Archive for November, 2009

Redland Organics at The Ramble

Margie mentioned in a previous post that we just had an insane weekend due to too many things happening at once and too many things breaking down at the same time. This post is about the upside of this weekend. After all the hassle and stress of organizing and packing tons of produce for both the CSA and The Ramble at Fairchild we had a really good time and great weather at the event. The turnout was awesome as usual and we were flattered to be busy answering questions and making sales the whole time. We didn’t sell as many heirloom starts as we had hoped and we believe it’s because most local gardeners came to the Kitchen Garden event at Fairchild last month, where we sold out of almost everything the first day. The Ramble was less about gardening and more about fun, learning and eating. All day at our booth people where asking questions (“What is Roselle?’, “What is a smoked egg?”, “Which tomato do you recommend for South Florida?”) and every time I took a walk and stopped in at a different booth I could hear people asking questions about the bread, the hot sauce, the honey, the falafel, the herbs, the flowers, etc.

We had about 40 varieties of Heirloom tomato starts; everything from cherry to paste to beefsteak. My favorite cherry is Sungold which has a small, orange, super sweet fruit. My favorite medium tomato is Cherokee Purple which has dark outside and deep watermelon pink inside. My favorite paste tomato is Blue Beech which I grew in New York this summer and I’m curious to see how it will do here this winter.

We had a beautiful assortment of tropical fruit! This is one subject that distinguishes markets in South Florida from the rest of the country. The variety of tropical fruit we have here is a true luxury and most of us either take it for granted or live our lives oblivious to it, shopping for pears and apples week after week. I was one of those people a few years ago until I got involved with the local food system. I remember what it was like to not know that just a few miles away there were dozens of delicious fruit ripening on trees and shrubs and vines.

At Ramble, one of the more popular items was the sugar cane. We also had Black Sapote, Canistel, Carambola, Passionfruit, Papaya, Charichuela, Cas Guava and Sour Orange.

Another very popular item was our smoked eggs. Everyone that noticed them at least asked about them if not tried them, and if they tried them they came back for more. I think these eggs are so beautiful, they remind me of the Japanese style of raku ceramics. The smoking process creates chocolate brown swirls on the perfectly smooth surface of the eggs. The taste is a whole other thing; eating one of these eggs is a good old smoky experience, with the reminiscence of bacon, wood and salt.

Our vegetables were pretty amazing too. Most of them were harvested at Worden Farm in Punta Gorda; they are one of the partner farms in Redland Organics which provides produce for our CSA as well as our farmer’s market in Pinecrest. By the way, if you hadn’t heard, the Pinecrest market is moving location this year for the first time. It will not be in the parking lot of Gardner’s market anymore; instead it will be in the parking lot of Pinecrest Gardens, where the old Parrot Jungle used to be.

I’d like to finish this post with a THANK YOU to everyone that came to see us because without you we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. We love to see the familiar faces that come every time to participate in the local food system which is growing stronger by the day.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving in the barn

The year we started the CSA, we also began a new trandition – Thanksgiving dinner in the barn. Family, friends, WWOOFers and interns join us at a very long table running the length of the barn. Everyone pitches in with a dish. My father-in-law, a retired pastry chef, always prepares a number of awesome pies: key lime, pecan, pumpkin, and my new favorite – pecan/pumpkin. Of course, he brings fresh whipped cream in the special baker’s cloth dispenser with the fancy tips, and we all take turns putting some in our coffee after he tops the pies. Other dishes include Homestead Organic Farms’ new green bean harvest simply-prepared with a bit of oil or butter and some herbs. The inevitable sweet potatoes show up in various guises, and I always make an awesome tart cranberry/carambola/orange sauce, or some variation thereof, depending on what fruit we happen to have around. We always try to have a smoked turkey, and this year, Robert from Possum Trot  is joining our group for the first time, and smoking one of our grass-fed organic turkeys (unfortunately, not local).

Today it rained all day – over 4″ of rain – and the crew spent most of the day cleaning up the barn and organizing thing so everything is clean and sparkly for Thanksgiving dinner. Tomorrow I will be roasting the other turkey, preparing the cranberry sauce and the stuffing (a seat-of-the-pants creation which always involves bread or cornbread, nuts, celery, and fresh cranberries, among other things). We’ll probably serve some of our own antidesma wine along with the organic Bonterra wines Marian will be bringing.

