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Archive for the ‘vegetables’ Category

Earlier in September, I conducted an email interview with farmer Margie Pikarsky about the Oriental Fruit Fly quarantine, and how it impacts the Bee Heaven Farm CSA and the upcoming Redlands GrowFest!

Q: How does this quarantine affect Bee Heaven Farm and the CSA? What are you growing that’s affected?

MP: Luckily, this is just as farmers are gearing up for the start of the winter growing season, there is not much exposure to row crops, and plenty of time to put preventive treatment programs in place before harvesting begins of susceptible crops like squashes, tomatoes and beans. We are starting treatment with Spinosad as soon as we can get our hands on it, beginning the 30-day countdown.

As far as BHF, we’re essentially done with avocado harvest. Carambolas will be dehydrated, seagrapes are already harvested and frozen awaiting delivery, items previously harvested were already delivered. Guavas will be pulped and frozen or dehydrated, allspice berries have been harvested and frozen.

I don’t anticipate much problem with the CSA. I have to take precautions with incoming listed items (they are kept in protected storage, coolers are sealed), offloaded when they’re going to be packed, and packed and transported in a protected manner, in a sealed truck). Listed veggies include squashes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, beans.

Q: How does the quarantine affect the upcoming Redland GrowFest!?

Seedlings and fruiting plants that are currently NOT bearing fruit are not controlled. So we can sell our seedlings with no problem. Fruit trees, as long as they are stripped of any fruit (no matter how tiny), can be sold as well, so GrowFest! will be able to go off with minimal disruption.

In fact, listed items coming in from outside the quarantine area (currently, Health and Happiness Farm, Verde Farm, and Paradise Farms, for example, are outside the QA), can be sold, as long as they are protected. Displays can be protected by using a screened enclosure or other covering (this applies to fruit stands). The screening cannot touch the fruit, and the mesh has to be <4mm. I’m sure we’ll think of creative ways to pre-pack/bag listed items, but remember a lot of things like baby greens and herbs, for example, will not require any special handling.

Q: How long is this quarantine in place?

MP: The quarantine is in place for a minimum of 2 life cycles of the fly. First one is 30 days, second one is 32. If a third is needed, it would probably be 45 days, as their life expectancy lengthens with lower temperatures.

Q: What do you and other growers in the quarantine area have to do?

MP: Everyone within the quarantine area is asked to meet with FDACS OFF eradication program inspectors and enter into a compliance agreement, which spells out what they need to do. There are separate sections for growers (including homeowners), harvesters, packers, shippers, processors, lawn service/tree maintenance, sellers and dealers, charity (gleaners, soup kitchens), etc.

If you are outside the quarantine area, it’s business as usual, except that a) you have to protect any listed product going into or transiting through the quarantine area, you cannot receive listed product grown within the quarantine area without proof of treatment and compliance, and it must arrive fully protected (safely enclosed).

If you are inside the quarantine area, you cannot move listed product off your property unless it has been treated. There are 2 options: a) pre-harvest treatment for 30 days (with no positive finds near you during that time), or b) post-harvest treatment.

Post harvest treatments are limited here. Organic growers essentially have only the pre-harvest treatment option open. Chilling is an option, but unrealistic, except perhaps for carambola. There are a couple of other possibilities. You can consume the items on-site. You can process the items (freeze, dry, cook, grind), and then they are free to move off-farm and out of the quarantine area.

Other options that may be available to non-organic growers may include a combination of cold and fumigation, but it looks like only a fumigation treatment is available for avocados, as they cannot take cold storage in the temps or times required. TREC is looking at some short treatments. If they achieve kills and they can replicate the results, they may be able to approve it.

Q: Where did they find the fruit fly, and when?

MP: The core of the quarantine area is 1.5 miles around the positive finds. They are pretty much within about 1/2 mile of each other, roughly centered around 100-200 Avenues between 180-188 Streets. In these areas, multiple male flies were trapped (the highest something like 45 in 1 day). There were a couple of locations where larva were found. There was a female trapped as well.

