Posts Tagged ‘Muriel Olivares’

Hot chilis, the heart of kimchee.

I first met Muriel Olivares last year at Bee Heaven Farm, where she was farm manager for the season. Not only did she help things run smoothly, but she was always making interesting things with the veggies that were in the barn that week. One Friday I discovered that she had brine pickled a gigantic jar of French breakfast radishes, and I blogged about it here. Another Friday it was a big batch of kimchee — garlicky, peppery, a bit pungent, and totally amazing.

I’d learned how to make vinegary quick pickles from Hiromi, another farm intern from a few years ago, but fermentation was new to me. So when I got Muriel’s email that she was going to hold a kimchee making workshop at her Little River Market Garden, I jumped at the chance. Finally I would learn her secrets!

Urban farmer Muriel Olivares at her outdoor kitchen.

About two dozen people were thinking the same way and showed up too. Located in a leafy, secluded corner of northeast Miami, Muriel’s city-lot-sized garden had been transformed from a grassy vacant yard with a few fruit trees to a flourishing mini-farm, complete with wood fired pizza oven and outdoor kitchen. It was there that Muriel was set up with all the necessary tools and ingredients, including a restaurant-sized tub of chopped and brined Napa cabbage.

Getting a sniff of chili paste. This is what preserves the cabbage and other vegetables.

The recipe is posted on three different blogs — Little River Market Garden, My Edible Yard, and mango&lime — so I won’t repeat the exact details. Suffice to say that the ratio is 2 parts cabbage (about one head of Napa or bok choy) to one part radish/daikon/turnip and 2 cups of chili paste. (Carrots, half as much as daikon, can be used to sweeten it a bit.) The heart of the matter is the freshly-made chili paste. Muriel made it with several onions, a prodigious amount of garlic, half as much of ginger, and plenty of fresh and dried hot peppers, which were moistened with cider vinegar, a bit of honey and a bit of olive oil. (OK, so the oil isn’t truly authentic, but Argentineans use olive oil for everything.) She blended it together and soon the thick aroma of peppers and garlic wafted over us sitting in the nearby chairs. “Chili paste is what preserves kimchee,” Muriel said, explaining that garlic and peppers have antibacterial qualities. “Salt is not what’s keeping it sterile.”

Olivia and Muriel mixing all the ingredients. Don’t forget gloves if you mix a big batch by hand. The peppers will burn!

An assistant was drafted and the yellow gloves came on to mix the tub full of copped vegetables and chili paste. It smelled great and everybody crowded around to smell the spicy aroma, take pictures and fill their empty jars to take home.

But now the real fun begins. Kimchee is fermented food, and there wasn’t enough vinegar to pickle it, so preservation has to come from other means. Muriel advised to leave the open jar out on the counter for as long as three days. At home, I took the lid off the jar, weighed down the contents with a plastic bag of water, and covered it with a coffee filter held down with a rubber band. No refrigeration allows natural fermentation to begin. Muriel had cautioned to set the jar in a shallow bowl or dish, because liquid would come out. Sure enough, it did for several days, along with a strong odor. “Liquid comes out as the bacteria metabolize, which releases gas bubbles, which makes water rise over the top, ” Muriel explained in an email.

Ara, who writes My Edible Yard blog, shoots it out with me. Say kimchee!

My jar stayed out for five days, just to see what would happen next, and liquid stopped seeping out on the fourth or fifth day. Took the filter and bag off, leaving about an inch of space, and put the lid back on. The jar of kimchee is now sitting in the refrigerator. “Putting a lid on it and putting it in the fridge dramatically slows down fermentation (bacteria metabolism) so liquid will stop coming out.  A little pressure may form in the jar so it’s good to leave a small space (meaning not full to the top),” Muriel added in her email.

Kimchee can stay out longer, I was told by Farmer Margie, and then keep in the frig for months (if it doesn’t get all eaten). It would only be fitting to bring the jar to Bee Heaven’s barn, where my discoveries in fermentation began, and try it out on this season’s interns and apprentices. Stay tuned!

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The Fall 2010 issue of Edible South Florida has a wonderful photo essay about the women farmers among us. Get to know Muriel Olivares, Teena Borek, Margie Pikarsky, Gabriele Marewski and Alice Pena.

The magazine is free at Whole Foods (look in the produce section) in Dade and Broward counties, and other locations around town.

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Happy Thankgiving to all my readers out there! When you sit down to your holiday feast, don’t forget to give thanks for all the farmers who worked hard to bring you those fresh, local organic green beans, maybe the heritage turkey, and the other delicious things on your table.

Thanks to Margie Pikarsky of Bee Heaven Farm, and her family and helpers for providing me with some of the freshest and healthiest food I’ve eaten, and for extending their friendship, kindness and generosity. Thanks also (in no particular order) to Chris and Eva Worden, Robert Barnum, Dan Howard, Hani and Mary Lee Khouri, Cliff Middleton, Gabrielle Marewski, Steven Green, Muriel Olivares, Miguel Bode and Mario Yanez.

This blog wouldn’t exist without their cooperation. Their farms wouldn’t exist without your support. Eat local!

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Sunday, October 17th Rain or Shine
From 10am-3pm
at the Little River Market Garden
8290 NE 4th Ave.
Street parking all along our block


Heirloom tomato seedling ready for transplanting into your garden. Photo by Muriel Olivares.


We’ve prepared a really nice selection of our favorite varieties, mostly heirloom, grown in 65% homemade compost and 35% sphagnum peat moss. NO chemicals, NO pesticides.

