Archive for the 'Babble' Category

It’s guava season

Guava (Guayaba in Spanish)guavas

– is a delightfully fragrant fruit, revered and hated throughout the world. I love its smell and taste so much I can’t imagine hating it, though I know some folks don’t like their smell.

Here in South Florida, commercial plantings are typically of big-fruited Asian varieties, harvested and eaten green. At this stage, they are crunchy like an apple, without much aroma, and often eaten with salt and a sprinkle of hot pepper – much like a green mango. However, there are many other varieties, and a few growers grow them for ripe eating. There are some closely-guarded groves with old-fashioned types, considered to have the most flavor. Many years ago, guavas escaped into the wild – thus they are classified as invasive and not recommended for planting here. Not that there’s much wild left here…

Wild guavas exhibit a lot of variability. They could be small or large-fruited, oval, round or even pear-shaped, with creamy white, yellow, orange, pink or red interior, and they vary from subacid to sweet in flavor.

No matter what kind of guava you grow, though, in South Florida we have a terrible problem with fruit flies. Often, by the time the fruit ripens, they are completely infested with squirming larva that hatch in the center pulp and eat their way out.Ripening is what triggers the hatching.  Many growers spray pesticides, and also bag the fruit in a cloth or plastic bag to prevent the fly from laying eggs in the fruit. When you see a field full of “bag trees” – think guavas!

Guavas can produce multiple crops throughout the year, with a heavy crop in late summer and often a light crop around December. It’s guava season now, and it’s time to take advantage of the bounty.

What to make with the windfall? First, harvest them just before they start to turn soft and yellow. This will minimize the hatching and development of fruit fly larva inside the fruit. The eggs will still be there, and maybe some young ‘uns, but as I like to say, “it’s 33% protein”. When harvested early, they’re confined to the seedy pulp, which can still be processed to make jam, guava butter, juice, and other delicious things. Why can you do this? because the seeds are so hard you’ll end up straining the seeds out, along with the buggies, leaving delicious pulp. But if you’re a die-hard vegan, stay away, because there will always be some tiny eggs slipping through and even some tiny larva, all completely harmless. Squeamish? get over it, and you’ll enjoy much deliciousness.

My favorite way to deal with guavas is to make “Cascos de Guayaba” with the shells, and guava butter with the pulp. They’re both very easy to make. Sometimes I get inspired and make guava leather with the pulp (heavenly, with some cinnamon and hot pepper). You can also make juice with the strained pulp.

Cascos de Guayaba  aka Guava Shells guava-shells

(and bonus pulp for other recipes)

  • Wash a bunch of guavas (as many as you’d like to use).
  • Remove any left-over sepals sticking out from the end of the fruit and lightly trim off the rough end.
  • Cut each guava in half. Using a spoon, remove the inside seedy pulp, taking care not to dig into the shells. (Set the seedy pulp aside for guava marmalade, guava butter, or even juice.)
  • In a deep saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil. The amount of sugar you use depends on how sweet and thick you want the end result. You can make a light syrup or a heavy syrup, to taste. Add a stick of cinnamon, and (optional) 3 or 4 pieces of star anise. Also optional: the juice of 1 lemon or lime, and a very small pinch of salt.
  • When the syrup is boiling, cook the guava shells in batches. Don’t overfilll the pan, so you don’t damage the shells as they cook. The longer they cook, the softer and darker they will get. Again, this is to taste, so play until you like the results.
  • Carefully remove the cooked shells from the boiling syrup and put them in a bowl or a jar. Repeat, until you’ve finished cooking all the guavas. Pour the syrup over the cooked shells, and cool.
  • Serve chilled, with a dollop of cream cheese (the traditional Cuban way), drizzled with some of the syrup. Save the extra syrup to use on pancakes or angel-food cake, or use as a deliciously-flavored sweetener.

What to do with the seedy pulp you saved?

If you have a macerating juicer (the kind with an Archimedean screw (it looks like a long corkscrew), it works great to separate the pulp from the seeds before cooking. Dump the seeds – they are really hard, and do NOT soften in cooking. If you don’t have one of these handy devices, don’t despair.
  • Cook the pulp (with or without the seeds) in enough water to encourage the pulp to separate from the seeds. If making guava butter or leather, don’t add a ton of water, or you’ll be stirring it for hours while all that extra water evaporates.
  • When it’s sufficiently soft, strain the seeds out and save the pulp. I like to extract every last scrap of pulp, so I will often pour a bit of water through the strainer and scrape the strainer to get more of the goodies. Be careful, though – too much scraping and you might push some seeds through.
  • Sweeten to taste (you need less than you think, because as the water evaporates it will concentrate the sweetening power). If you feel the need, look up an apple butter or a jam recipe to get an idea of amount of sugar to use per cup of pulp. I always cut it to half of what the recipes say, but that’s me – I don’t like super sickly sweet jams.
  • Add a bit of lime juice (optional). If have a lot of syrup left over from the guava shells, you can use it in place of some of the water and sugar.
  • You don’t need pectin with guava, as they have their own.
  • Cook slowly, stirring often to prevent sticking and burning. Start with a medium heat, then lower the temperature as it thickens, so it doesn’t burp in your face.
  • For apple butter, you need it thick enough that it will spread on a slice of toast without being runny. You can keep going, and make jam or marmalade. In that case, use a thermometer, or use the “sheet test” – scoop up a spoonful and slowly let it drip off the side of the spoon. If it comes off in a curtain or a sheet instead of pouring off in drips, it’s ready. Pour it into a jar, cap, let cool and refrigerate. If you want to keep it shelf-stable, then run it in a canner (canner).