In the areas around positive finds, anything on the list is stripped of fruit. The fruit is disposed of in an approved manner that prevents contamination. Traps to catch females are set. Soil surrounding positive finds is drenched with an approved pesticide (there are three, one of which is a Spinosad product approved for use in organic production), and surrounding trees are sprayed with the treatment (which is a bait). Male pheromone traps and female yeast traps re placed in the area. Utility poles are also sprayed up high. The OFF is a strong flyer.

Q: What else do CSA members and farm customers need to know about the OFF?

MP: The biggest single thing I’d say is: unless it’s already processed (jams and jellies, baked in bread, etc) don’t give away fruit, don’t accept fruit from someone else. Don’t say “I’m going to take this because it’s fine. Look, there’s no bugs on it! He’s my friend and I know he takes care of his plants. One will be OK.” No. This fly doesn’t care how well you take care of your plants, and you can’t see the eggs inside the fruit. It has no natural enemies here.

This is ONLY for a limited time. It’s imperative we get rid of this fly. It’s absolutely the worst pest. I’m sure most folks have heard about the Medfly – well, the list [of host plants] for that is maybe 20 lines long. The list for this fly is 13 PAGES long! Every fruit you can imagine is on it, every fruiting vegetable is on it, and many ornamentals too – even Ylang Ylang, for example.

We cannot allow this fly to become established here, because if it does, it will be truly devastating. So everyone tighten their belts for a couple of months and work together to do this.

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Oriental Fruit Fly

Article written on September 11, 2015 by:

Jeff Wasielewski, Commercial Tropical Fruit Agent, Miami-Dade, UF/IFAS Extension

The Invasion

Sometime before dawn on Wednesday, September 2, 2015, a quarantine went into effect in a 85 square mile area of the Redland housing packing houses, tropical fruit groves, vegetable fields, fruit stands, plant nurseries, and homes. The quarantine is serious business, and a multi-million dollar agricultural industry is at stake.

The quarantine went into effect 24 hours after a public announcement was placed in The Miami Herald, and was prompted by Florida Rule 5B-66, which states “State and federal agricultural officials are mandated to keep the Oriental fruit fly out of this country. Wherever Oriental fruit flies are found in the continental U.S., the pest must be eradicated.”

Tens of thousands of traps lie waiting throughout Florida at any given time with the sole purpose of alerting the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) to the presence of the Oriental Fruit fly and other invasive and destructive species of fruit flies. The FDACS website lists seven previous oriental fruit fly finds and subsequent eradications in Florida.

The Oriental fruit fly, Bactrocera dorsalis, is taken extremely seriously because the species has massive host list of 435 plants; they are the strongest fliers of all the fruit flies, and one female fly lays an average of 600 eggs in 30 days. According to Mark Fagan, the public information specialist of the Division of Plant Industry, a specialized division within FDACS, 30% of females can push out a whopping 50 eggs in a single day, or 1,500 eggs in 30 days.

Females lay their eggs in host fruit or vegetables, then the young hatch and feed on the fruit, effectively making the fruit impossible to sell and unpalatable. The larvae then enter the soil below them, pupate, and emerge as flies to begin the cycle yet again. This fly has the power to completely devastate the multi-million dollar agricultural industry in South Florida and trigger regulations that would cripple the industry and put thousands upon thousands of jobs in jeopardy.

Past finds of the Oriental fruit fly did not trigger quarantines because the number of flies was minimal with the previous high being 12 males and 4 females found in Tampa in 1999.

The Redland invasion of 2015 was markedly different because of the extraordinary quantity of flies captured. After finding a lone male fly in a trap on August 17, outside of the quarantine area, FDACS later found an immediately alarming 45 male flies in a single trap on August 28. The historic 45 fly find was located in the heart of our agricultural industry in South Florida. Male flies are the first to be captured because the traps use a pheromone that tricks the males into thinking he is near a receptive female.

