Friday, August 30, 2013

Vinalhaven Red Currant Jam By Nans Kase, Maine, Updated

Vinalhaven, Maine—Thirty year island resident Nans Kase knows how to make delicious red currant jam. Her grandfather had a garden in Holland where he grew red currants and made jam. “When I found red currants growing here I was delighted,” said Kase during a recent interview at the Vinalhaven Island Saturday morning Flea Market.

Nans Kase's wild foraged Dutch style red currant jam, Vinalhaven, Maine
She foraged all her berries from the wild and cooked them up with sugar and pectin into a tart Dutch style jam. “It is delicious on vanilla ice cream,” she said.

Nans Kase, red currant jam maker, Vinalhaven, Maine
Red currants have a disease that attack white pine. But there are no white pines growing on Vinalhaven, according to Kase.

I bought a jar, even though the contents looked more like syrup than jam. Kase said, “It’s been in the sun all day and so it just looks runny. Once you cool it down it will firm up.”

I tried a spoonful later. It was full of tart whole berries with a touch of sweetness. I thought about Kase’s ice cream comment and realized this jam was beyond delicious. It was New England summer in a bottle.  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wild Herbal Tea, Maine Island Style

Herbal tea is especially delicious when homemade. Herbal teas are actually Tisanes or herbal infusions. They are made with ingredients other than tea such as flowers, bark, roots, berries, or leaves. And they have no caffeine. Some of the best herbal infusions come from Switzerland. If you don't have the money to travel to Switzerland then you can gather ingredients from edible wild or domesticated plants.

Whole flower tisane (herbal tea) made with edible flowers from
While vacationing in Maine, last month I gathered flowers for my own rose petal, red clover, and lavender tisane. I started with a wild red clover harvest.

Wild Red Clover bud, Northern Maine
These reddish purple flowered plants grow all summer long in New England and can be found in fields or by roadsides. Before picking I made sure they had not been sprayed with any chemicals like insecticides. I clipped about a cup of flower heads and stored them in an airtight container.
Heirloom variety wild red rose, Northern Maine
Next, I went looking for an Heirloom variety of wild red rose that only has one layer of petals. It grows almost everywhere but seems to prefer areas close to the shore. If you choose this as an ingredient watch out for its thorns which can easily tear through light clothing.

The flowers with strongest scent make the best tisane. I clipped about a cup of highly aromatic petals, making sure to take only one petal from each flower, and a handful of unopened buds.

To round out my flower tisane I bought a bouquet of fresh lavender, grown on a farm in Vinalhaven, Maine. I washed, patted dry, and arranged all the flowers on a wooden cutting board before putting them next to a window that got lots of sun. It took three days to dry the flowers.
Tisane made from gathered edible wild flowers of Maine
The amount of flowers to add to the tisane and the time to rest (steep) really depends on your own tastes.

I used a handful of whole flowers to two cups of boiling water. I steeped the mixture for 12 minutes before drinking. The yellow colored tisane had delicate flavor with just slight hints of flower scent.

Friday, August 23, 2013

It's Florida Spiny Lobster Season Again, 2013

It's Florida Spiny lobster season again. They are called "Spiny" because they do not have forward claws like New England and Canadian lobsters. They also have milder flavored meat that is similar to crayfish.

Cooked Florida Spiny Lobster
I bought two live lobsters at Cod & Capers Seafood Market in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. I asked the clerk the most humane way to cook them because I only knew the cold-water lobster method.

This is where you get the lobsters sleepy before cooking by either putting them in the freezer for 10 minutes or by resting them on their nose (located at front of their shell between their eyes) with their claws swept back on either side, for 10 minutes.

Another benefit to the humane style of cooking is that the meat comes out very tender and juicy.

The clerk said putting them in the freezer or directly on ice would kill them. He suggested 10 minutes in the fridge before cooking.

When I got home I put both lobsters in the fridge. My husband put a large pot on the stove and poured in just over two inches (5 cm) of salted water to steam the lobsters, the quickest method of cooking.

The lobsters were so large we decided to cook them one at a time. After ten minutes I pulled one out. It seemed quite relaxed and sleepy but that quickly changed once the steam hit it.