Fruit leather

If you want to make fruit leather, you’ll need a dehydrator, with silicone trays or sheets. Cook it to the butter stage, then spread it out on the trays – not too thick, as it will run off the edges. Dehydrate at 115 – 130, rotating trays if necessary, until it’s leathery. Roll them off the sheets, cut the rolls into 2″ sections and wrap indivirually in wax paper. Store in a ziploc bag. To prevent spoilage due to our high humidity, I like to keep my dried fruit in the refrigerator. It lasts indefinitely that way.

Juice

For guava juice or nectar, it’s best to have a macerating juicer, so you don’t have to deal with the seeds. You can also use a blender, adding water first. Pulse a few times. Don’t blend too long, or you will break up the seeds into tiny shards that will make your juice “sandy”. Strain the liquid, using a wooden spoon to stir the glob inside the strainer. Pour more water into the strainer to help extract more of the pulp from the seeds. Repeat a few times. Throw out the seeds.
Add more water to the pulp and sugar to taste, or sweeten with some of the syrup from the guava shells you made earlier. Chill and drink. Stir before serving.
Enjoy!
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…aaaand, we’re BACK!

After a dormancy approaching 2 years (really? really!! time flies!), I realized it’s time to crank up this blog again – just in time for the new season.  We didn’t REALLY fall off the face of the earth. We’ve continued to send out emails, and have been active on Facebook, with some Tweeting thrown in from time to time, but I know that a number of our fans don’t “do” Facebook, not everyone is on our email list, and many don’t appreciate being bombarded with constant emails. So, I’m brushing off the rust, oiling the gears…ready to blog it!

Lots of things have happened in the intervening months. It’s the cycle of  life on a farm – preparing, planting crops, weeding, harvesting, selling, delivering, removing, recharging, then starting all over again. And in between each one, there’s weeding, dealing with unexpected stuff – sometimes good, sometimes not – more weeding, and in the summer, mowing and mowing and mowing – oh, and weeding! Then somewhere in the mix, throw in a crop of baby chicks to replenish the flock, after decimation by coyote and feral dogs… yep, life on the farm is NEVER boring.

Bee Heaven Farm collage

Last year on the farm

We saw new markets start, and others die out. The Homestead Market at Losner Park and the Overtown Market on 10th Street did not return in 2011-2012, and were sorely missed. But the slightly less hectic pace let us concentrate on the Pinecrest Gardens Green Market, where we had a great season. We’ll be back in Pinecrest in December.

Last year we started using Farmigo’s  CSA software system. We’ve fully automated our CSA enrollment process and are now able to offer more flexibility with share options and payment plans. In the summertime, when the CSA isn’t running and we don’t sell at the farmers market, we’ve always had a prepaid system (open to anyone) to order seasonal summer items – mainly tropical fruit. We implemented Farmigo’s webstore functions for this, and expanded our summer pickup locations to include the Upper Eastside Market, where our more northerly customers could pick up their orders without having to schlep down to Joanna’s Marketplace in the Dadeland area or to the farm in Redland. That’s worked out really well!

Our CSA options expanded last year, with the discovery of locally-grown Sem-Chi certified organic rice right in the Clewiston area barely 100 miles from the farm, and the debut of local salt farmers Midge & Tom with their Florida Keys Sea Salt. As more local organic (or pesticide-free) producers come online, we continue to develop additional stability and more variety in the shares.  We’re always looking for new crops, too. We have an amazing opportunity in South Florida to explore tropical food crops not available in the rest of mainland USA, and we’re all about that! Of course, Mother Nature always has the last word.

…see you around!

Farmer Margie Arrested! Driving Incognito Farm Truck

Late this morning, I was tooling along Killian Drive in our farm truck, enjoying the pretty scenery and gorgeous weather, accompanied by BHF intern Liberty. We were headed to Fairchild Tropical Garden to pick up the leftovers from our wildly successful Edible Garden Day weekend.

 Along came Pinecrest Police officer Blineau, who took one look at the truck and pulled us over. Officer B proceeded to inform me that I was committing an arrestable misdemeanor offense, by

 ‘not displaying the required commercial markings in violation of Miami Dade County Ordinance which requires that all commercial vehicles have identification signs on both sides of the vehicle with the name, address, telephone number and occupational license of the owner in letters and numbers larger than 3″ in height’.

Very confused, since we are not a business (like a handyman or plumber) with an occupational license, I explained that we are a farm, and told him where we were headed and what we were doing. He said we were on the road, transporting product, and therefore in violation.