Enhanced trapping and scouting soon turned up even more males, as well as a mango fruit infested with Oriental fruit fly larvae. Co-incident Commander Bryan Benson, of FDACS, called these finds, “an unprecedented amount of Oriental fruit flies…with the capacity to devastate the local agricultural industry.”

FDACS, the USDA, Miami-Dade County, UF/IFAS Extension, and the University of Florida’s Tropical Research and Education Center have worked together, and readily shared information and resources to educate all interested parties about the rules and effects of the quarantine.

The response from the agricultural industry has been tremendous. The Miami-Dade Extension office has already hosted five workshops dedicated to educating the industry, with over 600 people in attendance that were there just so they could do the right thing and help to stop the fly from spreading.

Quarantine Facts:

• A compliance agreement needs to be filled out and signed, in person, with FDACS regulatory staff for any fruit, vegetable growers, packers, or sellers/stands located within the quarantine area that wish to sell or move any of the 435 host plants, vegetables, or fruits during the quarantine. Parties outside of the quarantine area that want to move produce into the area to pack or sell, must also sign a compliance agreement.

• Some nurseries within the quarantine area need to sign a compliance agreement. You can still buy plants from these nurseries as long as the grower has signed the agreement or is selling a product that is not regulated under the quarantine (soil, mulch, rocks, fish, wood products, or any plants that are not near or under a fruit fly host tree or have host fruit on the plant).

• Homeowners located within the quarantine zone cannot move fruit or vegetables on the host list off of their property. They can grow and eat the produce at their home, but cannot, under any circumstance, move the produce off their property until the quarantine is lifted.

• It is possible to sell and buy produce within the quarantine area if the vendor has signed a compliance agreement and is taking the proper precautions (covering produce with approved mesh, bags or cases). If in doubt, ask the vendor if they have signed a compliance agreement.

• Homeowners and fruit and vegetable growers outside of the quarantine area, or not affected by the quarantine because their crop is not in season, do not have to, or need to, spray any additional pesticides, or bait spray. Baits and sprays are part of the compliance agreement, but do not affect others, especially homeowners, and are not needed or recommended.

Stopping the Oriental Fruit Fly

The rules and regulations regarding the quarantine are difficult to complete and understand, but they are necessary to stop the Oriental fruit fly from jumping out of the quarantine area and making life even harder, if not impossible, for the hardworking farmers and agricultural community of the Redland. These men and women are your neighbors and often visit my office completely drenched in sweat after working countless, difficult hours in the fields tending to their crops.

The silver lining could be the fact that the trap and kill program designed for the Oriental fruit fly is, in the words of DPI’s Mark Fagan, “extraordinary”. FDACS men and women are working seven days a week to hang baited traps, strip trees of fruit in the “hot zone”, and to eradicate this destructive fly completely.

This can all go away if the traps remain empty for two full life cycles of the fly. The lifecycle fluctuates based on climatic conditions with hotter temperatures producing lifecycles around 30 days and cooler temperatures pushing the cycle nearer to 45 days. If all goes well, the quarantine could be over by late November or early December.

The Redland is an area unlike any other on the planet. It is home to an incredible array of tropical fruit and vegetables, with crops as well knows as avocados and squash, and as unique as sugar apples and winged beans. Vegetable fields and fruit groves are intermixed and produce crops side by side tended by people as varied and diverse as the very crops they grow. That one of a kind diversity could be lost if the Oriental fruit fly permanently sets up shop in the Redland, so let’s all work together to not let that happen.

Information:

For the quarantine map, a list of the 435 host plants, a copy of the compliance agreement, and more information on the Oriental fruit fly, visit the Fresh From Florida website.

Call the Fresh From Florida Helpline at 1-888-397-1517 to request to be visited to sign a compliance agreement.

Contact Miami-Dade Extension Commercial Tropical Fruit Agent, Jeff Wasielewski, at 305-248-3311, ext. 227 for more information regarding the quarantine and the compliance agreement.

Download the OFF Quarantine Map.

