Thursday, June 27, 2013

Florida Tomato, Watermelon, Blueberry Savory Salad

Florida grown summer salad is a great way to cool off from the heat. The recipe below was inspired by a fruit gazpacho I had at The Floridian Restaurant in St. Augustine, last week.
Florida grown starting ingredients for savory salad
I made it with similar ingredients but did not blend them into soup. All the fresh ingredients were grown in Florida, the salt was not.

The tomatoes came from H & H Berry Farms, Montverde, Fla; the watermelon came from Dade City, Fla; the blueberries came from Green Acres Fernery & Citrus Inc in Yalaha, Fla; and the Thai basil came from my backyard, West Palm Beach, Fla.

I diced two tomatoes, four cups of watermelon, and added one and a half cups of blueberries.
Florida grown savory watermelon, tomato, blueberry salad
Then I tossed the salad with one eight of a teaspoon of salt, and two six inch long sprigs of Thai basil flowers.

And voila! You get a savory summer salad to go with BBQ chicken or other meat.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lake Jem Nursery Thornless Blackberries, Mount Dora, Florida CLOSED

There's nothing like freshly picked blackberries. But Florida grown thornless berries are more tart than ones grown in colder climates. They have been hybridized to grow with less chill time, according to farmer Eve Carter, co-owner of Lake Jem Nursery in Mount Dora, Florida.
Eve Carter of Lake Jem Nursery, Mt Dora, Fla.
I visited her 15-acre Central Florida property earlier this month. One to two acres has been dedicated to blackberry plants. Lake Jem Nursery started growing blackberries seven years ago when there wasn't much competition from other farms.

Lake Jem Nursery thornless blackberry field, Mt. Dora, Fla
She and her husband Rick were in the ornamental plant business selling to commercial nurseries when the crash came. "We had thousands of plants and no market to sell them in. Then we decided to grow something people liked to eat," said Carter. It took five years for their vines to bear fruit.

Florida grown thornless blackberries at Lake Jem Nursery,
Mt. Dora, Fla.
"The first year, we tried to pick and sell the berries to local restaurants and stores but it was too hard," she said. Then last year they opened as a u-pick grove and sales were really good. "This year it's just sticks and berries. Last year there were a lot of leaves and bushes," said Carter pointing to the field.

I picked six pounds of berries in 95 degree heat along with a few dozen other hungry  customers.

Their daughter, Loren Carter, is mentally handicapped and has been participating in the Special Olympics for years. If you say "Special Olympics" when paying for your berries, Eve will donate money to the organization and you'll get a 50 cent/pound discount.

To find out more about Lake Jem Nursery's blackberry picking availability and location you can go to http://www.picksomeberries.com/Home_Page.html

Or call 352-223-4445

Update May 2017: Now Closed

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Bite Of Porridge By Rancher Steve Melton, Dade City, Florida

If you ever get the chance to hear Steve Melton’s poetry or prose consider yourself privileged. But if you ever get to taste one of his poems consider yourself lucky.

Steve Melton's farm-to-table rye and corn grits porridge,
Dade City, Fla.
 He gave me a copy of his poem, “A Bite Of Porridge,” over a year ago. It described, in elegant words, the experience of eating his farm-to-table meal. The poem started with “As the bowl approaches, one is taken by the array of colors of the porridge.”

The second stanza really wets the appetite: “The eye catches a mixture of white rice and brown cracked, rye with the yellow of the corn and sprinkled with sesame and flax, topped with an undulating swirl of butter and brown sugar.”

Rancher Steve Melton standing in his rye seed grain field,
Dade City, Fla.
Last month, I was lucky when I went to visit The Meltons’ ranch in Central Florida. They gave me a bag of this porridge without the sesame seeds. One ingredient, the rye, was of particular importance. As Steve Melton put it, “I grow it, dry it, clean it, put it in a grist mill, and eat it. You can’t get more farm-to-table than that.”

The bag came with instructions and a 20 or so minute cook time. It was hard to wait that long but worth it. I put it in a bowl, topped it with a generous spoon of brown sugar, and swirled in the butter as best I could to meet the image planted in my head from the poem. And then I ate.

It was chewy, crunchy, creamy, sweet, salty, and earthy. As Melton put it in his poem, “The chewiness of the jasmine rice is followed by a gentle crunch of the stone ground cracked rye and yellow corn grits.”

It was very filling and almost impossible to finish. And it had a lovely side effect—hours later I was still hunger-free.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Florida Grown Rye Grain, Jack Melton Family Inc, Dade City

Dade City, Fla—Jack Melton Family Inc’s grows Florida Rye seed grain. They have been growing and selling non-GMO selectively bred seeds since the 1950s. And for the last 45-years they have grown, harvested, and sold Florida 401 Rye, a varietal especially adapted for the Florida climate.

