Archive for November, 2011

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. For several years running I’ve been one of many people fortunate to be invited to celebrate in the barn at Bee Heaven Farm. It’s an extra special dinner because almost everything is local or organic, and many people at table are farmers who grew some of the food. Thanks to them, we had an amazing feast.

A long table was set up in the barn, where 25 people had their holiday dinner.

This Thanksgiving, 25 people attended. They filled a long table set up by Tim, this season’s intern, which was decorated with centerpieces designed by apprentice Marsha and Rachel, farmer Margie Pikarsky’s daughter.

Weber sniffed all the delicious aromas of turkey, green beans and other tasty things, while Nick waits for Margie to bring the last dish.

An enormous amount of food was prepared by Margie in the farm house kitchen. The tradition is to load all the dishes into the back of the farm’s golf cart and bring them to the barn. (It’s a lot easier and faster than carrying it all by hand.)

Let’s eat! Rachel filled her plate.

And 25 people made a lot of food disappear. We devoured three turkeys — two organic and one conventional. Two of those were smoked by Robert Barnum over Australian pine wood (and if you throw enough money at him, he’ll smoke something for you too). One organic turkey was split in half and oven roasted by Margie Pikasky. I’ve never seen a bird cooked that way, but it was quite good, flavored with Tuscan seasoning. We also had a Smithfield ham with a honey mustard glaze.

Farmer Margie carving an organic turkey that she roasted split in half. Behind her, Steve Green is sampling something.

A beautiful salad garnished with edible flowers (wild petunia and clitoria — no I’m not making up that name, go look it up) was artfully arranged by Rachel.  Yes, the flowers are edible!

Rachel’s beautiful salad creation, garnished with wild petunia (light purple flowers) and clitoria (dark purple flowers). Yes, the flowers are edible!

Other sides included: local green beans (grown by Dan Howard of Homestead Organic Farms) and local pearl onions (grown by Margie) in a balsamic-wine reduction sauce; sweet potatoes roasted and mashed with coconut milk; savory cookies, and beet and yogurt cheese tarts baked by Sadie; two kinds of cranberries; Hani Khouri’s fiery harissa, and a lively caponata made by lychee grower Steven Green.

Turkey and ham in the foreground, beet mini tarts, cranberry relish and chutney, caponata (topped with parsley), avocado salad, flowery salad and savory cookies.

Also on the table were: local bok choy, baba ghanoush, mustard greens; and carrot soup made by farm apprentice Marsha. Sadie also made stuffing with her mom Karen who came down from Pittsburgh. Last season’s farm intern Weber stopped by early to chop and stir the super-local guacamole made with Murray Bass’s avocados.

Nick (left, in hat) and Rachel (right, wearing black) celebrated their birthdays with pie.

For dessert, farmer Nick’s father Mickey, a retired pastry chef, made several pies — key lime, an amazing sour orange, and the traditional pumpkin, all topped with smooth and rich homemade whipped cream. We also drank about 8 or 10 bottles of wine. After all that food and drink, it was all one could do to waddle to bed and sleep for a long time.

This season’s hard-working apprentices Marsha and Tim enjoy the bounty.

Thanksgiving Day has passed, and I hope it’s a happy memory for you too. Other holiday feasts are coming up. Don’t forget to stop by your grower-supported farmers market to pick up your holiday goodies, and don’t forget to say thanks to your local farmers for all their hard work growing healthy and nourishing food. Without them, you won’t be eating. Anything. Any day. As Margie put it, no farms, no food.


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The skin of a mature luffa just peels right off.

The other morning, Sadie the farm manager was peeling the skin off a long, green, slightly lobed vegetable that looked like a cross between a cucumber and a pumpkin. Underneath the skin was a tangled mass of fibers, and it didn’t look edible at all. “You can try to eat it, but you won’t get very far,” farmer Margie commented. I was looking at a freshly picked mature luffa (or loofah). Sadie shook and squeezed out large, pumpkin-like seeds lurking inside channels that ran the length of the luffa. They will be dried and saved for planting later.

