Pumpkins

IMG_3122 (2)Pumpkins—they’re like sunflowers. I can’t help but smile when I look at them. And I love Halloween, now more than when I was a child.

© 2015 Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com. Excerpts and links may be used and are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given to Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any other use and/or duplication of this written material & picture(s) is prohibited without written permission from Beatriz Portela.

Kudos to Chef Allen

29 (2)Wow, what a fabulous meal we had last night at Chef Allen’s Farm-to-Table Dinner. This time I remembered to photograph each of the 5-courses before diving into them, thanks to my friends who kept reminding me every time a new dish was served! This was the second dinner event of the series I attended and it was completely different than the one I had enjoyed last Monday, and just as spectacular. The first appetizer we were served was Pan-Seared Fig with Garlic & Honey, on Wilted Spinach Crostini, with Indian Summer Melons. The pink sprouts on the top were a beautiful touch. This was followed by a Green Vegetable Nicoise: Haricot Verts, Cucumbers, Green Tomato and Frissee-Green Goddess. I particularly enjoyed the light cucumber-based dressing. The third course was an Oak Leaf Lettuce, Fennel & Rapini Salad, with Toasted Gremolata. This salad was very, very tasty.

Most of us were drinking wine with dinner: either a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend or a Chardonnay. The Cabernet blend was surprisingly light and it tasted good with all the vegetable dishes. One of my friends had the Chardonnay and was happy with that choice. The main course was Roasted Curry Carrots & Parsnips with Red Quinoa, served with Braised Leek Sauce. This was a nice combination of textures and tastes and was also topped with the beautiful pink sprouts. Lastly, came the dessert… which was out-of-this-world delicious. It was an Early Macintosh Apple Crumble with brown sugar Ginger Crust. It tasted like it just came out of the oven and wasn’t too sweet; so you could savor the subtle taste of the apples and delectable ginger crust.

We were sitting at little tables joined together in 2 long rows. The wait staff was attentive and friendly. Midway through the meal most everyone had made friends with at least the guests on either side of them; and by the time we had finished the dessert I heard many people talking about how they were going to come back for next Monday’s event. There is a different-themed vegetarian dinner every Monday at 6:30, accompanied by a farmers market, which starts at 4:00.  I’ll be back.

© 2015 Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com. Excerpts and links may be used and are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given to Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any other use and/or duplication of this written material & picture(s) is prohibited without written permission from Beatriz Portela.

Farm to Table

IMG_2740 (2)I recently had the pleasure of attending one of Chef Allen Susser’s Vegetarian Farm-To-Table Dinners at The Café at Books & Books, Adrienne Arsht Center, Miami. I was so entranced with the delicious food and lively conversation at the table—dinner is served “family-style” with everyone sitting together—that I almost forgot to take pictures. I only managed to get this one photo of one of the appetizers and I’m not sure what all the ingredients in it are… but it was VEEERRY TASTY! (Chef Allen, if you are reading this, please let me know what is in this delectable dish.)

The tables where set up in the plaza, in the middle of a small Farmers’ Market. We were served 5 courses–all made with locally-sourced, fresh ingredients–while listening to live music. And there was also free-flowing wine. After the meal, some of the folks from the Farmers’ Market talked about what they produce. Part of Chef Allen’s vision with these events is for people to learn where the food comes from and to meet/support the local farmers. The Farm-to-Table Dinners are every Monday night at 6:30 and the Farmers’ Market starts at 4. If you live in south Florida, I highly recommend coming to one of the Dinners and/or visiting the Farmers Market. I’ll be there this Monday, again, and I promise to take more pictures!

© 2015 Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com. Excerpts and links may be used and are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given to Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any other use and/or duplication of this written material & picture(s) is prohibited without written permission from Beatriz Portela.

Take Me to your Leader

0116f95d117(2)014e53f9d85(2)Can we talk? I want to negotiate. Are you the head squirrel I can bargain with? I am okay with sharing mangos with you guys but the tree is bearing its last 20 or so fruit and you’ve been eating them faster than I can get to them. And it really bothers me that you take a few bites out of one, then move to another, and another. Can’t you all agree on one piece of fruit and eat that one completely before moving to the next? While we’re having a discussion, why is it that you’re favoring the fruit that are hanging on tree limbs over the pool? Is it because you want a water view while munching out? The problem, my furry friends, is that as you discard peel it is falling into the pool and making a mess. My automatic pool sweep is full of your mango scraps and the half eaten fruits that it can’t suck-up up are littering the bottom of the pool. How is it that you manage to partially eat fruit, which end up falling into the pool, but you never fall in with it? It would be pretty funny to see you taking a nose dive into the water. I know that’s an evil thought. I guess it’s good that you don’t because the pool sweep would not be able to suck you up; you wouldn’t fit through the hose. Would it be too much to ask if you could choose fruit that is over the ground instead of over water? And how about it if you go for the fruit that is high on the tree that I would risk my life on a high ladder to reach or need an airplane to get to? It’s easy for you. Why do you insist on taking the stuff that is lower on the tree that I can more easily pick? It seems you have a strategy: eat the low stuff first and save the high ones for later since you know I can’t get to them. Cruel.

