Saturday, February 25, 2012

Wellington Green Market, Fla: Local Bananas and More

Most bananas are gas ripened but not the ones at Wellington Green Market. They have many Florida grown varieties for sale from as little as $0.50.

Wellington Green Market, Wellington, Fla.

This Saturday morning green market supports local South Florida companies. "The growers' farms are close to the market. So we have attracted busy farmers, with short travel, to retail their just harvested products," said Peter Robinson, Organizer of the Wellington Green Market.

There are also hot pepper and vegetable sellers at the market as well as a tropical sea of other vendors.

NK Lago Farms LLC, Canal Point

Nicholas Larsen of NK Lago Farms, setting up banana
tasting plates at Wellington Green Market, Fla

Nicholas Larsen, owner and farmer of NK Lago Farms is always easy to talk to about his bananas and plantains that are grown approximately 30 miles away.

According to Larsen, the reason store bought banana varieties have very little flavor is that once they are picked and packed, they are stored at 57 degrees Fahrenheit. Then shipped to a grocery store warehouse, where they might sit for two-weeks before going to a store, all the time kept at 57 degrees. Before the bananas go on shelves, they are put in an Ethylene gas (plant hormone) filled room to ripen.

Larsen's bananas are picked fresh and never gas ripened. This means they taste better but might stay green even when ripe.

From them, I bought a Hawaiian banana for $0.50 and a bunch of Gold Finger bananas for $1.

Bruce's Ghost Peppers, Wellington

Bruce and Stacey Ollis of Bruce's Ghost Pepper, at
Wellington Green Market, Fla.

"Our things are very unique and local," says Bruce Ollis, explaining how he grows his ghost peppers (also known as Bhut Jolokia and Naga Jolokia) and processes them right in Wellington. "You'd have to travel to get these or go online," Ollis continues.

According to Ollis, ghost peppers are rated at over one million Scoville heat units. To give you an idea how hot this is, Thai green chilies are in the range of 50,000 to 100,000 Scoville heat units.

Bruce and his wife Stacey started their ghost pepper business ( last year. This is their first green market. They sell dried ghost pepper mixes/rubs/blends, hot sauce starter kits, live ghost pepper plants and seeds.

I bought a packet of curry from them for $5, and was cautioned to use just a little at a time.

Fong Family Farms LLC, Wellington

Robert Fong and Casey Truman of Fong Family Farms at
Wellington Green Market, Fla.

Robert and Maria Fong, and their grand-daughter Casey Truman are always friendly, full of smiles and advice. They grow Chinese vegetables on a 15-acre farm in Wellington, just 10 miles away. Their crop is picked the day before the market and sold at very low prices.

I bought several baby Bok Choy.

Seed To Bloom LLC, Loxahatchee

Richard Raid of Seed To Bloom at Wellington Green
Market, Fla.

They sells their own produce and that of Belle Glade and Boynton Farmers. Laurie Raid, the owner, grows flowers from seed in Loxahatchee, to sell at Florida green markets. Her husband Richard Raid, helps out at the Wellington Green Market.

I bought a head of lettuce and some real baby carrots.

The Wellington Green Market operates from November to the end of April, on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.  There is plenty of parking. It is located at 12165 Forest Hill Blvd., Wellington, FL 33414. 
For more information go to

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Worden Farm, Punta Gorda, Fla: Hosts Organic Workshops

It was Halloween, and Eva and Chris Worden of Worden Farm, Punta Gorda, Florida, played host to Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers Inc. (FOG) workshops.

Worden Farm, site of FOG workshops on wet
Halloween, Punta Gorda, Fla.

It was wet and gloomy, downright spooky for 40 or so Florida organic farm enthusiasts that came for lunch and seminars. Fortunately, the topic and the enthusiasm of the audience sparked a delightful day of education and marketing advice that lifted the "FOG" and delivered much more "treat" than trick.

Seating overflows at Worden Farm day of organic
farming workshops, Punta Gorda, Fla.

Speakers from the University of Florida, and Area Extension offices, spoke on subjects like composting, sustainable pest control, organic fertility methods, and what it takes to become a certified organic farm.

Weed identification workshop, Worden Farm Day of FOG
workshops, Punta Gorda, Fla.

There was a weed identification session, where I struggled to tell the difference between the different types of Nut Sedge leaves, being passed around the room, even after the instructor pointed them out.

Mitch Blumenthal, owner of Global Organic Specialty Source Inc,
at Worden Farm FOG marketing workshop,
Punta Gorda, Fla.

In the marketing workshop, Mitch Blumenthal, owner of Global Organic Specialty Source Inc. (organic produce supplier), said, "Now it's all about local and it's all about regional. We support the small farmer."