Luffa vine climbed from the wire fence (background) up into an avocado tree.

Loofahs are a member of the squash family, and grow on a long, slender vine that will take over any fence or support you give it. The gourd itself grows to about two feet in length. When they are small, they feel spongy when you squeeze them, and are said to be edible. As they grow, they feel quite heavy and solid. The older they get, the more fibrous they become.

Sadie checks the big loofahs every day as she passes by. “Then one day, magically they feel light, and that’s the time to harvest,” she explained. (You could wait until their skin starts to dry out and turn brown, but you run the risk of the whole thing starting to rot on the vine.)

Peeled luffas soak in the deep sink. They are weighed down with a concrete block.

Inside is a “vegetably slimy flesh on the fibers,” Sadie explained, and the only way to get it off is to let it soak. Peeled luffas sit covered in water for a couple of days, held down with a weight to keep them from floating to the top. The slimy flesh ferments off (and I suggest you do this in a well ventilated place because they stink). Then the fibrous luffa is rinsed, soaked in a mild beach solution (also weighted down), rinsed, and air dried.

The end result is a long, pale mass of tangled fibers that’s the vegetable equivalent of a scouring pad. Ones with coarser fibers work well to scrub a non-stick skillet or barbecue grill, and the ones with thinner, softer fibers are great for the bath. Rise your luffa thoroughly after use and let it air dry. It will last a long time.

Look for whole, dried luffas at the Bee Heaven Farm tent, at the Pinecrest Gardens Farmers Market, starting on Sunday, Nov. 20th. 

Nick Pikarsky of Bee Heaven Farm with organic luffas

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Hungry critter

Hungry muncher in the bunch of dill.

Anybody have an idea what kind of caterpillar this is? It showed up in the bunch of dill that I was arranging when I came to photograph this week’s share. Despite the attention from my camera’s giant glass eye, the hungry caterpillar kept on munching. I put it on a plant outside the barn. Keep your eyes open because there could be more lurking. Margie said she spotted another caterpillar and picked off another one in a different bunch of dill.

I also heard a cricket chirping in my share box! Haven’t found it yet, and not sure where it is. Always an adventure with farm food!

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Lebanese Feast

Friday November 18th
7:30 pm
Private Residence
in Coral Gables, FL

Ahlan wa sahlan. You come as family and leave with ease.

Conjure smells and tastes of old Beirut with a mouth-watering family style meal paired with great wines at a private home, all cooked with love from friend and Redland goat herder and cheese-maker, Hani Khouri.

Read about all the deliciousness in store for you in this Miami New Times article.

Menu is posted online.

Order tickets online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/207329

Exact location will be sent to guests after tickets are purchased. All proceeds to benefit Slow Food Miami Edible School Gardens.

For more information, call Renée at 888-580-4480 or  email at president@slowfoodmiami.org.

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Flats of heirloom tomato seedlings.

For several weeks, Sadie nurtured her babies. She started them from seed, but now they are getting big, and she is pushing them out into the world. She had help from Victor, the proud papa who helped pot them up, preparing them for their new homes.

Sadie is the farm manager at Bee Heaven Farm, Victor is a farm hand, and their “babies” are thousands of heirloom tomato seedlings. Not all will get planted on the farm. Many are grown for sale, and will be available at Ramble this weekend at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

Picking out the best plants.

Seedlings were also available at the recent Edible Garden Festival, also held at Fairchild. It was a sight to see! Dozens and dozens of varieties loaded down three long tables in front of the farm’s tent. There were so many seedlings it looked like a sea of small green leaves and white name tags.

Sadie (left) helps a customer choose plants.

The varieties for sale are the same ones that farmer Margie Pikarsky grows year after year. She knows which ones do best in this climate, and which will have problems. Heirloom tomatoes come in all different sizes, shapes and colors. Small tomatoes are the most prolific, and they will ripen through the season. They come in several shapes — round, grape and pear (or teardrop) — and colors — red, yellow, orange, pink, white, brown and black. Yellow and orange are sweeter, and the black and brown varieties have a stronger tomato flavor. White and pink tomatoes are very pale in color, but that doesn’t diminish their flavor. Beefsteak varieties, which are familiar to gardeners from Up North, just aren’t as prolific in this climate. They will bear about five or six fruit per plant, before they succumb to heat and bugs. All varieties are certified organic, started in clean potting medium, and grown without any chemicals.

