Posts Tagged ‘Possum Trot Nursery’

The dinner table is perhaps the most powerful and delicious place to plant the seeds of change; the return to simple truths, change, and wisdom all go hand in hand. Our first step toward change can be to pause when we take our first bite and think about our connections with food. Aha! Understanding this connection is the essence of the Earth Dinner.
– Theresa Marquez, founder of Earth Dinner

Earth Dinner is a new holiday tradition meant to celebrate Earth Day. It was started four seven years ago by Organic Valley and Chefs Collaborative as a way to gather friends and loved ones around the table for a fresh, seasonal meal made of local ingredients. The focus of the Dinner is to have a meaningful conversation about the food — where it came from, how it was grown or harvested, and who grew it. So it was only natural that farmer Margie Pikarsky and grower/chef Robert Barnum would organize their own Earth Dinner,  held the weekend after Earth Day.

Earth Dinner at Possum Trot Tropical Fruit Nursery.

Call it extreme locavore. The challenge was to source all ingredients — except for flour and olive oil — from what was available locally. And so the hunting and foraging began. Chef Michael Schwartz  donated wild boar he had hunted himself together with local fisherman George Figueroa of Trigger Seafood, who donated cobia. Hani Khouri provided cheese and milk from his goats. Large beautiful heirloom tomatoes came from grower Teena Borek. Callaloo came from Three Sisters Farm, and a variety of herbs and vegetables from Bee Heaven Farm. Winemaker Peter Schnebly donated two kinds of local fruit wine. And a plethora of fruit came from Robert’s own grove.

At the wood smoker, Weber bastes wild boar and Sadie checks multi-color potatoes.

Margie and her crew volunteered to help clean and cook, and Robert’s friends pitched in. Preparations took days and went up to the last minute. When I arrived an hour before dinner, a plume of blue smoke chugged from the wood smoker outside the house, as wild boar and multi-color potatoes cooked inside. Both kitchens were humming with activity as helpers chopped, stirred, snipped and tossed. In the dining room, two long tables were covered with white linen and glittered with fine china, glassware and silver. Centerpieces of mixed flowers — food for local bees — from Bee Heaven Farm graced the tables. Glass goblets were stocked with braided breadsticks that had been baked in the wood oven and looked like branches plucked from the grove. Even the sea salt was local, produced by a small company in the Florida Keys.

Donna and James Patrick smell crushed bay rum leaves.

While there was still daylight before dinner, Robert offered guests a short tour of his 40 acre property. Everything he grows is useful in some way. He pointed out bay rum, lemon bay and citronella outside the house, and invited guests to crush leaves and smell different scents. Jaboticaba was nearby, with small, unripe berries growing on its trunk. It bears fruit three or four times a year. Robert harvests the berries for wine, of which we got a taste later in the dinner. Guests strolled through the grove and saw macadamia, mango, and lychee trees (to name just a few of the edibles that I recognized).

<< to be continued >>

Robert Barnum holds up a jaboticaba fruit.

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Miami Herald food writer Nancy Ancrum has fallen in love with Robert Barnum’s lavender vichyssoise. (Those of you who attended the Potato Pandemonium last year may remember its pale purple color and delicate taste.) She has written about it — and gives an advance preview of the Earth Dinner on Saturday night.

Spuds star

By Nancy Ancrum

Potatoes aren’t the first crop that comes to mind when you think of the Redland. They probably don’t even come in second or third — or ninth or tenth.But Robert Barnum, a South Miami-Dade farmer and entrepreneur, gathers a bumper crop of spuds each season from a plot of ground up the road from his 40-acre property. And they will play a delicious role on Saturday when he opens his home to 45 diners who have made reservations for his multi-course — and belated — Earth Day dinner.“The state of Maine, every year, grows about 200 different varieties of potatoes that they have available for seed,” Barnum says.“They have to grow them to determine there’s no virus in the seed – they call it ‘virus indexing.’ And when they finish growing the crop out back of me in the glade, about a quarter mile away, they plow them under.”

Barnum has permission to pick them back out. “I get a terrific variety of colors, shapes, sizes, flavors, textures, chemistry.”

Saturday’s locally focused menu will include boar from the Lake Okeechobee area, grass-fed beef from Destin and sea salt from the Keys.

Barnum will use purple and blue potatoes, among others, to make lavender vichyssoise, which he will serve with multicolored potato chips.

Read the rest of the article here.