So, I went back to the cold-water lobster method of freezer time except I lowered it to just five minutes. It worked. The lobsters came out of the freezer very sleepy but not dead and cooked without any fuss.
Florida Spiny Lobster with salad of Florida grown avocado,
yellow squash, and basil.
The next day, I served them cold with a salad of out of state grown lettuce, Florida grown avocados, yellow squash, and basil.

The Florida regular fishing season for the spiny lobster goes from August 6th to March 31st. To find out more you can go to the Florida Fish And Wildlife Commission.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Red Florida Lionfish: Pest Or Culinary Treat

Red Lionfish are pretty looking and good tasting. It is thought they were introduced into Florida waters by aquarium dumping. They are an exotic invasive fish that grows extremely fast and threatens native species survival. Even though the fish is covered in poisonous spines it is worth the effort to get to the grouper-like flesh.

Florida caught Lionfish, Seminole pumpkin, black eyed peas,and fresh basil
Last week, I bought a whole fish at Cod & Capers Seafood market in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. They offered to fillet the fish at no extra charge, and once I learned about the poisonous spines, I agreed.

I sauteed it with out-of-state oil and garlic. Then served it with Florida grown black eyed peas, Seminole pumpkin, and fresh basil.The fish flesh was dense and rich in texture with very little fishy flavor.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Maine Wild Heirloom Raspberry Adventures

Wild Maine raspberries can be delicious if handled properly. By this I mean, picked, washed, and stored quickly in a refrigerator. If not, the thing that happened to me could happen to you.
Maine wild heirloom raspberry
I had spent two hours, on a cold wet New England morning, picking a pound or so of ripe wild heirloom raspberries. I stored them in a plastic bag as I walked through the field. Even with the gentlest of touch some of the berries turned to juice before I got them back to my cabin.

I left Maine the following morning and got home 12 hours later. I was not surprised to see more liquid than solid in the bag. Without stopping to taste the liquid, I popped the berry bag into our home fridge.

The next day, I checked the bag and noticed it was full of little bubbles. Intrigued, I opened the bag, took a spoon, scooped out some of the liquid, and tasted it.

Ahh, it had changed. It was not a sweet syrupy liquid of pure raspberry sweetness. Instead it had turned into a bubbly beer like substance with just a hint of raspberry.

Then I remembered some information I read from The Everything Guide To Foraging book by Vickie Shufer that said all wild fruit have natural yeast on the outside of them.

So, if you have a chance to pick wild raspberries and don't want them to change into beer, wash them before you store them.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Gaby's Farm Gourmet Tropical Fruit Ice Cream & Sorbet, Homestead, Fla.

Homestead, Fla—Gaby’s Farm makes frozen gourmet treats with Homestead grown tropical fruit. During a recent interview, owner Gaby Berryer said, “I make a point of growing everything I make.” And she makes some wonderful ice cream and sorbet.

Yvanne and Gaby Berryer of Gaby's Farm Gourmet Tropical
Fruit Ice Cream & Sorbet, Homestead, Fla.
Haitian born Berryer came to the United States in 1963 and moved to South Florida in 1974. She gave up a glowing career as a psychologist 16 years ago to start her ice cream business, "I wanted five to ten acres of land but two and a half is good. I didn't have to inherit an avocado grove."

According to Berryer there were a lot of abandoned avocado groves in 1997, and it would have cost her a lot of money to convert one to a farm.

With her family's help the company has become a South Florida tradition. Daughter Yvanne, the company's marketing director, has nothing but praise for her mother, "She is very personable and very intelligent."

Gaby's Farm's big selling point is that the fruit are seasonal, fresh, and picked at the peak of ripeness so there are no artificial flavors or colors added.

Today the company makes 30 flavors of tropical fruit ice cream and sorbet. Some of the more exotic ice cream flavors are Nutty Cado (avocado & cashew nuts), Creme de Canistel (egg fruit), Caju Cashew (cashew fruit), Jumping Jackfruit, Mango & Passion Melange (mango & passion fruit), and the first flavor she developed--Mamey Sapote Dearest (which has a slight caramel flavor).

Of the sorbets, the flavors range from cantaloupe to lychee to pineapple to red dragon fruit.

You can find Gaby's Farm Gourmet Tropical Fruit Ice Cream & Sorbet at many Florida stores, restaurants, and hotels. They sell 15 flavors at Whole Foods Markets. They also ship their product anywhere in the United States by Fed Ex Second Day delivery.