Beth got enough plants to fill her backyard garden.

The serious gardeners came out in full force early Saturday morning. They were looking for specific varieties, and scooped up armloads of plants. It was fascinating to hear that in one garden, the yellow pear did well, but in another garden, it was a struggle. Matt’s Wild Cherry, a small Everglades tomato, did well in a lot of gardens last year, and is hardy enough to bear through May. One man said he was a teacher and bought a variety of plants for his school garden. Many people were mixing and matching plants to get a wide assortment of colors and flavors.

In an interesting trend, almost half the gardeners planned to grow their plants in pots on a patio or balcony. One man even brought his iPad and proudly showed pictures of 70-plus pots, complete with an overhead irrigation system, on his back patio. That was last season and he wanted to do something like that again. If you have pots and sunlight, you can grow vegetables just about anywhere.

A terrified Florida scorpion.

And of course, you can’t have an organic plant sale without bug drama. Sunday afternoon a small black scorpion emerged in a flat of Green Zebras. It startled two of the volunteer helpers. The scorpion looked pretty scared too, and and tried to make itself very small as people stared at it.

Cheech, the scorpion wrangler.

A young man ran over, picked up the flat, and heaved the scorpion into a nearby planting of bromeliads, thus ending the drama. The scorpion had hitched a ride from the farm. However fearsome, it is one of nature’s pest controls, and won’t sting people unless provoked.

Don’t fear, there’s no more scorpions lurking. Come to Ramble and adopt Sadie’s babies — there’s still hundreds of plants left. Come try a variety you never grew before. No matter which ones you choose, the color and flavor of a perfectly ripe tomato that you grew yourself will be incredibly better than anything you can find at the store!

Thanks to Marilyn and Buddha, who came out to pot up thousands of seedlings. Thanks to Adri, Holly, Kathy, Kristin and Marian, who helped at the Edible Garden Festival.

Gardeners shopping for heirloom tomatoes on the first morning.

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Ramble 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011 – Sunday, November 13, 2011
9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Now into its seventh decade, the Ramble is still going strong. The annual festival at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is billed as the largest plant sale in South Florida, with more than 15,000 plants up for grabs.

And that’s just the tropical ornamentals the Garden is selling. If you’re not into that, there will be plants for your vegetable garden too. Bee Heaven Farm will be in the Greenmarket area again this year with lots of heirloom tomato seedlings — and avocados, honey, herbs, luffas and other goodies. Yes, there’s plenty of seedlings left, so if you missed getting some at the Edible Garden Festival, now is your chance. Come visit and join the fun!


Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
10901 Old Cutler Road
Coral Gables FL 33156

Admission: Free for Fairchild Members and children 5 and under.
Non-members: $25 for adults, $18 for seniors 65 and up and $12 for children 6-17.

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Saturday, November 5, 2011
6:00 -11:00 pm

Losner Park
104 N. Krome Ave.
Homestead FL 

A brand new local food festival launches tonight in the heart of historic Homestead. Called Homestead Al Gusto, the event is the brainchild of Adri Garcia, executive chef of Greenrocks Foods. She brings together a number of different elements of the local food scene to this free, family friendly fest.

Participating at the event: the Food Truck Invasion, local farmers and food artisans, a Children’s Corner presented by Atala Montessori School with lots of fun kid’s activities, live music, and a Chef’s tent where Chef Adri Garcia and friends will give cooking demos.

To add to the excitement, chefs from the Food Truck Invasion will compete for best in show in a Chef’s Challenge issued by local farmers in Homestead. (And farmers are a tough crowd to please!) The chefs will pick up a basket of local produce containing in season vegetables and herbs from Redland, and make a dish using their particular style of cooking. The results will be judged and a prize will be awarded.

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