He then took my ID and registration, requested I show him the back of the truck (empty except for a pallet jack), and asked me things like my social security number, how much I weighed, and whether my teeth were ‘normal’ (I kid you not!). Thinking he was writing me a ticket, I asked him what that had to do with anything. He informed me that he was filling out the arrest form, and I would be arrested on the spot, written up, and released, provided I promised to appear in court.

Liberty and I waited in the truck for over an hour, while he filled out the paperwork and, I guess, looked up my (non-existent) extensive criminal and traffic records. Then he waited for the sergeant to arrive to sign the paperwork. Finally, he asked me to get out of the truck,  fingerprinted me (after reminding me yet again that this was an arrestable offense) and asked me to sign (wait, no!  actually, he told me I had no choice but to sign, or he would cart me off to jail). Then he gave me my copy of the “Complaint/Arrest Affidavit”, and advised me to get the signs put on the truck before I received the summons for the court date, since that “might help me out”. I told Officer B he would have been of more help had he simply informed me and issued me a warning, whereupon he repeated (for about the fifth time), that he could bring me in to jail, but instead he was just arresting me right there and releasing me on the spot. I thanked him for destroying my day. He thought nothing of it – after all, arresting citizens is a routine part of his job.

Congratulations, Pinecrest PD! Officer B should be rewarded for keeping the Village safe from dangerous criminals like myself! Gee, I might be running an illegal nanny delivery service to those upscale Pinecrest homes – or maybe I’m carrying contraband construction materials to the very same homes. No, wait! maybe…those organic heirloom tomato starts are really drug plants in disguise…

Requiem for a rooster

George Washington died yesterday. He was a free soul, easygoing but solicitous of his female companions. My daughter named him a few years ago – don’t really know how he earned his name, but it was his very own.

We’ve had trouble with predators in the past, and our hens are therefore housed in chicken tractors (moveable, bottomless pens), to help protect them. However, we have a few ‘wild’ chickens, mostly roosters, who live free on the farm. In order to survive, they have to have a bit of that wildness more commonly found in the smaller breeds. Survivors tend to be quick on their feet (and nearly impossible to catch!). Their little birdbrains have to maintain honed isntincts to keep them from being caught and eaten. If they’ve managed to survive to adulthood, they usually live for a few years.

I’m not quite sure how old George Washington was, but he was at least 3 or 4. He was beautiful white with black specks scattered here and there in his feathers, and he was on the short side. He carried himself beautifully. I enjoyed watching him strut around, checking on his ‘girls’, going from one chicken tractor to another one. I thought I had a picture of him somewhere, but couldn’t find it…

George would show up at the cat food bowl on the kitchen steps, several times a day, looking for tidbits. I think cat food is one of the roosters’ favorite treats. He would jockey with the cats and the other roosters, Crazy Chicken 1, Crazy Chicken 2, and Rover, for position at the bowl. 

I’m guessing a pack of dogs, or perhaps a fox, came in the night, flushed him out of his sleeping perch, and attacked. I saw piles of feathers here and there, and much later in the day, our farm interns found what was left of him off in a corner, near the road.

We’ve lost a personality. George Washington will be missed.

Behind the scenes…

I was going through the market signs when my daughter walked in. “That’s slightly terrifying!” she said. Here’s what she saw…

Market signs

a jumble of signs

…that’s my desktop…there’s a keyboard under there…somewhere… 🙂

Rachel’s Signs

Rachel’s signs add a wonderful sense of humor and playfulness to our market stand. She whips them up effortlessly! Considering she is a senior in high school and planning to go to art school out of state, she won’t be around next year to make these signs that amuse me (and many of the market visitors) so much every Sunday morning. This post is a tribute to Rachel!

The Radish Rampage sign is by Jamie Langhoff, an intern on the farm.

This is one of my all time favorites… it was meant to advertise our smoked eggs this summer at The Ramble event.

…and a new week

This is week 2 of our eighth CSA season. Wow! We’ve been at this 8 years already – hard to believe. And how we’ve grown – from a humble beginning of 20 folks renewing every 4-weeks (with a max of 8 at any one time), picking up at the farm, to today’s 465 families in a tri-county area (Pompano to Key West), with a long waiting list. It blows my mind!

So thinking back to that, little bumps along the road like our first week’s crazyness with the truck and the WWOOFers and the reefer are really only annoying flies to swat off. Yeah, it sure doesn’t seem like that when you’re in the middle of it, trying to figure out what to do to get those shares out to everyone in good condition. But this is the kind of thing that makes life interesting – after all, it’d be mighty boring without some challenges along the way…

You know the deal with the glass half-empty or half-full? I’ve always looked at it as the glass is under a gushing torrent, and what you catch with it is entirely up to your approach. Reach out with an upright, steady arm, and your glass will overflow! Reach out holding it upside down, and it will be and remain empty.

SO- we start a new week (after a week of Thanksgiving and recovery, and off to the next adventure!

See you at the market on Sunday!


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