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Earth Dinner Celebration
A Possum Trot Experience

Featuring local seasonal organic produce from Redland farms

Saturday, April 30th, 6 p.m.
at Possum Trot Tropical Fruit Nursery

Guests will be treated to a brief farm tour followed by a 7-course farm dinner prepared by Possum Trot owner, the “Cantankerous Chef” Robert Barnum, using ingredients exclusively* grown or produced within the South Florida Greater Everglades Foodshed (Lake Okeechobee south to Key West).
*except flour & olive oil


Okeechobee wild boar, Florida grass-fed beef, wild-caught local fish
Redland grown seasonal vegetables and fruit
Local tropical fruit wines
Goat cheese

Producers: Bee Heaven Farm, Hani’s Mediterranean Organics, Possum Trot Tropical Fruit Nursery, Three Sisters Farm, Miguel Bode Honey, Florida Keys Sea Salt, Schnebly Redland’s Winery

Wild-caught fish and boar donated by Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink and Trigger Seafood

Part of a series of Earth Dinners sponsored by The Chefs Collaborative and Organic Valley

Get Tickets Now! $130 per person.
Attendance limited. Advance reservations required by April 25th.

Possum Trot Tropical Fruit Nursery is located in the Redland farming area south of Miami, next door to the Monkey Jungle.

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Rangpur lime

Rangpur lime on the left, and persian lime on the right. The rangpur is a bit bigger than a golf ball. No, it is not an orange, it’s a lime.

Rangpur lime is one of the more unusual fruits at the Redland Organics tent. The fruit is round and greenish-orange, bigger than a persian lime and about the size of a golf ball. Its flavor is both tart and sweet, similar to tangerine. These limes don’t look like limes, but they are. You could use this instead of the usual lime for a different twist on flavor, and once you taste the fruit, you’re hooked. Recently, I had the chance to taste pie made with rangpur instead of key lime, and it was amazingly delicious, with an almost orange-y flavor but still tart, making key lime pie taste almost too sour by comparison.

If you want to try some of these unusual limes, I saw Farmer Margie had a bin full of them at the Roots in the City Farmers Market on Wednesday. If she didn’t sell out, there might be some available on Sunday at the Pinecrest market.

Half-devoured rangpur lime pie. I had to work fast to photograph it before it was all gone. Yes, it was that good!

These rangpur limes were grown at Possum Trot Tropical Fruit Nursery but originate from Rangpur, India, thus the name. Robert Barnum says he has a couple trees which he’s been growing for about 30 years. He claims these lime trees seem to resist canker and “tolerate” greening, two afflictions that have had quite an impact on Florida citrus. He said that most of the citrus he has on his property have died from greening, but rangpur lime is about the only one that still stands up to it.

If you are interested in growing your own rangpur lime, Robert has a few seedlings available for sale. To propogate this tree, you can air layer or grow from seed. This lime is fairly sturdy and will tolerate heat up to 130 degrees, along with too much sun, rain, or salt air. The tree reaches a height of 6 to 8 feet and spreads about 12 feet wide. It can be trained or pruned, and grows well in a container on a patio or balcony. It takes about 3 to 5 years to come to fruit when planted from seed.

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Robert just loves some jakfruit.

Last week was the start of a new CSA season, and to kick things off, The Cantankerous Chef AKA Robert Barnum invited Farmer Margie and her crew of interns, apprentices and volunteers to come over for dinner at his Possum Trot Tropical Fruit Nursery. Every CSA season, Margie has a different group of people picking and packing all the goodies you get in your share box. This year’s helpers are Jane, Liberty, Helene, Tomas, Eric and Lauren. They have come from as near as Florida and as far as Michigan and Europe to work at Bee Heaven for the season.

The group arrived at Possum Trot just as the sun was starting to set. Robert offered an abbreviated tour of his 40-acre grove before dinner. We strolled down a grassy path and paused from time to time as he pointed out various trees. (This is by no means a complete list of what grows at Possum Trot.) He has: osceola tangerine, macadamia (squirrels pillage the nuts), grumichama (which has a cherry-like fruit), jaboticaba, pithacyillobium (its sawdust will stain your skin blue, really!), a giant brassus palm killed by last winter’s freeze and still standing, mamoncillo, Central American walnut, several jakfruit loaded with fruit, sugar palm, oil palm, and Orinoco banana. Over in the lychee section, golden orb weaver spiders had spun their webs overhead, and appeared to float against the darkening sky. As we walked and listened to Robert’s spiel about his trees, the twilight grew deeper and an almost-full moon rose over the tree tops. It was getting too dark to see, so we headed back to the farm house where we were greeted by the mouthwatering aroma of bread baking.