It promises to be a great evening, as always, and we will express our gratitude for the wonderful bounty our planet provides in return for simple caring. Happy Thanksgiving!

Slow Food Miami makes it possible…

For the past several years, the local Slow Food chapter has sponsored our booth at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s annual RAMBLE event. This is FTG’s largest event of the year and a big fundraiser for them. We have brought locally-grown, organic and pesticide-free produce from our Redland Organic farm partners to RAMBLE since 2005. Our first couple of seasons were sponsored by Les Dames d’Escoffier; since then, Slow Food Miami has sponsored a large tent for farmers’ participation and an accompanying tent where presentations and chef demonstrations have highlighted locally-grown foods from our farms.

The reality of farming here is that there are very few farmers interested or willing to come to events like this or interact with the public. The really big farms wholesale everything, and the really little farms don’t have the time or resources to devote to manning a booth. So we at Bee Heaven Farm made it our mission to involve as many of our partner farms as possible – if not by their actual presence, then by bringing their produce to the table. And this we have done.

This year we represented the following farms (in alphabetical order): Bee Heaven Farm, Guara Ki, Health & Happiness Farm, Homestead Organic Farms, Little Cypress (C&B Farms),  Possum Trot, Sawmill Farm, Three Sisters Farm, Worden Farm, and Wyndham Organics (if I omitted anyone, I apologize-it’s been a bit hectic getting ready for this and the CSA startup). Paradise Farms joined us there with their crew, for the formal debut of their own Oyster Mushrooms!

For several years now, we’ve been bringing many different varieties of heirloom tomato starts to RAMBLE. This year, in appreciation of Slow Food’s sponsorship, we searched out and grew as many Slow Food Ark of Taste heirloom tomato varieties as we could find, and featured them along with many other varieties selected specially for our climate.

Thank you, Slow Food Miami!

A Crazy week…

Wow! Is Mercury in retrograde or something?

This past week has been intense, to put it mildly. We expected a certain amount of stress and pressure, given that it was both the start of the CSA season and RAMBLE (oh, yes, and that beef thing, too…), but we sure didn’t expect all the extra grief!

First, the reefer/delivery truck. It’s had a major overhaul, nearly complete, these past few weeks. It got a new transmission, work on the frame, the box & insulation had repairs, it got new springs (triple-reinforced), even a new cab with a radio, a working glove box, and a whole lot of little things, too. Still pending was a new head. So, back comes the truck from its makeover at Victor’s spa for old trucks, and off he goes on Wednesday to pick up the first load of CSA goodies from one of the farms. He made it there just fine, loaded up, and started back- got on US 27, and blew a water line in the middle of nowhere. So he pulled off the road and went to get water from a nearby canal, only to get shot at! (No, he wasn’t hit, and neither was the truck- but what was that all about??) Well, Victor Sr. got the truck fixed, and returned late that night. All was well-so we thought.

Early the next morning, we went to Florida City and picked up a couple of pallets of wax boxes and some cases of plastic clamshells for Worden Farm in Punta Gorda, where Victor was going later in the morning to pick up more CSA veggies. No incident – everything looked good. So off he went, destination West Coast (of Florida, silly!). Heading north on US 27, about 20 miles out of Miami, he hears this horrendous cracking noise, figures he’s got a blowout, and immediately pulls off the road. Looks at all the tires-nothing. Looks at the muffler-nothing. Mystified, he pops the hood (more precisely, on this truck you pop the cab), and sees that the plastic radiator fan blades have disintegrated. Can’t continue without a repair, so he tries to head back to Hialeah and the shop. Of course, without the fan, he can’t even go one mile without dangerously overheating, so he has to get someone to shuttle him back to town, to pick up the needed parts and return to fix it. Meanwhile, we prepare Plan B in case we need it- take my pickup truck to Punta Gorda and come back with a borrowed trailer from Worden Farm. OK, that will work, but it means we have to take the RAMBLE plants to Fairchild early, in case we need to send off the pickup truck. Luckily, the parts were available. It’s a darn good thing Victor is also a truck mechanic!

