Tuesday, January 31, 2012

White Fly Torment

Rage people, rage. That's all I can say. White Flies are killing some of my favorite edible plants. Last Spring, I got the most beautiful jalapeno plant from Bedner's Farms in Delray and it produced prolifically. I had to pickle the peppers because there were so many and I didn't want them to go to waste, but soon my plant started looking sick and I saw that the undersides of its leaves were covered in this weird white dusty stuff. I had no idea what it was. I soon learned about white flies, a common and extremely annoying pest to South Florida gardeners. The flies lay their eggs on the undersides of certain leaves and the resulting larvae hook their mouth into the leaves and suck out all the juice, eventually killing the plant.

White flies suck.

My jalapeno plant died, but only because I didn't know what to do. Now, I'm a little more prepared to deal with the nasty little parasites and just in time because they've infested my guava and my Florida Hass trees. I'm going to wipe them out this time.

I sought advice from some gardening experts I met at the Bonnet House orchid festival in mid-December. To get rid of white flies you can easily use a variety of pesticides, but I don't like chemicals and refuse to use them, especially with a baby who likes to wander around the gardening sampling all the treats she finds. I want to get rid of white flies safely. The experts recommended several solutions and here they are in list form:

Ways to Safely Eradicate White Fly

1. Plant marigolds around the plants the white flies have infested. They hate the smell of the flowers.

2. Plant rosemary too. Same as above. Bonus - you can eat the rosemary. Yum.

3. Grate a bar of Ivory soap into water and let it dissolve. Add vegetable oil to the mixture and spray the infected leaves daily. Apparently just using Ivory Liquid doesn't work because it's different from the bar variety.

4. Blast the SOBs off with the hose every day. I've been enjoying this method considerably.

5. Spray the leaves with Neem Oil. Neem oil is an all natural and very stinky oil from India that is used as an insect deterrent. I've also heard that it can be effective in treating yourself if you get scabies or chiggers, which I hope you never do because they're worse than white flies.

6. Douse your plants with sour milk. This method is less appealing to me because it's gross and because it's a waste of good food.

7. Pee on your plants. I'm not kidding. I wish I were. The gardening experts actually said this, though I think this method would be much easier for a man than a woman and really, do you want to be peeing all over your yard? I'm not sure that's a good idea. It might offend your neighbors.

Good Luck banishing your pests. Please let me know if anyone has any other ideas on how best to kill these stupid things. I'm on a mission. White flies, you're going down.

More white fly info here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Best Thing I Have Ever Smelled - Meyer Lemon Blossoms

One of the things I most love about living in Florida is the yearly citrus bloom. If you drive up through central Florida when the orange groves are in blossom you could just die from the beautiful smell. Heaven must smell like a blooming orange grove. Last week I encountered this Meyer lemon, all in flower, at the Urban Farmer. I wish you could smell this picture and my goodness, who knew that Meyer lemons made purple flowers? Another reason to love them, as if I needed one. Meyer lemons are my favorite because they're mild and taste like a tangerine and a lemon combined, which I've heard some people say they are and some people say they aren't, so I'm not sure. Here is the Meyer lemon wiki so you can read up on them if you're interested.

In other flowery news, I just noticed a cluster of buds about to open on my grapefruit tree and then I looked out the window just now to see that my mango tree is also blossoming. Yay!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Urban Foraging - Papayas in Fort Lauderdale

I hate to see good food go to waste, especially when there are plenty of hungry people around who'd love to have it. That's why I think urban foraging is a good idea, as long as you aren't stealing, because there's a difference. Depending on where you live, there are several varieties of edibles growing wild all around you. In New York, lots of people forage for wild greens and fruit in the parks, though this is being discouraged. In other cities edibles grow on abandoned and foreclosed properties and are left to rot. This article discusses that problem, which we have a case of right here in Fort Lauderdale, barely a mile from where I live.

Last year the big Borders on East Sunrise by the Galleria Mall went out of business leaving behind a big, ,empty building with an overgrown parking lot. Every time I drive past there I see three papaya trees, two mature and one smaller just loaded with fruit that no one is going to pick and eat and it drives me crazy. What a waste. Someone needs to go get them. They're pretty high up, so you'd need to show up prepared with a ladder and fruit picker unless you want to wait for them to fall on the ground, in which case they'd be rotten and over ripe. You can eat papaya before it's ripe too. It's featured in a popular and delicious Thai salad that is kind of like a slaw. The ripe fruit is good too. It kind of stinks, but it tastes good with a squeeze of lime and is extraordinarily healthful to eat. Papaya contains enzymes that help digestion. It makes an excellent baby food when it's mashed. My baby likes it a lot. So do I.

I hope these papayas (there are at least thirty) don't go to waste. All I can think of when I pass are people going hungry while rats feast on fruit.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Local Breakfast

I had a local breakfast this morning, but unfortunately, local and organic doesn't always mean good. This grapefruit was as tart as a lemon. Wow, was it sour. Luckily I had plenty of Florida grown and produced sugar to tame it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Rainbow Carrots

I couldn't resist these gorgeous rainbow carrots grown by Erickson Farm. Yes, they were three bucks a bunch and that's like fifty cents per carrot, but how often do you see purple carrots? Or pink carrots? Or local carrots period for that matter? Now I have to decide what to do with them. I like carrots roasted in olive oil with some onion, leeks or shallots.

And Here's What We Bought...