Steve Melton in his 100 acre Florida rye seed grain field, Dade City, Fla.
Copyright 2013 by Helen A Lockey
Steve Melton, one of the ranch owners, let me tour his 100 acre rye field last month. Melton shares his ranch with several family members including founder Jack, who is still active in operations at age 89.

Steve Melton thrashing Florida rye grain off its head, Dade
City, Fla. Copyright 2013 by Helen A Lockey
Steve Melton took a grain head in his hand, ran his fingers up, against the grain to loosen the rye seed, and then rolled them between his palms, simulating a threshing machine. "You can also take the rye into a barn, lay it on the ground, and beat it with a stick, to get it to release the seed," said Melton.

Steve Melton winnowing Florida rye seeds, Dade City, Fla.
Copyright 2013 by Helen A Lockey
Then he blew on the chaff, or winnowed it, to reveal fresh rye grain seeds. "We have a combine that does all this in the field," Melton said handing me some rye seed grains. They had a nutty flavor like winter wheat.

The high protein content of the rye makes it an ideal winter grass for beef cattle, according to Melton. It can also be grown as a wind break between crops like melons.

Florida rye grain field at Jack Melton Family Inc,
Dade City, Fla. Copyright 2013 by Helen A Lockey
Nothing goes to waste on the ranch. The stalks that remain after harvesting are sold as hay for animal bedding.

And there is no need to worry if the ranch will run out of rye quickly because they have accress to 700 acres of it growing on neighboring ranches.

They sell their grain in 50 pound bags to people mainly in the beef cattle industry.

Melton likes to eat his rye in a home-made porridge. He grinds the seeds in an antique grist mill, adds some other grains, rice, brown sugar, butter, and eats it hot.

Jack Melton Family Inc grows other types of non-GMO seeds like Bahia grass seeds, millet grass seed, oats, some clover, and chia.

To find out more about the seeds grown and harvested at Jack Melton Family Inc, you can call them at (352)583-3510.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Bites & Beats Supper--With Palm Beach Organics & GULP! in Lake Park, Florida

Palm Beach Organics  & GULP! ended their pop-up supper season with a bang. Thirty or so people crowded into the back warehouse of Palm Beach Organics in Lake Park, Florida, on May evening, for a $65 a person meal.

The Supper Club hosted by GULP! and Palm Beach Organics,
Lake Park, Fla.
Chef Chris Pawlowski, owner of Palm Beach Organics, and Coreen Gottschalk of GULP! Food & Libations, prepared a seven course tapas style supper using organic ingredients sourced from Florida and neighboring States.

“This is going to be a different type of meal than we have had in the past,” Pawlowski said to an eager audience of Foodies, “Tonight we’ll do a food and music pairing. It’s something I hold dear as a drummer. Each course has an element of music created into the form.”

He added that he did not want people getting up between courses as they usually did.

These were great sentiments but the spirits of weather, dessert, and music had other ideas. The first to get up to mischief was the spirit of weather making it so hot in the warehouse that people were forced to go outside, to the back parking area, to cool down between courses.
 
Salad served in deep-fried rice bowl, The Super Club's
Bites & Beats, Lake Park, Fla.
The first music track was called “Goin Dutch,” and it was a combination of heavy rap mixed with hip hop. I guess it emphasized the eclectic style of the salad served in a crispy fried rice-paper bowl. Everyone had a different interpretation of how to go about eating it.
 
Pickled beets, goat cheese and micro greens, The Supper Club's 
Bites & Beats, Lake Park, Fla.
Track 2 was a racy piece of fast paced music reflecting the fresh ground pepper kick and spicy micro-green toppings on the pickled beet and goat cheese course. 



Phillo wrapped shrimp at The Supper Club's Bites & Beats,
Lake Park, Fla.
Track 3 brought a jazzy note to the dinner and showcased the Japanese style skewered shrimp wrapped in phyllo and served on a bed of cool seaweed salad drizzled with pomegranate-balsamic syrup. Of all the courses, I felt this one best fit its music.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Florida Grown Blueberry Jam & More, Plant City, Fla.

Blueberries are delicious especially when made into jam. I ate the most delicious fresh Florida blueberries and blueberry jam on the lawn of the Brooksville Women’s Club during the Florida Blueberry Festival. This where I met Mrs. Linda Wetherington of Wetherington Farms, Plant City, and Mrs. Berta Jordan of Hardy Farms, Plant City.

Linda Wetherington and Berta Jordan selling Florida blueberry
fruit and products, outside Florida Blueberry Festival in Brooksville, Fla.
One grew the berries, the other made the jam, and both were connected through grandchildren.

“Her’s are spoiled. Mine aren’t,” said Wetherington, who turned her head to look at Jordon.

Both ladies laughed and offered tastes of their products. Jordan had fresh berries, “Picked yesterday,” she said.

Wetherington had jam, “The majority of the people who buy my jam read the labels and they ask how I can make jam this way,” she said smiling, “I do it like Grandma does.”