The Crunchy Bunch: Liberty, Helene, Robert, David, Eric, Lauren, Jane, Tomas. Not seen: Margie, Marian.

The menu was curried pork with local organic green beans (which were still crisp and crunchy), white rice, avocado salad, a mixed organic greens salad made by Margie’s crew, and bread still warm from the oven. We had a lively discussion on how we liked our beans cooked. It was determined that that there are two kinds of people when it comes to beans — those who like them crunchy, and those who prefer them soft. Everyone at the table agreed that they preferred crunchy green beans, then somebody suggested that we were the Crunchy Bunch…

Mamey-pineapple-banana ice cream, with a dab of cas guava ice cream at the bottom.

I didn’t realize how hungry I was until I started eating, and forgot to photograph my plate before it was devoured. I guess that means it was good! Robert scooped up homemade mamey-pineapple-banana ice cream, which was outrageously smooth and creamy. Banana mellowed mamey, but pineapple was a bit shy.

After dinner, we broke out the wine. Robert’s friend David Weingast, who had joined us for dinner, brought a California organic petite sirah. (David’s Organic Company ships Robert’s fruit.) Robert produced two bottles of his home brewed bignay wine. One tasted much like a merlot, and the other was a sweet dessert wine made with champagne yeast. The Crunchy Bunch sipped and sampled and picked their favorites. The dessert bignay got a lot of votes. It was a pleasant end to a delicious meal, and the Bunch enjoyed their last easy night before the frenzy of the CSA season began.

For lunch or dinner reservations, trees, fruit and/or a tour of Possum Trot, contact Robert Barnum at 305-235-1768 or possumplentious@yahoo.com.

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Robert Barnum AKA the Cantankerous Chef sent me an email about a recent event at his place, Possum Trot Tropical Fruit Nursery. Text and photos by Robert.

Possum Trot hosted 16 Brazilian farmers for lunch and a tour on October 28th. They were on a South Florida farm tour after attending the PMA (Produce Marketing Association) meeting in Orlando. The farmers first visited Burr’s Berry Farm, and owner Charles Burr and his wife accompanied them for lunch here. Stuffed jackfruit pouches and boiled jackfruit seeds, with pumpkin sauerkraut soup, and wood oven fired bread sticks started out the meal. Wood oven roasted betel potato and carrots, and carambola glazed wood roasted chicken followed as the main course. Carambola pie with cas guava ice cream finished the meal. Homemade jaboticaba and bignay tropical fruit wines accompanied the meal. A tour of the plantings finished my portion of their farm tour day of South Florida.

The Cantankerous Chef would be delighted to host your next event. Lunch or dinner includes a tour of his 40 acre grove of tropical fruit trees. For information and reservations, call Robert Barnum at 305-235-1768 or email possumplentious(at)yahoo.com.

Tropical table setting of cas guava, star fruit, longans and rangpur limes, all grown at Possum Trot. Carafes contain jaboticaba and bignay fruit wines. Only the pumpkin isn't local!

Brazilian framers and the Burrs seated at the rustic table in Robert Barnum's home.

Bread that had been baked in the outdoors wood oven.

Wood oven roasted chicken, and betel-seasoned potatos and carrots.

Brazilian farmers with Robert Barnum (back row, third from right).

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Three very local ice cream makers presented their frozen creations at the Ice Cream Social at Bee Heaven Farm on the Fourth of July. All of the flavors were made from local, tropical fruit. Two fruits — lychee or mamey — were common to all three ice cream makers, and each brought at least one more flavor. Guests got a ballot when they checked in, and voted on their favorite flavors. (For official results, go see the Bee Heaven Farm blog.) Altogether, a person could indulge in more than 10 different flavors of ice cream and sorbet — a locavore ice cream eater’s heaven!

Hani Khouri and his ice cream scooper ready to go!

Hani Khouri, of Hani’s Mediterranean Organics, has been making ice cream with fresh goat milk for about two years now. He was definitely the artisan of the group. All ingredients were super local — goat milk from his herd of Nubian goats, fruit from Redland groves, and even local sugar. Hani bought guarapo, or sugar cane juice squeezed from locally grown cane, and evaporated it slowly over a low heat to molasses, then cooked it longer to get a brown sugar similar to panela. That process alone took several days.