Eva Worden, Marty Mesh, and Chris Worden talking
to audience at FOG day of workshops,
Worden Farm, Punta Gorda, Fla.

Eva and Chris Worden, also spoke at the marketing workshop on the ways they promote their farm to the general public. There were even a few farm-to-school conversations and ways farmers could approach the school districts.

Then, Marty Mesh, Executive Director of FOG, got up and spoke about his continued challenges and successes advocating for the rights of sustainable and organic farmers.

Chris Worden, giving tour of his farm during FOG event,
Punta Gorda, Fla.

After almost six hours of seminars, attendees received a treat. Chris Worden invited the audience to take a walking tour of his farm. Despite mud puddles and rain drops, a stroll through a certified organic farm was just what the crowd needed.

If you're interested in organic farming, take a look at the FOG website Established in 1987, this not-for-profit corporation promotes and supports organic and sustainable farmers through educational and advocacy efforts with policy makers, businesses, and the general public.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Simply Sweetened: Vegan Baked Goods in Tequesta, Fla

Delicious vegan cookies made with coconut and maple syrup, yum. All with organic ingredients.

Owner of Simply Sweetened, Alex Ande, doesn't like the aftertaste of agave or stevia. She spent three years developing her recipes, cooking for friends and family. Then in 2011, she launched her baking brand under the cottage food operations laws.

I met her at the December session of the Tequesta Green Market, Florida. She had two types of cookies for sale: ginger, and coconut macaroons. I bought a bag of ginger cookies for $3.

To order her cookies you can either call her at 561-371-9405 or email her at

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pedal Powered Smoothies at Tequesta Green Market, Fla.

At the Tequesta Green Market, Florida, you can bike for your beverage. At least that's what most of the kids do at the Wheelie Good Smoothie booth.

Jacob rides bike as Danielle Vennett holds onto blender,
Wheelie Good Smoothies, Tequesta Green Market,
The bike was a special order from a California based company called Fender Blender. For just $4 you can make your own pedal powered smoothie.

The booth is run by the Burrito Bros. Restaurant in Jupiter. It is a local bicycle riders hangout. The Fender Blender bicycle was just a window display until the Tequesta Green Market started.

I got someone else to blend my berry drink. Maybe next time I power my own.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Locally Sourced French Toast: Florida Style

I am continuing with my list of locally sourced dishes from Florida. This week it is French Toast.

Florida Sourced French Toast with Cane Syrup

The bread was made by Bread By Johnny, purchased at the Tequesta Green Market (Tequesta); Eggs in the batter came from Cowart Ranch, purchased from the ranch (Sumterville); Cane Syrup made by Steve Melton, purchased at Melton Machinery Museum (Dade City); bananas from NK Lago Farms LLC, purchased at Wellington Green Market (Wellington); and strawberries from JG Ranch, purchased on the ranch (Brooksville).

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Voodoo Wicked LLC, Sth Fla: Local Ingredients Lovers

In Florida, it can be hard to find food companies that source local ingredients. But, Voodoo Wicked LLC of Lake Worth does, and goes one step further by sourcing from the green markets where they sell.

Jerry Rappelets, Royston and Margo Hunte, owners of
Voodoo Wicked LLC, Florida

I met owners Jerry Rappelets, and Royston and Margo Hunte at the Wellington Green Market. They are all long time foodies and friends, who work in the insurance industry during the week and sell Voodoo Wicked on the weekend. Donna Rappelets, another owner and wife to Jerry, was not there for the chat.

Jerry is from Louisiana and Royston from the Caribbean. They saw what markets were like in their hometowns and wanted to bring that feel to Florida.

Years ago, a hunter friend of Jerry gave him some game meat to make into jerky. His friends and family loved it. Someone suggested he try selling it. In August 2011, Voodoo Wicked became a certified vendor. They now make jellies and jams, grass-fed beef jerky, and specialty items.

Their products are selling well. "The key is to have fresh ingredients. Plus it's good for local business," said Royston, "If we come across an ingredient we need in a market, it works." He pointed to the Fong Family Farm stall, a few feet away to the west, and said, "We use their jalapeno and bell peppers." They also get ghost peppers from Bruce's Ghost Peppers, directly opposite them.

They believe strongly in supporting local and selling their products at green markets, "We want to stay in touch with community and local markets. It keeps us grounded. And it's a great way to interact with people and find out what they want," said Jerry.

In the future, they plan to have gator jerky, and a strawberry/basil jam with berries from Wellington Green Market's produce seller Falinda Rios, a few stalls to the east of them.

