Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

I'm glad this year is over and I'm looking forward to 2012. Tonight I'm relaxing with family and eating some Florida seafood, most notably Florida lobsters, which I've decided are my favorite.

Here are my eating local resolutions:

1. Eat more locally grown and produced foods! Duh.

2. To not kill my plants.

3. To write entries on this blog faithfully.

4. To waste less food.

5. To eat fewer animal products. Here's an article to help if that's your resolution too.

6. To get out of this awful cooking rut I've been stuck in lately.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

In The Garden

I recently discovered the Sun Sentinel's monthly "In the Garden" feature. It tells you what gardening chores to do each month and what to plant at this time of the year. I found it very thorough and informative. Check out January in the Garden.

Thanks Sun-Sentinel!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hey I Like Fruit for Christmas!

Bah Humbug Pete Wells. In his New York Times Essay last week, Pete Wells jokingly complains about receiving Florida oranges as a Christmas gift and says he has a relative who sends a box ever year. Readers, that person, at least in my family, is me. I send my relatives boxes of Florida citrus for the holidays each year. I'm guilty. I do it because I want to send a little of our sub-tropical sunshine to the dark and gloomy northern climes this time of year. I send the fruit because it's better than fruitcake. Because I love my relatives and don't want them to get scurvy. Just kidding. I send the oranges and grapefruits because I aspire to give my loved ones presents that are healthy and I think the orange and yellow citrus fruits are cheerful and delicious. They love them, or at least they say they do.

This year I used Hale Groves. I ordered online and the prices were reasonable and service was outstanding. I'm not being paid or otherwise asked to shill here. I found Hale Groves through a google search and used them by my own choice and they did a good job getting my gifts delivered on time and in good condition. I was very pleased.

Wells includes a recipe at the end of his essay for using the orange peels which I thought was brilliant. I love the idea of not wasting any of the fruit and I never thought to candy orange peels with rosemary, which grows very well down here as a matter of fact, so this recipe could be totally local-friendly. Orange and rosemary together? Yum-eee. I think I'll try it.

An Ugly-ish Orange Tree


I took a walk around my neighborhood this morning and when I'm out, I'm always looking to see what edibles people grow in their yards. The answer is usually not a lot, but today I found an orange tree in a friend's yard that is full of oranges. Many had fallen and the tree is taller than a one story house, so it looks like maybe the fruits are being ignored because they're too high to pick or the homeowner (ahem George, Jr.) just doesn't care. Maybe I'll ask him if I can have them.

The oranges look pretty ugly. I don't know if this is because they're diseased or because I'm too used to seeing grocery store citrus, which by the way, often has dye added to the peels to make the fruit more enticing. These oranges were even uglier than organics though and it got me thinking. I hardly ever see citrus trees around anymore. Most of South Florida's citrus trees were destroyed in a mass slaughter designed to protect the Central Florida commercial crops from citrus canker. The rest have perished due to citrus greening disease, which I just learned is incurable and always fatal to the tree. I wonder if this tree has one of those afflictions and that's why the oranges look like this. Maybe it's the variety? Who knows? Anyone have any theories?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bok Choy

My brother in-law harvested a lot of bok choy from the vegetable garden today! It grew easily and quickly from seed and the bugs didn't mess with it. So far the bok choy has yielded the biggest harvest, which is good because I got to have some of the surplus! I love bok choy's mild flavor, being that I can't stand anything even slightly bitter and that rules out a lot of greens for me. Bok choy can be used in all sorts of steamed Asian dishes and stir fries but I prefer to sautee it quickly in a little oil with sliced garlic, ginger, hot peppers and a drizzle of sesame oil. Season with soy sauce and serve over brown rice or as a side dish with just about anything. And check out this article on the six health benefits of bok choy. It's high in folic acid and vitamin C.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas! It's certainly a warm holiday this year, unlike the past two years. This morning we were all in our bathing suits playing in the hose out in the backyard and I'm actually wearing shorts. Just in time for Christmas our West Indian Calabaza, started from seeds I saved from a squash bought at Whole Foods, opened its first blossom. Look how pretty! It's a perfect yellow star, just in time for Christmas. May all your holidays be as merry and bright as this flower.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Chanukah with Pomegranates














Today is the third day of Chanukah, the eight day Jewish festival of lights and what better way to honor this holiday than with pomegranates? Pomegranates are a symbol of abundance and fertility in many faiths and mythologies but they figure very prominently in Judaism. Legend has it that each pomegranate has 613 seeds, the same as the number of laws in the Torah. I don't know if this is true or not and I can't imagine someone tediously counting out the seeds in several pomegranates to make sure the number is accurate, but I think some suspension of disbelief is necessary when it comes to most religious lore. Another reason why pomegranates are big in Judaism is their shape. The top of each fruit is crowned with a Star of David, which you can see in the picture above.

We planted a pomegranate tree outside our bedroom window a few months ago and it's doing magnificently so far. Two weeks ago it exploded in the most brilliant red orange blossoms. After a few days the petals fall off leaving the baby fruit behind to grow, and that also looks like a flower, but has a firmer texture like the peel of the mature fruit. It's such a beautiful tree and I really hope it makes out ok in this climate. Two of our baby poms fell off their branches and I had to incorporate them into our Christmas decor, and I hope the rest don't suffer the same fate. I'd love to pick and eat a pomegranate that I grew myself, though I have no desire to count the seeds!