His mamey ice cream tasted mellow and fruity. Lychee was sweet but not too sweet. Lime was most unusual, bright yellow from turmeric, more on the savory side with ginger, cinnamon and other spices added for flavoring. It wasn’t obviously lime-y, and seemed to change flavor with every spoonful. Very interesting, because I hadn’t considered savory as a possible direction for ice cream (or sorbet). Hani also brought a pale yellow, sweet-tart cas guava ice cream with a light refreshing flavor. Saw passion fruit ice cream circulating, but didn’t get a chance to taste it. Overall, Hani’s ice cream was very light and refreshing, and the fruit flavors of lychee and mamey were bright and clear. The home made sugar gave a slightly gritty texture, and the lime ice cream also had little bits of lemon zest in its texture. Goat milk has a slightly tangy after taste that seems to work best with tart flavors. This summer I like cas guava very much (my new favorite?), and last summer I liked arazá, another sour tropical fruit that is impossible to eat by itself but was terrific in ice cream.

You can order ice cream online at Hani’s Mediterranean Organics. There are two pick up locations. In Dade, pick up at Sous Chef 2 Go, and in Broward, pick up your order at BM Organics.

Enid and Albert Harum

Gabrielle Berryer of Gaby’s Farm ice cream is the queen of the local ice cream scene. She has been making her frozen goodies from local fruits for 15 years and retailing for the last 5 years. Black sapote was the first flavor that she introduced to the public at the Fruit and Spice Park, and since then her line has expanded to 30 flavors, which are locally produced. All fruit is locally grown, and most comes from her two-and-a-half acre farm.

Lev and Liz discovering Gaby's mamey ice cream.

Gaby brought mamey, guava and canistel ice creams, and lychee sorbet. Her ice cream flavors taste more creamy than fruity, and the texture is silky smooth. Overall, her ice cream tastes and feels a lot like store bought. Dark pink mamey tasted much like a milk shake. Light pink guava was incredible combined with a slice of mango pie. (Yes, there was pie — and cookies too.) Canistel was egg yolk yellow (that’s why it’s also called egg fruit) and likeable with the addition of cream and sugar, but I’m still not a big fan. It could be more exciting if pumpkin pie spices were blended in. Lychee sorbet had a clear fruit flavor and was quite refreshing, but just a tad sweet.

Find Gaby’s Farm ice cream at area Whole Foods, Fruit and Spice Park, Schnebly’s Winery and various local hotels.

Katie Edwards with ballot in hand and one of the candidates.

Robert Barnum was the jack of all trades of the bunch. He brought the above-mentioned mango pie — and pie lovers, this one was for you! It was very tasty, especially with guava ice cream. Two Pie Are Squared, as he called it, was baked in two large sheet pans. He joked that he used “rectangular mangoes” for the pie filling. “I never do anything normal,” he explained. Rectangular or not, the mangoes were his very own Yellow Bellied Possum variety. Robert also brought lychee and peach ice creams and white sapote sorbet.

Mmmmmmmm mango pie!

Most intriguing was his Florida peach ice cream. Yes, peaches do grow here, and don’t let those Georgia folks tell you otherwise. Robert has several Red Ceylon trees, a wild naturalized variety that was cultivated in his grove since the 1950’s. The fruit has white flesh, red at the seed, with a pale green skin that never turns peachy yellow. The ice cream made with those peaches was rosy pink with little flecks of darker red skin and tasted sweet-sour, peachy-ish, a bit like strawberry but not quite. Robert explained that he picked early to keep fruit flies from infesting the peaches, “to keep the protein content down,” he chuckled. The fruit hadn’t completely ripened by the time it was mixed into ice cream. Would love to taste the ice cream made with a more ripe fruit, but it was pretty good the way it was.

Robert also brought lychee ice cream, which tasted pretty good, having a nice balance between fruit and cream, and wasn’t outrageously sweet. The daring experiment of the bunch was white sapote sorbet, sweetened with local honey instead of palm sugar. To my tongue, which was already addled by sugar from the other two ice cream makers, this combination of fruit and sweetener had a slightly bitter bite. Robert describes the fruit as having an “astringent” flavor. Am not sure about this one, but then, I don’t remember if I’ve even tasted white sapote fruit. But I saw other people enjoying the sorbet’s unusual qualities, so it could just be me, spoiled by sweetness.

Head over to Possum Trot, Robert’s place,  for dinner and a tour of his 40 acre grove, one of the last bits of Old Florida left in the area. And best of all, you can ask him to make ice cream and pie for dessert! If you want to grow your own Red Ceylon peaches, seedlings will be available next spring.

Possum Trot Tropical Fruit Nursery
14955 SW 214th St
Miami, FL 33187-4602

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