Download the OFF Host list by scientific name.

Download the FDACS Compliance Agreement Cooperative Fruit Fly Eradication Program

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Pepper #30, by Edward Weston

Pepper #30, by Edward Weston

Many years ago, I came across the famous photo of a bell pepper taken by Edward Weston. The pepper was sensuous and and appeared to have a satiny skin. I was transfixed and flummoxed. Where did Weston find such a thing? Turns out he grew the pepper himself. But that didn’t keep me from scouring bins of bell peppers at the grocery stores. Nope, no luck. They were all the same plain boxy shape. No quirks, no twists, no character. Let’s face it, veggies at the supermarket are just plain dull.

Page 42 of the Spring issue, Edible South Florida

Page 42 of the Spring issue, Edible South Florida

It wasn’t until I started hanging out at Bee Heaven Farm taking photos of CSA shares that I came across produce with character. Hallelujah! Of course, I started photographing them! And now, a small part of my collection of wacky veggie pictures has been published on the inside back page of the spring issue of Edible South Florida. Thanks to editor Gretchen Schmidt for selecting the pictures!

Ohhhh myyyyy!!!

Ohhhh myyyyy!!!

Large heirloom tomatoes like to morph various shapes. Carrots get naughty. Daikon are more elegant and like to twist and twine. Eggplants grow noses. And bell peppers tend to grow lobes and knobs. (I still haven’t found one as elegant as Weston’s but that won’t keep me from looking.) Mother Nature is coloring outside the lines.

One man, Jordan Figueiredo, is on a mission to get supermarkets to sell veggies with character, because creating consumer demand for misshapen produce is a good way of reducing food waste. Growers and wholesalers prefer uniformly shaped, blandly “perfect” produce for supermarket sales — and us shoppers have come to expect bland as normal. We lose out on nature’s riotous creativity, which gets wasted, rotten, thrown away.

You can read more about Figueiredo and his mission in the article next to my pictures. His web site lists links for grocery chains, where you can be an ugly veggie activist too. Shoot an email to corporate. Or, ask the produce manager at your favorite grocery store, and remember to keep asking. With enough demand, “uglies” can and will start showing up routinely in grocery stores.

Don’t forget, “uglies” are fun. Over at the farmers market, I’ve seen kids reach first for eggplants with noses, and moms get a giggle at risque carrots. And of course you can start your own collection of produce pictures. Maybe you’ll be the one who finds a pepper as memorable as Weston’s #30.

Dancing daikon

Dancing daikon

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Plethora of peppers

One pound of red jalapeno peppers.

One pound of red jalapeno peppers.

Are you perplexed and puzzled by the plethora of peppers that presented themselves in your prodigious CSA box a couple weeks ago? Ponder no more! Pickle them! I made two different pickles, or ferments, with the peppers. One ferment is with honey, and the other with salt and vinegar.

Three large chopped jalapenos in about a cup of raw wildflower honey. The ferment is about two weeks old.

Three large chopped jalapenos in about a cup of raw wildflower honey. The ferment is about two weeks old.

Hot peppers fermented in honey is simple and fairly quick. Honey is anti-biotic and anti-fungal, and and it makes sense to use it to preserve food. I chopped up three jalapeños, one with seeds and two without, put them in a small jar, and covered them with raw wildflower honey from Bee Heaven Farm. I filled the jar to the shoulder, screwed on the lid. Within a day, the honey grew liquid and syrupy, and by the second day, small bubbles appeared among the chunks of peppers. They were fermenting! I burped the lid every day for a week until the ferment settled.

I started tasting teaspoons of honey on the third day. It was sweet fire! I made a sweet-hot-sour vinaigrette with apple cider vinegar and it was delicious on a green salad. The dressing would be good on a fruit salad too. The hot honey could be used to make a sweet and sour sauce, or simply drizzled on BBQ ribs — or chocolate ice cream. Holy mole! And still-crunchy chunks of sweet pepper could be added to salsa or stir fry for a mellow kick.