They source pecans from Georgia, grapefruits from Florida, and grass-fed beef from North Florida farms.

I tried some of their jerky and bought a bag of Ginger Wicked Voodoo Wicked Beef Jerky for $5. Royston said if I bought four bags I could get them for $4 each, but one was enough for me.

Only their jerky and spiced pecans are available online at . To buy the rest of their products you'll have to visit them at the Wellington (Sat 8-1pm), Lake Worth, and Deerfield Beach (every other Sunday in March) Green Markets.

updated Feb. 11 at 1 pm.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

American Tea Plantation: South Carolina Style

I 've been a tea drinker for decades usually from sources in China and India. So, I was surprised a few years ago to find an American tea plantation in South Carolina called the Charleston Tea Plantation.

Rows of tea bushes at Charleston Tea Plantation, Wadmalaw Island, S.C.

In 2010, I went on a tram-tour through just a fraction of the 127-acre plantation. They were growing over 300 varieties of the Camellia sinensis tea plant. They said they physically removed all insect pests because they could not spray the plants.

I bought several cans of loose tea: First Flush, Breakfast, and Green. I also found out that Firefly Sweet Tea vodka and bourbon was made with Charleston Tea Plantation tea.

Fast forward to 2012, having brunch at Micheal's Genuine Food and Drink, a farm-to-table restaurant in Miami, Florida. The menu lists Charleston, South Carolina, Anson Mills grits as one of the regionally sourced foods. But nowhere on the menu is there a mention of the other Charleston area product---Tea.

I went to the plantation's website to make sure they were still selling to the public and found they were. They were also selling wholesale.

Charleston Tea Plantation gift shop in 2010,
Wadmalaw Island, S.C.
The website did not have any First Flush tea for sale because it is a very seasonal style. It is made from the first clipping of tea leaves at the beginning of the growing season.

They are owned by Bigelow Tea now, but are allowed to sell from the plantation under their own label.
The Charleston Tea Plantation is located 6617 Maybank Hwy, Wadmalaw Island, S.C. 29487
Phone: 843-559-0383


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Recycled Rice Sac Rug Sales in Florida Feeds Dominican Families

Beautify your house and save a Dominican family from hunger. The rugs are something you'd expect to see for sale in Manhattan or other big city market. But BleuVerd Group is selling them at South Florida green markets.

Dulce and daughter Samantha Ortiz showing rice sac backing
of recycled rug, BleuVerd Group, South Florida

Co-owner Dulce Ortiz, from Dominican Republic, said she and her sister saw a need to help the poor families of her country. In 2011, they formed BlueVerd Group and started signing on rural Dominican artisans to make the Pelizza (pronounced pe-gee-zah) style rugs for them. "We are trying to generate work for people that are going hungry," said Ortiz.

The families are given cloth in either cotton or polyester, which is then torn into pieces, and tied into the rice sacs. This makes the rugs machine washable. The rugs sell from $10 (extra small) to $79 (extra large).

Cedar boxes and cow-horn jewelry by Dominican artisans,
BleuVerd Group, South Florida

She also sells cedar boxes and cow-horn jewelry, all made by Dominican artisans. After the cow is processed for meat, their horns are made into bracelets, rings, necklaces, and belts. "We use every part of the cow," said Ortiz.

BlueVerd Group orders small batches of rugs and crafts, from different artisans in the country areas. "We want to generate work for a few days and a meal for them for a few days," Ortiz said. As the company learns what size jewelry Americans like, so do the artisans. "What fits our artisans doesn't necessarily fit our customers here," said Ortiz.

She and her sister are not making a profit as yet, that's why they are keeping their day jobs. Ortiz works as a court reporter and her sister represents Dominican exporters. They pay for everything out of pocket, like shipping the rugs and crafts from the Dominican Republic to Florida. "It is a charitable contribution at the moment," said Ortiz, "In Dominican Republic, we have the heart. We are great humanitarians."

In the future, they plan to turn over part of their profits to charities in their country.

Dulce Ortiz displaying large recycled rice sac rug made
by Dominican artisans for BleuVerd Group,
South Florida

The BleuVerd Group has three brands: Isle Bleu, Naturally Ethnic, and Truly Ethnic.
You can find their rugs and jewelry for sale, every other week, at the Wellington Green Market (Sat 8-1pm) and Lake Park Green Market (Sun 11-3pm). You can also purchase directly from their website

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chocolate Festival, Fairchild Tropical Garden, Miami, Fla. Updated Jan 2018

In January, I went, with a few thousand other people, to the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden's 6th Annual International Chocolate Festival in Miami, Florida. There were interactive demonstration booths, chocolatiers, and food vendors all working with chocolate.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden 6th Annual
International Festival, Miami, Fla.