All plants are in 4″ re-used plastic pots.

$4.00 each, every 5 get one free!

All seed packets are $3.00 each.


Bring boxes, carts or bags to carry your seedlings home.


CHERRY TOMATOES: Sungold, Black Cherry, Amish Red, Ghost Cherry
SAUCE TOMATOES: Amish Paste, Federele
SLICING TOMATOES: Cherokee Purple, Gold Medal, Lime Green Salad, Florida Pink, Black Prince, Green Zebra
PEPPERS: Golden Hot, Early Jalapeno, Biscayne Cubanelle, Antohi Romanian
EGGPLANTS: Orient Charm, Black Coral, Long Italian Purple, Raveena
BASIL: Genovese Basil

*Luffa Gourd, *Mustard, *Gandules a.k.a Pigeon Peas, Sunhemp, Buckwheat, Cow Peas

*There will also be a small selection of seeds for sale.  These are plants that grow very well in our climate and most of them make good cover crops.

For more information:

web site: Little River Market Garden
phone: 786-991-4329

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Hey there Redland Ramblers! This is guest blogger Melissa Contreras, founder of Urban Oasis Project. Last night, a group of Redland and Miami farmers and I returned home after a weekend at the 2nd Small Farms/Alternative Enterprises Conference in Kissimmee.  I have always been a farmer wannabe, and as such, I grow food for my family, my pet bunnies,  and a few friends on my 1/4 acre “urban homestead” in Kendall.  I was happy to learn at the conference that this small scale of growing is now being officially considered as part of our local food system, as it should be! The University of Florida/IFAS Extension isn’t just for big farmers and agribusiness, we little people count too!

Cast of characters on this road trip included Bee Heaven Farmer Margie, husband Nick, their new farm manager Jane;  Muriel of Little River Market Garden, Mario of Guara Ki Farm, and me.  Meeting up at Bee Heaven Farm, we shared a ride in Margie’s van, and took the scenic route around the shores of Lake Okeechobee on US 27. It was beautiful! Cows and egrets mingled in green pastures, Nick spotted a sandhill crane, and tri-color herons searched for underwater snacks near the water’s edge. Along the way, through what was once a river of grass, we saw fields of sugarcane (some organic), and picturesque views which reminded me that while South Florida is often thought of as a metropolitan built environment,  it still belongs to Mother Nature, though altered. Hopefully Everglades restoration will return the river of grass to its rightful owner.

After 4 hours on the road, we arrived  and checked into our hotel, the posh and sophisticated Super 8. Hey, we’re on a budget, OK?  I shared a suite with Margie, Nick, and Jane.  After repeated promises to Jane that I would not confuse her with my husband in the middle of the night, she decided to sleep on the couch.  But, I digress.  We had a nice lunch in restored historic downtown Kissimmee, an old cowboy town with a lovely lakefront, unique and colorful wooden homes with gingerbread mill work, unusual eateries and watering holes like ” The Wicked Stepsister,” a nice antique shop,  and so much more. Next time you’re in the neighborhood, take a break from the Orlando area tourist traps and visit this authentic town.

After lunch, we proceeded to the Osceola Heritage Center, site of the next day’s convention, for meetings of the Greater Everglades Foodshed Alliance, the Florida Food Policy Council, and a pre-conference pow-wow with Extension agents from all over Florida. The Greater Everglades Foodshed Alliance meeting was a recap of the Food Summit for interested parties.  The Florida Food Policy Council will “bring together stakeholders from diverse food-related sectors to examine how the food system is operating and to develop recommendations on how to improve it. FPCs may take many forms, but are typically either commissioned by state or local government, or predominately a grassroots effort. Food policy councils have been successful at educating officials and the public, shaping public policy, improving coordination between existing programs, and starting new programs.” (definition from foodsecurity.org). We are forming a soon-to-be Miami food policy council. (Contact Mario if you have a stake in our local food system and want to participate in this new effort.)

Those who attended the informal Friday meetings were also invited to sit in on the pre-conference event for UF/IFAS Extension agents, in which  Dr. Danielle Treadwell, Dr. Mickey Swisher, and Sarasota Extension’s new Director and doctoral candidate Evangeline “Van” Linkous  talked about our changing food system from their different points of view and varying expertise.  Dr. Treadwell champions UF research in organic and sustainable farming, and feels that “educating consumers is an important part of what we do.”  Dr. Swisher said she was surprised to discover the “30 mile problem” in which  “disadvantaged communities in Florida’s urban areas often live 30-40 miles from areas where fresh produce is grown.”  Van’s background is in planning and she was a member of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Council before coming back to Florida from Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania. She feels that much urban zoning could be converted to mixed-use, which could mean urban farms and farm stands could be located within high-density urban populations, giving urbanites more access to local, fresh food. A kindred spirit! We are quite lucky to have these three women in Extension.

So, if you’re catching on to a theme here, the conference tagline was “Sustaining Small Farms…Strengthening Florida’s Communities.”  There was much excitement among attendees on that Friday before the conference, seeing our major research institutions catching onto interests of so many people in local food,  and food justice as a paradigm shift from our current system. Further illustrating this point is the choice of keynote speaker for the conference: my personal hero, Will Allen, founder of  Growing Power, Inc.

I will write more about Saturday of the conference in the next post:  keynote speaker Will Allen, the three Florida Innovative Farmer Award winners, conference workshops, amazing local foods lunch and more! Come back  for more, including pictures!

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