Sriracha, day one of fermentation. On the right are seeds saved from five peppers.

Sriracha, day one of fermentation. On the right are seeds saved from five peppers.

That done, I still had three-quarters of a pound of peppers left. It’s too much to eat before they go bad. Time to make hot sauce! And not just any sauce, but sriracha. I found two versions online, one fermented, and one a quick pickle in vinegar. The fermented one caught my imagination.

Out of the 10 peppers left, I seeded half (saved the seeds to grow my own) and cut all of them into chunks. They went into the food processor along with two garlic cloves, some brown sugar and salt. The finely chopped mixture was spooned into a jar and pushed down so its juices would cover as much as possible. It will sit on the kitchen counter for 3 days to ferment. Then the recipe calls for heating the ferment with vinegar, and straining to make the finished sauce. (You could also add a dash of fish sauce for a bit of umami, and maybe a tablespoon of honey to mellow the fire.) Click on the link to get detailed instructions for both versions of sriracha, fermented and vinegar based.

Happy pickling, hot heads!

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Saucy Kohlrabi

White (actually light green) kohlrabi

White (actually light green) kohlrabi

Kohlrabi, that crazy looking bulbous vegetable with large drapey leaves, is at its peak right now. It tastes like a blend of cabbage and turnip, and its name means precisely that — Kohl = cabbage and Rabi = turnip. You can throw it in a salad, or cook it like you would turnips or cabbage. The greens are similar to collards and can be prepared the same way. For those on an ultra-low carb or paleo diet, you can blanch the leaves to soften them, and then use them for wraps.

Kohlrabi started getting harvested in mid-November. It was the mystery dish at farmer Margie Pikarsky’s Thanksgiving Day dinner at the barn. Guests were trying to identify the light colored chunks, covered with sauce and chopped greens. Potatoes? Nein. Kohlrabi? Ja! Give thanks for  that unusual German brassica that was a favorite of Emperor Charlemagne.

Kohlrabi with white sauce

Kohlrabi with white sauce

At Thanksgiving dinner, Margie recounted the tale of when she and her family were traveling in Germany one summer a few years ago. Late in June, they found themselves in the southwestern corner of the country somewhere near Weisbaden. “Imagine a small urban, self-contained neighborhood about six blocks wide, surrounded by farm fields,”  she described. She didn’t remember the name of the town, but she did recall the name of the B&B — the Black Eagle — where they stayed the night. For dinner at the restaurant down the street, they ate farm fresh food.

“I don’t remember the main course,” Margie said, “but they were just starting to harvest peas, so there were baby peas, and baby carrots. They had kohlrabi served with a white sauce made with milk, like scalloped potatoes.” The tour guide they were traveling with said they were eating a typical German farm meal. “Here’s a vegetable you don’t know,” he told the hungry travelers, pointing to the saucy dish. “Nobody from America knows this.” He was expecting to stump Margie, who took a bite and said, “Know this? I grow this!”

In the version of this dish served at Thanksgiving, Margie chopped up the kohlrabi tops, sautéed them until tender, and served them with the bulbs. Mmmm tasty, enjoy!

If you want more kohlrabi and didn’t make it to Pinecrest Market on Sunday, you can go online and order some at the Bee Heaven Farm web store.

Lots of kohlrabi at market.

Lots of kohlrabi at market.

 

Kohlrabi with White Sauce

Ingredients:

4 kohlrabi bulbs, peeled and cubed
Kohlrabi greens, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
oil for sautéing greens

Directions:

1. Place the kohlrabi and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a saucepan. Cover with water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until kohlrabi can be pierced with a fork, but remains firm, about 5 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking water. Place kohlrabi in a bowl, and cover.

2. Place the butter into the same saucepan, and melt over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, and stir until the mixture becomes paste-like and golden brown. Gradually whisk the milk and reserved cooking water from the kohlrabi into the flour mixture, stirring until thick and smooth. Stir in the cream, 1 teaspoon salt, and nutmeg until well blended. Continue whisking until sauce thickens, then cook 10 minutes more. Stir in the kohlrabi, tossing to coat evenly with sauce.