At first I thought you liked ripe mango so I would try to pick the fruit before it was fully mature but I soon learned that you are not particular; you eat it green too. I’m willing to split those last 20 mangos with you. Please send over your leader for a truce… or have him text me.

© 2015 Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com. Excerpts and links may be used and are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given to Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any other use and/or duplication of this written material & picture(s) is prohibited without written permission from Beatriz Portela.

Top 10 Signs a Girl Gardens

01ee35cfbffc (2)1) She is VERY tanned, kind of like that rotisserie chicken you saw at the grocery store or those dark sheets of leather hanging at the Italian furniture store.

2) She looks great in a sleeveless top; her arms are toned & tanned. Then you get closer (or put your glasses on) and you see numerous swollen bug bites on those chiseled limbs.

3) She has various cuts, scrapes and scabs, primarily on her legs and arms. What’s that—a cut across her back? How did that get there? Could it have been when she crawled under the bougainvillea to pull some weeds?

4) She doesn’t have beautiful finger nails, and that’s putting it nicely. She knows she should wear gardening gloves but sometimes she forgets.

5) She has weird stains on her clothes. She should only do gardening in “gardening clothes” but sometimes she forgets and goes outside in her “nice” clothes to do some chores. Invariably plant sap drips on her attire and it just doesn’t come out in the wash very easily.

6) She says she is going to quickly step outside to pick a fruit off a tree. Three hours later she is still outside doing something else that caught her attention.

7) She doesn’t usually hear the front doorbell, but that’s okay because her friends know to go around to the backyard.

8) Her shoes have a strange gooey substance stuck in the ridges of the soles (from the snails she crushed when she saw them munching on her plants).

9) Her car trunk always has at least a little bit of dirt and leaves in it, from the latest plant acquisitions.

10) She smells strange. It’s a combination of sunscreen, sweat, dirt and insect repellant…and the insect spray clearly works better at keeping people away than bugs. But give her a break; she cleans up nicely and smells good once the grime is washed off!

© 2015 Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com. Excerpts and links may be used and are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given to Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any other use and/or duplication of this written material & picture(s) is prohibited without written permission from Beatriz Portela.

Where’s my new Home?

0194994d9ea (2)This is a small Mango tree I bought for my friend Madeline at Fairchild Tropical Garden to replace the one she had in her back yard which had met with an untimely death. You see, her rambunctious dog Bruce likes mangos a lot. He had eaten the fruit off her old tree then proceeded to eat the tree itself. I’m not sure what precautions Madeline’s going to take this time to prevent her new tree from meeting a similar fate. I know she’s put Bruce through various rounds of obedience training but I doubt any of that is going to work once he is faced with the temptation of tasty mangos. Anyway, your new Rosigold Mango is at my house waiting for you Maddie… and Bruce.

© 2015 Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com. Excerpts and links may be used and are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given to Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any other use and/or duplication of this written material & picture(s) is prohibited without written permission from Beatriz Portela.

Carambola Blueberry Smoothie/Juice

01792df214a(2)If you are using fresh Carambola (Star Fruit), slice the fruit into chunks and de-seed. No need to peel the fruit. Add the Carambola and other ingredients into your blender, in these proportions:

  • 2/4 full of Carambola
  • 1/4 full of Blueberries
  • 1/4 full of Ice if you want a Smoothie or ¼ Water if you want Juice
  • Add a ripe Banana if you have one

The more variety of fruit you have, the greater variety of nutrients you get. Blend until smooth and enjoy!

© 2015 Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com. Excerpts and links may be used and are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given to Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any other use and/or duplication of this written material & picture(s) is prohibited without written permission from Beatriz Portela.

Star Fruit

01fbff6b449c(2)01910b0de0The Carambola (Star Fruit) trees are fruiting now, so I picked a bowl-full this morning. This tropical fruit tree is said to have originated in Southeast Asia or perhaps Sri Lanka, and it has been grown in Florida since the 1880s. The fruit are ripe when they are bright yellow/orange. To eat, you don’t need to peel them. Just take a knife and slice off the greenish spines along the length, then slice the fruit crosswise. This results in star-shaped pieces, hence the common name “Star Fruit.” