Diversity, a BHL-Europe “Show and Tell”-moment and the final review!

BHL-Europe team in Berlin 2012

4 June 2012 – Communicating Biological Diversity
The first day saw the organization of a symposium on the topic of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which was adopted 20 years ago.  We had speakers covering a broad range of aspects concerning the CBD implementation. Collaboration and integration are equally important for scientists and policy makers. We need a science-policy dialogue facilitated by a network of knowledge, where also BHL-Europe need to be part of via IPBES, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services (http://www.ipbes.net/). Global collaboration is necessary to facilitate knowledge, data and technology sharing, which also requires standardization. Another aspect is participation and training: we need scientific literate citizens all over the world to support the discovery of biodiversity and its sustainable use. We have seen tools and projects during the day that demonstrate a successful collaboration between experts and citizens.  Acknowledging the importance of citizen participation should not forget the work of taxonomists that need the right credit and support to deliver high quality biodiversity information.

Dinosaur hall of the Museum für Naturkunde

At night, a reception was held in the majestic dinosaur hall of the Museum für Naturkunde. BHL-Europe collaborators shook hands and mingled, while they ate, discussed the project or engaged in small talk.

 5 June 2012 – BHL-Europe Show & Tell
On Tuesday 5 June, the BHL-Europe Show and Tell was held, which mainly consisted of a roundup of the major milestones achieved over the course of the project. Henning Scholz of the Museum für Naturkunde kicked off a series of presentations, praising the consistency of the staff and the technical developments. He once again underlined BHL-Europe’s mission to make biodiversity knowledge available globally to anyone, which can now be achieved thanks to BHL’s high quality network of libraries, developers, taxonomists etc.

BLE and posters section in main meeting hall of Jerusalem Church 

Martin Kalfatovic of the Smithsonian Institute Libraries gave the next presentation, focusing on the Global BHL. He explained to us that BHL now has about 1.6 million users from a staggering 233 countries! Martin was followed by Lizzy Komen of Europeana, who among other things highlighted some of the content and several other Europeana projects, such as a collaboration with Wikipedia. Presentations on OpenUp!, the Biodiversity Library Exhibition and the GRIB (Global References Index to Biodiversity) were also held, as well as training sessions for future and current content providers and content users.

Chris Sleep and Jiří Frank during the portal demonstration

The end of the day was marked by a dinner cruise on the river Spree. BHL-Europe team members could just kick back and relax!

6 June 2012 – BHL-Europe Final Review
Wednesday 6 June saw the BHL-Europe Final Review by the European Commission. This closed session could only be attended by members of the BHL-Europe consortium, but we can give you a sneak peek of what happened.

Henning Scholz during discussion with reviewers 

The EC members were treated to several presentations presenting the project and its outcomes (not unlike the presentations on 5 June), after which they had the opportunity to ask questions. After a short deliberation, they came back to pass the final verdict … which was positive. The entire consortium was treated to a resounding “well done!” by the European Commission!  

Spice of the week: Hyssop

Hyssop, the spice coming from the Hyssopus officinalis, is an ancient spice that was referred to in the Bible. Reason enough to feature it on our blog.

Its mention in the Bible is no coincidence; the scientific name Hyssopus comes from the Hebrew word ezob, which was a name used for sacred and cleansing plants. It can be used to remedy infections of the throat and tonsils, and its leaves have five times more vitamin C than a lemon! Ideal to build up resistance in winter, if you ask us. 

Check it out! For more click here!

BHL and its developers: Wolfgang Koller

Today we talk to Wolfgang Koller, based at the Natural History Museum in Vienna.

What is it that you do for BHL-Europe?

I'm an IT-specialist at the Natural History Museum in Vienna, and I've been in the tech-group since I joined the project in September 2009. I mainly developed modules for the portal and coordinated development of the Pre-ingest-tool. In addition I helped take care of the schema-mapping tool and the OLEF-schema.

Can you explain what the pre-ingest is exactly?

The pre-ingest-tool harmonizes the content for our archive. It converts all different metadata and file formats from our contact providers into our format which we use in the archive. 

Also important is that it enhances the content/metadata by using external web services, e.g. name searching.

Tell me about the schema-mapping tool.

We used this tool to map the different metadata formats into OLEF (open literature exchange format), our internal format for saving metadata. It was definitely a challenge to support all different formats; they include modern formats like .xml but also older binary formats like marc21. Our intention was to create a tool which is easy to use for the content provider directly. And I like to think this went quite well.

What was the favourite beer you tasted during the project?

It most probably was Kilkenny from England, which I tried in London.

Long Night of Science in Berlin

On Saturday 2 June 2012, the Long Night of Science was held in several venues in Berlin. Teaching and research facilities were more than happy to open their doors for the public, and of course, BHL-Europe was there to present the project!

A stand was put up at the Museum für Naturkunde, which coordinates the entire project. Several hundred people came by and were welcomed by the Museum’s own Henning Scholz and Annemarie Scholz, as well as Jiri Frank from the National Museum in Prague. Just like at the Science on a Plate-event a while ago, the focus was partly on the Biodiversity Library Exhibition and the spices found there. Visitors could once again get to know the Scoville scale, and several plants were there to show the public where the spices come from.

Aside from this, two typical German dishes were on display: Berliner bouletten (or German meatballs) and a sweet bread called Berliner brot. The audience also had the opportunity to pick up flyers about BHL-Europe and they were treated to the following video:

All in all, a very successful night! Check out pictures on our Facebook-page.

Spice of the Week: Galangal

Galangal, from the Alpinia galangal plant, is this week’s spice selection from the Biodiversity Library Exhibition.

While galangal is part of the medicine “Swedish drops”, women better look out. It is known to induce premature menstruation or abortion. Still, it is an essential ingredient in curry, and therefore is part of many local cuisines around the world. Its substances were once considered euphoria-inducing and aphrodisiac. For more info on galangal’s history and origins, and for a great recipe, go visit the Biodiversity Library Exhibition’s pages on this fascinating spice!

Alternate recipe: Southern Asian chicken

8 chicken thighs
2 dl oil
6 cloves crushed garlic
1 tablespoon ground pepper
2 tablespoons ground galangal
½ teaspoon salt

In a bowl mix garlic, pepper, galangal and salt. Spread the mixture onto chicken thighs, place in bowl, cover and allow to marinate 3-4 hours in refrigerator. Pour oil to about 5 cm deep in a pot and heat. Fry thighs in oil until thoroughly cooked, to a golden-brown color. Serve with rice.

Spice of the Week: Sage

Sage, a plant often used in ceremonies meant to drive out bad spirits, has through the course of history been perceived as a cure-all, a culinary herb and an antiperspirant.

This is reflected in its botanical name Salvia officinalis, which comes from the Latin word salvere, meaning to heal. But it has also been used for vanity – in the Middle Ages, it was used as black hair dye. Want to know more about sage and its historical relevance for Greeks, Romans, Arabs and other cultures? Then visit the BLE and try out the recipe.