Meantime, back on the farm, while all this is going down, I am summarily informed by our Spanish WWOOFer couple that they could not sleep with the noise from the truck and I needed to park the truck elsewhere. I said no, and explained they needed to get used to the noise, because it would be running 3 nights a week. They got offended and decided they had had enough of farm life and would leave that day with no advance notice. I expressed my dismay and disappointment at the disregard for responsiblity shown by a spur-of-the-moment decision that would affect farm operations on the first heavy workload of the season, and asked them to stay at least through the weekend. But no, it was too much inconvenience for them. So, good riddance, and off to the next problem… but now my remaining loyal hardworking work crew would have to double up on RAMBLE duty, with no time off whatsoever during the weekend. Stress, did you say? Read more

The CSA season is about to begin…

and I’m sitting here writing a blog post. What is WRONG with me? Like I need another thing to do!

I can tell the suspense and tension are building – to the grand finale this weekend, when we’ll deliver the shares, hopefully sell out our heirloom starts at RAMBLE, and have the beef distributed. Between now and then, though, there is emailing everyone, preparing the sign-in sheets, the distribution lists, the newsletters, calling the folks from whom we don’t have confirmations, re-sending emails. Then there is coordinating with the other farms for their crops, picking up the crops from the other farms,  assembling the boxes, harvesting our crops, bunching, bagging, counting, splitting bunches, packing the shares, loading the truck.

Now wait…. what’s this about beef? Well, we decided we’d get a wholegrass-fed  steer from 4 Arrows Farm in Citra, near Gainesville, ( to share among us – a small group, to see how the whole process would work and check out the quality, thinking that maybe down the line we could share a cow every so often with whoever wanted to. So, of course, it has to come in on the same day everything else is happening, right? We can’t complain- we’re getting free delivery (and we gave them an excuse to go fishing in the Keys…) But, Lordy! somebody tie me up- don’t let me sign on for 3 major things at one time! You’d think I’d learn, right? I remember last season having a CSA delivery, a Fairchild event, and the Keys GLEE event all on the same weekend – that was another completely crazy week. Veggies, boxes, volunteers and workers were flying everywhere – the walk-in cooler was busting at the seams, the truck was overflowing, we had every vehicle we owned taking things somewhere…anywhere…  Foast forward to this week, for a similar scene. Be warned, if you come by anytime Thursday or Friday, we WILL conscript you and put you to work!

OK, enough of this babbling… time to make lists for tomorrow’s tasks…

Banana Flower

A few weeks ago a woman named Sheron, who hosts one of our CSA pick-up sites, e-mailed us about having her daughter do a work study at the farm for a school program. Dhilini, her daughter, who goes to Coral Reef Senior High has been to the farm a few times; she is a hard worker and a very good listener. Sheron has stayed with her to get her hands dirty as well. She was born and raised in Sri Lanka on a small farm which her father still owns and works today. On the first day when I took both of them on a tour, Sheron kept pointing out every plant and tree with any culinary, medicinal or horticultural significance before I could get to it! I was thoroughly impressed. We talked about food effortlessly, mostly sharing information about exotic and less known edible plants (and plant parts) as well as preparation techniques. Sheron is an expert and has a true passion for traditional foods from her country. As we walked by some flowering banana plants she referred to a delicious way of preparing the flowers and I was immediately intrigued. I had heard that banana flowers are edible and tasty, but never got around to researching the idea. That’s when she enthusiastically offered to cook some for us next time they came to the farm!

A week later:


The first thing to do is peel the outer tougher petals of the flower until you get a tender pointy pod.


Chop the flower like an onion. First in half lengthwise, then into very thin slices.


Rinse the flower in salt water twice and once in fresh water. Here Sheron is using her hands to strain and gently squeeze the shredded flower out of one salt bath and into the second. She explained that in Sri Lanka, traditionally people use their hands for many tasks in cooking, such as for straining and mixing.