To find out more about their other flavors you can go to or call (305) 246-7702

Friday, August 9, 2013

Queen Bee Company., Jacksonville, Fla: Honey & More

Honey is very popular but don’t forget who made the honey—bees. “Two to three years ago there were no bees in my yard,” said Don Peppers, co-owner of Queen Bee Co. “Now there are bees because I put them there.”

Don Peppers, co-owner of Queen Bee Company, Jacksonville, Fla.
Peppers, a former corporate banker, started bee keeping after he retired. His grandfather first introduced him to the practice back when he was just 15 years old. Now, he only sells his honey at Jacksonville Farmers’ and Green Markets.

“Bees are going to be nonexistent in the next 100 years because of insecticides. Bees can’t adapt fast enough,” said Peppers.

When he started the business, three years ago, he thought he was going to have to study entomology (insect science) but soon found out he would become an expert in botany (plant science). And if you ask him, he will tell you what plant in what month his bees are getting nectar from like Black Mangrove in June.

“There are only 2.2 million bee hives in the country,” said Peppers. They are essential for crop growing especially in almond fields, the largest agriculturally produced crop in the country. “In fact almond farmers can’t get insurance unless they have a bee contract,” said Peppers.

So if you want a hive, he can sell it to you and even help you set it up.

To find out more you can call him at (904)262-8859 or find him at the St. Johns River Farmers Market in Switzerland, Florida, on Saturday mornings.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Seminole Pumpkin: Florida Native Heirloom Variety

It’s time to buy your heirloom Seminole Pumpkin. It is a Florida native variety pumpkin that was cultivated and eaten by Seminole Indians before Florida was a state. It is an adaptive gourd that grows equally well in heat, wet or drought conditions.
Florida native heirloom Seminole Pumpkin, Fla.
Commercial growing of it went out of fashion for awhile. Renewed interest from Slow Food groups and farmers has brought it back into popularity.

The pumpkins vary in color from dull orange to yellow to green, and vary in size from one pound to 12. They have a thick outer skin that helps them store well at room temperature for months, and a shape that resembles winter varieties. They are slightly hallow inside. And have many seeds and a dense, slightly sweet, orange colored flesh. They go well any dish and make really good pie.

More and more farms each year are growing these tasty Florida gourds. Kai KaiFarm grows and sell the pumpkins at the Sunday morning Gardens Summer GreenMarket, in Palm Beach Gardens.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Hyppo Artisan Ice Pops, St. Augustine, Fla.

St. Augustine, Fla—The Hyppo Artisan Ice Pops sources ingredients from local farms around St. Augustine. This pop company, open only four years, is so popular it already has four stores. "We started out sourcing from farmers markets but now we are large enough to source directly from farms," said owner Stephen DiMare.
Stephen DiMare owner of The Hyppo Artisan Ice Pops, St. Augustine, Fla.
St. Augustine born DiMare got the idea for the frozen pop store from a woman on a flight back from Montana. He wanted to open a coffee shop and she suggested a gourmet Popsicle shop.  "My mind started running on the idea of opening up a store with unusual ingredients," said DiMare.

The recession helped him find an affordable shop with a kitchen in downtown historic St. Augustine. And hard work along with help from his family and friends allowed The Hyppo to find success quickly. "St. Augustine was very supportive," said DiMare. In three weeks the company was cash solvent.

He created his pops after the Mexican paletas style that uses a little stick and unusual ingredients. And he has unusual flavors like Sangria plum, guava hibiscus, strawberry basil, prickly pear, blueberry cinnamon, mamey, and carrot ginger.

There are no artificial dyes in his pops so all the color comes from his ingredients. "I chop the fruit, add water, put it in a blender, and freeze it," said DiMare. He also occasionally adds honey from a Jacksonville Apiary.

In the future he hopes to open more stores but he wants them to be a place that supports more than seasonal jobs. "My mark of success will be how many people make a career out of here," he said waving his arm around to indicate the shop.

If The Hyppo Artisan Ice Pops keeps supporting local farmers and putting together delicious seasonal Florida pops I can see it creating a lot of career opportunities for St. Augustine.

To find out more you can go to or find them at