In one tent, American Heritage Chocolate, sponsored by Mars, there was an assembly-line style display showing all the steps to make chocolate from bean-to-bar.

American Heritage Chocolate tent at Fairchild Tropical Garden
6th Annual International Chocolate Festival,
Miami, Fla.

People could try their skills at hand grinding the chocolate using a wooden rolling pin on a carving board. The prize at the end, was a sample of creamy hot chocolate made with water. I bought two chocolate sticks for $1.50 each.

American Heritage hot chocolate
made with water

One of my favorite areas of the Fairchild Chocolate Festival was inside the Garden Center. There, chocolate vendors were selling their products and giving out small tasty samples. I pushed my way in, seemed I was not the only one that thought this was the best part of the festival.

I was immediately drawn to the gourmet tuffles by Oliver Kita Fine Confections made with New York State sourced ingredients.

Oliver Kita at Fairchild Tropical Garden 6th Annual
International Chocolate Festival, Miami, Fla.

He was handing out small winter inspired truffles made with NY state mint and decorated with a snowflake. On the side of his booth there were stacks of vegan chocolate Buddhas. Unfortunately, he did not have any vegan samples. I bought three truffles for $5, and went back later for another three

Oliver Kita's vegan chocolate Buddhas

Then I walked over to Pacari Ecuadorian Organic Chocolate. They are a socially responsible, sustainable company representing 2500 growers in Ecuador. They purchase their organic ingredients only from small certified organic farms.

Pacari Ecuadorian Organic Chocolate at Fairchild Tropical
Garden 6th Annual International Chocolate Festival
Miami, Fla.

They were selling many types of bars and flavor combinations including one raw chocolate (unroasted beans) with Spirulina (vegetarian protein). I tried it and was happily surprised by the flavor--chocolate. I also tried a piece of 100 percent cacao, raw bar style, and found it full of flavor even thought it was sugarless. I bought a combo four pack for $20, that included both raw and regular bars. All their chocolates are vegan.

Romanicos at Fairchild Tropical Garden 6th Annual
International Chocolate Festival, Miami, Fla.

The spiciest chocolate I ate at the festival was from Miami based Romanicos. It was dairy and gluten-free, and made with so much cayenne pepper that it left my taste buds dazed for minutes.

Meals That Heal at Fairchild Tropical Garden 6th
Annual International Chocolate Festival, Miami, Fla.

Outside, I walked straight over to the food court, I was hungry after all that chocolate. Not really, I was just looking for more chocolate to taste. I stopped at Treats That Heal by Meals That Heal for a bite of a raw-vegan dark chocolate truffle made with agave nectar. It was good for a raw treat.

Real Sorbet at Fairchild Tropical Garden 6th Annual
International Chocolate Festival, Miami, Fla.

I finished my chocolate eating tour at Real Sorbet, a farm-to-table food cart. I tried their Bee Heaven Farm sourced Chocolate Beet with candied walnuts. But the beet flavor was too mild for me. So, I bought a regular sized cup of Black Sapote Hazelnut, for $4. Nice flavor. They are now closed.

Black Sapote Hazelnut sorbet by
by Real Sorbet, Miami, Fla.

I loved the chocolate sources at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and I look forward to next year's event in 2013.

Updated January 2018

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My Florida Locally Sourced Slow Cook Chicken

Recently, I was in Central Florida for an event called AgriTunity, and got inspired to make a dish using ingredients from that area.

When I arrived home I adapted a slow-cook recipe, and centered it around a pasture-raised chicken I got from Cowart Ranch in Sumterville, Florida.

Danny Cowart, the rancher, told me I needed to cook the bird "Low and Slow," because it was raised with lots of exercise and was very lean. If I cooked it any other way, it would be too tough to eat, he said.

I also got some Melton Machinery Museum 100 percent Pure Sugar Cane Syrup, made by Steve Melton in Dade City. It tasted like a very mild molasses because when he harvested his sugar cane he did it without burning it.

The recipe called for many ingredients, some were foreign like soy sauce, ginger, snow peas, and pineapple juice. While others were local, like brown sugar (Belle Glade, FL), bell pepper (Boynton Beach, FL), and garlic (CA). I substituted a tablespoon of cane syrup for brown sugar. And cooked the bird for eight long slow hours at the lowest setting of the cooker.

The end result was the delicious, partially local Florida sourced, dish shown below.

I have another dish in mind for the Dade City sugar cane syrup. So come back in a short while for more Florida locally sourced dishes.