In a wok or frying pan add the spices and a little bit of water to the flower, sautee for a minute and then simmer covered for a few minutes, mixing occationaly. The key here is the spices! Sheron brought a basket of beautiful fresh spices, some of which she brings back from visits to Sri Lanka, some of them are from her father’s farm. Here’s the list: dried Goraka (a vinegary black fruit), Turmeric, Coriander, Cumin, Fennel, sharp chilis, whole Fenugreek (she says every meal in Sri Lanka uses Fenugreek), small piece of whole Cinnamon (from her father’s tree), a piece of Rampe leaf-aka Pandan (which she brought from home and has promised to bring us a plant for the farm since we don’t have any, they do so well here and they have a distinct flavor that is great for cooking), a few pieces of Curry leaf from our tree and a bit of diced red onion.


Next step is to add the coconut milk, which Sheron made from scratch in an impressive amount of time. She taught us an easy and fast way of opening coconuts and then used the same method I’m familiar with to make the milk, which is by putting the coconut meat with water in a food processor and straining it. Here she is using her agile hands as a strainer again! She let the mixture simmer covered until the liquid almost disappeared, which took about 10 minutes.


The last step is to sautee a few spices in a little bit of canola oil and toss in the mixture to fry for a minute. She explained that this last step is very important because it takes the bitterness of the banana flower away. There is a key ingredient used in this step which we were able to provide from last seasons’ harvest. Black Mustard seeds! Sheron pointed out that they are harder to come by in the US than yellow seeds and have a totally different taste. Along with the Mustard seeds she put in another small piece of both Rampe and Curry leaf as well as bit of red onion.

Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the finished dish because we all grabbed forks and started trying it right out of the pan. The smell was amazing (a very complex mix of spices, like a curry) and the texture was very nice (like picadillo).

We can’t thank her enough for the wonderful lesson and we look forward to her next visit!

Rachel’s Eggs

variety of eggsOnce you get used to cooking and eating truly fresh eggs from chickens that live on grass and eat bugs, there is no going back. They are so beautiful and inspiring to have in the fridge. The CSA is starting in less than 2 weeks and the majority, if not all, of the eggs will be going out to many families throughout South Florida. I will miss them and I hope you really enjoy them!

harvesting fresh heart of palms

This has got to be one of the most amazing food related things I’ve ever done, especially considering how much I love palm hearts.

palmheart1It all started when Robert, of Possum Trot, called Margie about a “treasure” he found on his way home. Driving down one of the side streets in the Redland he saw a gigantic pile of freshly cut down mature Royal Palms and lucky for us he knew that inside those trunks was a tender edible heart. Margie and I dropped everything to meet him at the location to get a lesson on harvesting fresh heart of palm. When we stepped out of the car we were overwhelmed by the size of the pile and of the individual sections of palm trees. We couldn’t help but wonder why someone would cut these huge, healthy and expensive trees down?

Choosing the right pieces to cut was the first step. Robert pointed out to us that the ediblepalmheart3 heart lies inside of the trunk between the brown woody part and where the fronds begin to form. It is a small section relative to the overall size of the tree and easily distinguished by a smooth bright green color. Once we chose a piece, using small axes, we started hacking in a straight line length-wise until the first layer peeled off. Then we kept hacking until the second layer peeled off and the third and the fourth and the fifth. It wasn’t easy work, each peel weighed about 30 pounds! These trees are extremely fibrous and heavy palmheart4with moisture, but as you get closer to the center the peels become whiter, denser and very tender. It was a climactic moment when we opened the last peel and saw the smooth creamy flesh! Even though we cut so much away it was amazing how big the heart was. Robert loaded it into his truck as well as one other piece to harvest layer and helped us pick out and load 2 pieces to bring back to the farm.


Harvesting palm hearts, especially from Royal Palms because they are so huge, is a messy, sweaty, long process, but I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to try it!

palmheart7In the end the palmheart6harvest was about 40 pounds!

We fermented 2 gallons of it, half as a kimchi (which came out beyond awesome!) and half as a slaw-style shredded ferment with scallions, garlic, ginger and mustard seeds. I’ve been cooking with the fresh pieces for weeks, mostly using it shredded in stir fries. One of my favorites was a stir fry served cold with chick peas, lentils and some other stuff marinated in a vinaigrette.



Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,493 other followers

November 2009

Blog Stats

  • 75,942 hits

Copyright © 2009-2012 – Bee Heaven Farm / M.Pikarsky