3. Heat oil in another saucepan. Add chopped kohlrabi greens. Cook until tender, and serve with the sauced bulbs.

Serves 8.

Based on the recipe here.

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Red velvet brownies

Yes, they are that red! Bet you can't eat just one.

Yes, they are that red! Bet you can’t eat just one.

Bee Heaven Farm CSA members have gotten beets a few times in their shares this season. There’s a pretty good chance those homely root vegetables are still hanging around somewhere in the back of your refrigerator. Now, don’t get me wrong! I love beets, and grew up eating them — boiled, roasted, pickled. But never in baked goods. Until now…

Beets were the original coloring agent used in some red velvet cake recipes back in the day. They are great for baking because they become sweet when roasted, and hold moisture. Plus, the earthy beet flavor combines beautifully with dark chocolate.

I found this recipe for beet brownies on a lovely food/farm blog, and tweaked it a bit (my changes are in italics). The original recipe calls for a topping of fresh blueberries, which sounds fabulous; but even plain and warm out of the oven, they are scrumptious. I’ve made this recipe several times, and each time the brownies get gobbled up in no time flat, and people beg me for more. Enjoy!

Red Velvet Brownies

•    1 cup of beet puree*
•    3.5 ounces (one bar) of good-quality chocolate (at least 70% dark)
•    3/4 cup all-purpose flour
•    2 teaspoons baking powder
•    pinch salt (about 1/8 tsp)
•    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
•    7 tablespoons butter, softened
•    1/3 cup brown sugar
•    2 eggs, room temperature
•    1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

* Note: Roast about 5 or 6 beets, then let them cool. Using gloves, remove skins, then puree in food processor. If you roast more than you need for the recipe, pureed beets are a delicious side dish dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

1.    Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
2.    Melt chocolate over double-boiler. Set aside.
3.    Whisk together flour with baking powder and salt and set aside.
4.    Cream butter and sugar together. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, until the mixture is creamy. Add melted chocolate, beet puree, flour mixture, and walnuts. Mix well.
5.    Pour batter into 9 x 13 baking pan lined with baking parchment and bake for 25-30 minutes.
6.    Let cool and cut into triangles. Serve with fresh-picked blueberries and share with family.

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They might be giants

One never knows what’s going to turn up in the barn on Friday, when it’s time to pack the CSA shares. Last week, it was zucchini and other squash from Worden Farm. Most were average sized, some maybe a bit on the small side. But, there were a few that Chris Worden slipped in to the order that were a bit larger — “as big as a baseball bat,” he warned Farmer Margie Pikarsky.

Farmer Margie with giant squash.

Farmer Margie with giant squash.

But Margie begged to differ. “This is a bowling pin,” she told me, holding up a yellow squash. “And these are clubs,” she added, holding up two giant green summer squash. They certainly looked like they had heft, and could hurt somebody’s noggin.

Zucchini the size of her arm.

Zucchini the size of her arm.

“It’s the size of your arm,” I pointed out. We put the vegetable side by side with Margie’s forearm, which normally appears sturdy and strong. But next to the giant green club, her forearm looked thin and frail. Now that is a monster of a vegetable!

Stuffing the boats.

Stuffing the boats.

But it didn’t stand a chance against the hungry farmer. Out came a big kitchen knife the size of a machete and whack hack smack the clubs were split in half. Their innards were carved out with a spoon to make boats, no, dugout canoes one could use to traverse the Everglades. Those insides were tossed into a bowl along with heirloom tomatoes, scallions, pepper jack cheese, crumbled organic corn chips, a few seasonings, and maybe a few other scraps that were lying around.

The stuffed zucchini baked in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes. Out came these delicious marvels, one per person. And that was all you needed to fill you up for dinner. Yum!

Bet you can't eat the whole thing!

Bet you can’t eat the whole thing!

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