The conversation turned to farming, and I asked if either of them grew up on a farm. They laughed in unison.

Jordon grew up on a blueberry farm and swore she would never pick blueberries again. She married a non-farmer. She was farming-free for many years until one day her husband came home with 300 blueberry plants. Now they have a blueberry and palm tree farm.

Wetherington grew up on a farm near Seattle and said she would never marry a farmer. To make sure she married a Deputy Sherriff named Mark. But it turned out he grew beans, peas and other vegetables on the side.

Now both ladies live on opposite sides of the same street in Plant City, Florida. They plan to continue working together, growing berries and making jams from what the other one grows because Wetherington’s son is married to Jordan’s daughter.

Wetherington also makes jellies and other canned items. She also sells honey. You can find her products at many local fairs and shows. To find out more call her at 813-753-9296 or email lswetherington@aol.com
 
Along with bluberries, Jordon also sells many types of palm trees. To find out more about Hardy Blueberry Farm products you can call 813-763-5107 or go to http://www.hardypalmtrees.com/blueberries.htm


Monday, June 10, 2013

Florida Summer Fruit Salad

Florida abounds with tropical fruit in summer. To embrace this season I made a fruit salad out of local ingredients.
Florida summer fruit salad with mango, lychee, cantalope, and banana.
I used mangoes from Erickson Farm Inc (Canal Point), lychees from Kenari Groves Inc.(Loxahatchee), bananas from my back yard (West Palm Beach), and Athena cantaloupe from somewhere in Florida (bought at Publix).

It sweet, floral, tangy and creamy.
 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Erickson Farm Mangoes & More, Canal Point, Fla.

Erickson Farm Inc. has been growing tropical fruit for over 100 years. Located in Canal Point, this 62-acre farm run by the Erickson family is a popular place with Florida foodies. I am visiting the farm looking for lychees. “This year we have been getting more and more Florida orders,” says Kim Erickson, Farm President.

Kim Erickson in front of mango tree at Erickson Farm LLC, Canal Point, Fla
“We’ll only be picking these for another few days,” says Kim cutting lychees from green leafed branches. A UPS driver stands a short distance away waiting for boxes of newly picked and cooled fruit. “Next Monday we’ll start selling our ripe mangoes. This year the season will go into August,” Kim says. The farm has 40-acres set aside for growing mango trees.

Freshly harvested Florida lychees from Erickson farm LLC,
Canal Point, Fla.
I buy a few pounds of lychees at $4/pound, and notice someone next to me buying a box of multicolored mangoes. “Do you have any more mangoes,” I ask Krista Erickson, sister of Kim and Treasurer and Director of Operations at Erickson Farm.


 “Yes,” she says, reaching down to pick up a box of green and red skinned mangoes, “Our Dad picked these this morning. They’ll be ripe in a few days. And if you want to speed up the process, put them in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana.”
 
I buy a bucket for $6 and get seven mangoes. I leave happy with the knowledge that I am supporting a local farmer and thrilled that I will be eating extremely fresh fruit.
 
Erickson Farm grows many more types of tropical fruit, spices and vegetables like longan, Florida avocado, papaya, star fruit(carambola), paan, and curry leaves.
 
They have a seasonal farm store on their property at 13646 U.S. Hwy 441, Canal Point, FL 33438. Call for hours (561) 924-7714
 
Or go to their website for more information http://www.ericksonfarm.com/
 
You can also follow them on their FaceBook account.

 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Daily Special Truck, Key West Style Street Eats, WPB, Fla: Updated

The Daily Special Truck cooks yummy Key West style street food. Owner/Chef Rebecca White is passionate about sourcing local Florida ingredients. She even grows some of it herself like basil and tomatoes.

The Daily Special Truck at Wellington Food Truck
 Invasion, Fla.
"I grew up with fresh ingredients. That's how I learned to cook," White said, adding that she was from an Italian family. I met White at a recent Food Truck Invasion night in Palm Beach County.
Fish Po-Boy from The Daily Special Truck, Wellington
Food Truck Invasion night, Fla.
White worked as a server in Key West before becoming a Mainlander in January 2013 when she opened her food truck. I asked her why she changed her career to cooking. "It's my passion. I've been doing it since I was a little kid," White said. All the recipes are family recipes.

"I cook with fresh, local ingredients. I don't have to complicate anything," White added.

I bought the Fish Po-boy ($12) made with tempura fried Florida Gulf waters caught Black Grouper. The moist fish was served on a toasted bun topped with sweet mango salsa, crunchy, tangy, purple sauerkraut, and a creamy Key Lime aioli sauce. The po-boy came with a side of house-made fried corn chips.

If you want to find out where The Daily Special Truck will be next you can go to https://www.facebook.com/thedailyspecialtruckWPB?group_%E2%80%8Bid=0

or follow them on Twitter @special_daily