Pomegranates have become so popular in the last few years due to their health benefits (lots of antioxidants in that ruby juice). They've really been kind of faddish and you can find pomegranate in everything now, even shampoo. They've always been an expensive fruit, but I think their popularity has made them more costly, so I'm hoping to have at least a few free pomegranates every year from now on, but we'll see. As a beginning gardener here, I tend to err on the side of pessimism and hope to be pleasantly surprised when the things I plant don't die. In the meantime, I'm enjoying the tree as a gorgeous ornamental. It's so pretty.

Here is a site where I find information about how to keep my pomegranate tree alive.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Alexa Produce Revisited


Out of all the posts I've written on here, I've received the most nasty comments regarding my visit to Alexa Produce on Oakland Park Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. I went there when they first opened, twice actually, and wasn't impressed. This really offended a lot of people apparently and since so many were willing to defend the place I had to go back and see if I was wrong. This morning I decided to go back and found that a lot had changed. The store is clean, well stocked and has a good variety of fruits and vegetables at extremely low prices. It was pleasant inside and was doing a brisk business, so they must be doing something right. In addition to produce they also sold breads, olives and a few condiments.

Here's the thing though. They don't have a lot of locally grown, or Florida grown for that matter, items for sale. I want farmers markets and produce stands to sell more local products and that has always been my complaint. On the other hand, I'd rather support a small local business instead of a huge grocery corporation, so I bought my fruits and vegetables here anyway even though they weren't local. Plus, they were cheap. I'm talking ridiculously inexpensive here. I couldn't believe it and thought the checker had made an error. I bought two enormous bags of fruits and vegetables and the total was only $12.61. It would have been twice that at Publix I bet and let's not even talk about Whole Foods, which I can't even drive past without seventy-five dollars disappearing mysteriously from my bank account.

Alexa Produce, I wish you sold more locally grown products but your store is clean, pretty and you have a wonderful selection at fantastically cheap prices. I will be a regular from now on. I'm glad I went back and tried it again.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Muscadines



We planted muscadines along the north side of our fence on kind a whim. My husband found the plant at Costco of all places and if you know my husband you'll understand how this happened. The man, God love him, has a thing for Costco. When he dies, his version of heaven will be a giant warehouse of bargains in bulk.

I was first introduced to muscadines, which are a kind of grape, when I lived in Atlanta. They have a thick skin and seeds like a concord grape, along with the same astringency. They make your throat scratchy, but they're also addictively delicious, which is why they're so popular in the deep south where they grow best. There, I've seen them incorporated into all sorts of creative recipes and made into wine, though most often they're eaten plain and their appearance sometime mid-September always marks the beginning of the fall harvest season.

Doubtful that muscadines would grow here in South Florida, I did a little research and hoped for the best when we planted the pot in the ground. Unfortunately, and this is a tremendous peeve I have, nurseries and garden centers down here often sell plants that are not suited to a sub-tropical climate, but it turns out that muscadines are a grape that actually will grow in Florida.

So far so good. The muscadines seem to be enjoying their new home. The vines have plenty of new growth and have sent runners spiraling up their trellis. We've watered regularly and put a fertilizer spike for fruits into the sandy soil where the vine is planted, but other than that we haven't done a lot. I guess whatever we did is working because we have fruit! When the grapes turn a darker shade of bronze,which looks like it will happen shortly, I'll pick them and have a mini-feast (if you can call six grapes a feast).

Here is a site that gave us some good information about growing muscadines down here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ellenville Moonlit Farmer's Market Tonight

Farmer Jay Pure Organics says don't forget to stop by the Ellenville Moonlit Farmer's Market in Boca Raton this evening from 4-8pm. You can call 561-245-7347 for more information on the event. There will be an extensive list of Florida grown (YAY!) fruits and veggies and even locally grown, farm fresh eggs, which is pretty exciting. You can find out more detailed information on Farmer Jay's facebook page here. I'm still trying to figure out where exactly the event takes place and when I get that information I'll update.

Sunflowers

There is nothing prettier than sunflowers against a blue sky. My sister, who now lives next door to me, planted these against our shared fence (they're on her side technically, but I'm enjoying them just the same). She planted them from seeds and they grew to be this tall in six weeks. We're allowing the seeds to ripen and dry and then we plan on roasting and eating them. Sunflower seeds are delicious and very healthy. They are very high in linoleic acid and Vitamin E. Wikipedia has a thorough sunflower seed entry that I found interesting (partly because who one earth would feel so passionately about sunflower seeds that they'd want to write a wiki on them?). Ours are the striped variety that I've always enjoyed eating. The birds and squirrels like them as much as I do, so hopefully they'll leave us some.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I'm Back!

After a year and a half break, I'm back and I've decided to blog about eating local in South Florida again! It's time. I miss it and I have a lot of things to write about.

In the past year and a half, I have had a baby (she's 14 months old now!), moved, renovated an entire house and a yard and nearly finished writing a memoir. My life is completely different now than when I started this blog. I used to teach, but for now I'm a stay at home mom, which was a big adjustment and I've finally found my groove again.

One of the things I'm most excited about is my edible yard, which is still evolving. I can't wait to give you all a tour.

The photo above was taken this morning and it was the inspiration for coming back to blogging. We planted a guava tree a couple of months ago and this morning it bloomed! You should smell the flowers - a bit like orange blossoms and beautiful.

It's good to be back. Is anyone still there?