Friday, October 23, 2009
We bet you didn’t know there were pink mushrooms, because neither did we until we came across them in a spawn catalog. The first ones “bloomed” mid-October; we say bloomed since they really look like roses. The pink is the hue of a seashell or coral. Our mushroom expert Benjamin says he has never seen such a beautiful color and shape.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Why be a slave to the grocery store when you can grow your own fresh produce? Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s annual Edible Garden Festival, which begins October 24, presents a weekend’s worth of lectures, cooking demonstrations, plant and farm vendors, and even a scarecrow contest so you can get growing. Our farm owner Gabriele Marewski talks about edible landscaping on Saturday at 1 p.m. The festival continues Sunday, October 25. Last year we learned how to make the most incredible pumpkin ice cream pie.
Like wine aficionados bring favorite vintages from their personal cellars when they dine out, we bring the Baby Brassica Blend (BBB) from our farm. This practice may seem crazy, but one taste of these greens, and you’ll understand why we prefer ours. Who would think the salad could be the best part of the meal?
BBB grows in 22 large beds forming a circle at the heart of the farm. After preparing beds with the right soil mixture, we hand seed in furrows; each bed holds a single variety such as arugula, mustard, kale or mizuna, among others. Beds are rotated, so greens are at different stages of growth; one may have just been seeded, while another is ready for harvest, which is done with scissors. The reward is a great salad.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Beyond the beauty, one of the biggest surprises for farm guests is how much work goes into every little morsel. This year we took on the added challenge of growing most of our food, about 50 items, from seed. Though tedious work, the advantages of starting from scratch are cost, as well as healthier, stronger crops since they’ve been acclimated to the farm’s soil and climate from the get-go.
The right soil blend is crucial; we’re constantly making huge batches of compost. While filling up hundreds of shallow germination trays in the grow-house, seeds are planted in multiples in furrows, or singly in holes, as is the case with nasturtium flowers, which have big seeds. Produce that’s transplanted and harvested in bunches like spring onion is planted in cell trays for efficiency.
Once plants enter the seedling phase, which takes from four days to four weeks here, we prick (thin) them out into new trays, so they have more room to grow. Healthy space is also achieved by creating an equidistant pattern, such as row of 6 plants followed by a row of 5 and then repeated until the tray is full. Depending on which variety you’re working with, this can take an hour to the whole day; snapdragons, for example, are so tiny and delicate, they make you cross-eyed from concentration.
But compared to farmers up north, we can’t complain. Thanks to our balmy weather, we don’t have to heat trays. Our timeframe is much faster too. Whereas peppers may take weeks to emerge into seedlings up north, they only take about 5 days here.
After growing in the shade—Florida’s intense sun scorches young, tender leaves—for another 4-6 weeks, plants are ready to be transplanted into the ground in raised beds of rich soil. But the work is never done. With restaurant orders and weekly farmer’s markets, it’s grow, grow, grow, harvest, harvest, harvest.
So if you thought your job was long and hard, think again!
Below are pictures of compost, cell trays filled with compost
seedlings in furrows before "pricking out", seedlings after "pricking out"
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Fruit on the tree
Makes a great shade tree, too!
Friday, October 2, 2009
Please swing by our booth this Sunday, October 4, for the 1st annual Acufest: A Festival of Acupuncture & Healthy Living at the Biltmore in Coral Gables. Along with participants from the acupuncture community, there will be organic food and wine tastings, culinary demonstrations, yoga and more. Acufest.org
We are growing magic mushrooms of a different kind. They get you high on cuisine! Seriously, these oyster mushrooms are so gorgeous, we can’t stop staring at them. They have more pleats than an Issey Miyake gown and more layers than a mille feuille cake. And that’s just how they look—we haven’t gotten to how they taste. No more ordinary mushrooms for us or our customers!
Benjamin, a mushroom expert from Ghana, set up our operation and takes care of the entire, lengthy process. Since we’re mushroom novices, we help with the easier parts like stuffing plastic bags with a soil blend. Then we attach a piece of PVC pipe around the top with a rubber band for a small opening, so it’s ready for the mycelium. Though we are getting faster, nobody comes close to Benjamin, who can prepare 150 bags per day.
We’ll have more details about this wonderful new item soon. First we need a few more lessons from Benjamin.