Thursday, July 14, 2011

Miami Culinary Institute Official Opening

Phew, what a blast we had! The official opening of the Miami Culinary Institute’s edible garden could not have been more beautiful. The magical energy in the air was incredible, as it always is when everyone is gathered to celebrate the unveiling of their collaborative efforts alongside friends, family, and newcomers. Over 100 people – students, administrators, and passerby alike – joined us for the opening!

Right before the opening, we were worried because of the rainy weather forecast. But the rain was turned out to be the perfect christening of the garden. Throughout the entire duration of the presentation, the rain fell and fell. But right when it was time to give the tour of the garden, the rain let up, leaving everything with beautiful droplets upon their leaves and flowers. The rain also served as a reminder to us of Mother Nature, and her amazing powers to perpetuate the cycle and recycle of rain and growth.

The garden was installed by Natural Greenscapes. Natural Greenscapes is a newly formed partnership between Gabriele and Diane Sugimoto, which plans, installs, and transforms commercial urban spaces into luscious edible greeneries. Both are excited to have been a part of what they and the Miami Culinary Institute are calling a new Soil to Soil initiative. This cutting edge initiative effects change in how future chefs come to know their ingredients – fresh, local, seasonal, and sustainable. In a world that is full of scientific food manipulation such as GMO and monoculture farming, this living classroom affords the students an intimate relationship with good healthy food. Food scraps from the Institute’s kitchen will also be composted and used in the garden for a true ‘soil to soil’ sustainable process.

Before After

(notice how much happier the Royal Poinciana tree at the bottom right is after some TLC!)

Since its inception, Gabriele has been honored to be a part of this amazing initiative. This is the first edible garden associated with a public culinary school in the US and we are hoping it is the first of many. She would like to give a most appreciative thank you to the MCI culinary team, under the direction of Chef Rich Achaia; John Richards and Victoria Nodarse of Miami Dade College; Diane Sugimoto, partner of Natural Greenscapes; and the local community; for their tremendous efforts and awesome support. Thank you, thank you.

For those interested, Gabriele will also be teaching a class as part of the Institute’s Enthusiasts Program, as the garden becomes the platform for growing culinary gardeners.

Pictures are worth a thousand words, so here are some more from the opening:

John Richards, Director of MCI, admiring a lime tree.

Just imagine: we cannot wait for the chain link fence to be covered with trellising plants! In another year, this garden will look even more transformed and plush with plants!

The Natural Greenscapes team!

Food compliments of the garden and the students!

The deep blue clitoria flowers are from our farm as they had not yet flowered in the garden. All food was prepared by MCI students!

Having some fun, inspired by Grant Woods ‘American Gothic’ painting!

Notice in the background how everything has taken amazingly - all the plants are just thriving in their new home! Paradise Farms and Natural Greenscapes feel like proud parents!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Farm tour

We had received numerous phone calls and emails from individuals who wanted to take a tour of our farm. Excited energy is certainly contagious and so we had decided to open our farm to the public for a tour!
The tour went great! We were so excited to talk organic gardening as this was a group that came specifically for a tour of our farm. It might be July, but there was still much to see, smell, and taste on our lush farm. I think the favorite part of the tour group was the cranberry hibiscus. This beautiful plant is makes an attractive leafy addition to any garden and the leaves and flowers are both edible. The leaves are slightly tart, maybe even a hint salty. Either way, they make a tasty and eye-catching addition to any salad. They could even be used as a garnish for a dish that needs a little tang on top of every bite. I did a quick Google search of cranberry hibiscus and found that the flowers are commonly made into a smoothie with a little sugar and lime. I personally have only had the leaves in salad, but I would imagine the flowers would make a delicious smoothie! (Who doesn’t love a smoothie?!)

Everyone had a blast. We inspired many to begin a backyard organic garden and we felt ‘mission accomplished’! The tour was this past Saturday and despite the warming summer months and subtropical rainy season, beautiful weather prevailed! Not one rain drop fell from the time that the first guest arrived to the time that the very last guest left. As soon as we exchanged goodbyes with the last guest, the sky broke and heavy rain drops began to fall.