How pretty is a collection of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables? I think I buy by color and it's very healthy to plan meals around color. The more color, the more nutrients. So, this isn't a lot of stuff, and it cost sixteen dollars, which is pretty pricey. I could've gotten three times this amount at Alexa, but this produce is fresher, all organic and all local, so you have to take that into account. Doing the right thing isn't always cheap and it's a sacrifice I can make now and then, plus the quality and flavor is so much better.

Success at The Urban Farmer!

I had a wonderful experience at the Urban Farmer's Green Market yesterday. Really, you have to go. It's everything I've been looking for in a local farmer's market! All of the produce was actually grown around here. Can you believe it? I was in shock. There was a great variety of tropical fruits and vegetables for sale, as well as booths selling crafts, jellies made from local fruit, dips, local honey and gluten free breads. We even bought the baby a homemade hair bow with a kitty on it, which she loved. Also available for purchase were fruit trees, seedlings, seeds, garden supplies, Florida Keys sea salt, Florida grown rice, cool locavore tee shirts (I should've bought one) and really cute handmade aprons. I was excited to see some unique produce for sale like Hawaiian plantains, sapodilla, pickled starfruit, rainbow carrots and some interesting varieties of banana. The green market is going to be held every third Sunday of the month from now on and they hope to expand it to every first and third if all goes well, so let's get out there and show these guys some well deserved support. This place is what I've been looking for and it just had really positive energy.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Coral Ridge Outdoor Green Market

I was driving down Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale this morning when I noticed a sign for the Coral Ridge Outdoor Green Market, which is located on the southeast corner of the intersection of Federal Highway and Oakland Park Boulevard. I turned into the parking lot to check it out and was disappointed when I saw that the one produce tent contained boxes of fruits and vegetables clearly marked Dole, Andy Boy etc. Not local stuff. Just buying the same produce you can find at Publix outside again. There was also another tent selling orchids and one selling breads. Hey, at least they don't call it farmer's market right? You can visit the Outdoor Green Market every Saturday between 9am and 3pm. It's a nice idea, but not what I was looking for. I'll hold out for the Urban Farmer tomorrow. In any case, I'd like to mention that the Outdoor Green Market is located in the same plaza as two fantastic restaurants: The Hi-Life Cafe and The Hibiscus Cafe. Both are hidden gems and absolutely worth a try.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Urban Farmer Green Market

I got this email today and I am super excited, beyond excited, about this. I think people are finally starting to get the message. We want local produce at our farmer's markets! We want stuff grown around here. A farmer's market is about more than shopping outside. Come Sunday and support this new endeavor. It looks like it's going to be a great event.

Green Market at The Urban Farmer

Locally made crafts, food, and produce

The Urban Farmer is hosting our inaugural Green Market on Sunday, January 15th from 9am to 1pm. We will have beautiful fresh, local produce, artisanal products, and local crafts.

Bring the kids and enjoy a morning supporting your local community and enjoying the best in Florida grown produce.

Where & When
1730 North Powerline Road, Pompano Beach
January 15th, 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

Eggplant Blossoms

The eggplants are blooming! Aren't they a lovely shade of purple? The whole plant is purple, from the leaves to the stems to the flowers and eventual fruit. Purple is my favorite color and I'm generally a fan of eggplant as long as it doesn't sting my mouth. Salting and rinsing cut pieces of eggplant is supposed to help reduce the acidity but it doesn't always. I wonder if there's anything else I can do?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Who Says Hass Avocados Don't Grow in Florida?

People got so mad when I wrote about how I can't stand Florida avocados that I still get comments on those old posts. I really got it handed to me on this subject, which seems ridiculous because honestly, who cares what someone else likes or doesn't like to eat? I was corrected numerous time about even calling them Florida avocados. I guess that isn't politically correct. A couple years later, I stand my ground. I only like Hass avocados and anyone who has a problem with that can suck it. You might also be interested in knowing that I can't stand mayonnaise. Does that cause you similar ire? I don't like salmon either. Thank God that's not local.

I've been told for years that Hass avocados won't grow in Florida but you know what? It isn't true. My grandmother has proved this wrong by growing, from seed, a Hass avocado that bore plenty of fruit. There's the photographic evidence above with her four fruit on the bottom compared with a commercial, California or Mexican Hass from Publix.

About six or seven years ago my grandmother, who lives in one of those old folks' communities up in Delray, started growing a tree from a seed using the toothpick/ glass of water method of avocado cultivation. It got bigger and she put it in a pot. When it outgrew the pot, she put it in the ground outside her front door and it just kept growing. This year it finally fruited and made enough that she brought us some because she couldn't eat them all.

Unfortunately, several of her avocados were stolen by landscapers but she caught them red handed and made them return the fruits even after they tried to lie about taking them. This is a big, big problem down here. I was even told to put all my fruit trees in the backyard because people have no qualms about stealing fruit right out of other people's yards. I can't even imagine, but I've caught strangers stealing mangoes and lychees from my neighbors many times. How rude. I'm so glad my grandmother, who is the most tenacious human being I've ever met, had the nerve to confront the thieves and get her fruit back.

These avocados are a little on the small side, and I was afraid maybe they wouldn't taste good, but lo and behold - they taste even better than store bought avocados. Way better. They were even more rich and buttery and perhaps this is because they were allowed to ripen on the tree. I honestly don't know. Maybe the smaller size made the flavor more concentrated?

So there you have it. Hass avocados will grow in Florida.

By the way, and more on this later, my husband and I purchased a small avocado tree known as a Florida Hass, which is specifically formulated to thrive in this climate. It's doing well so far but is much too young for fruit yet.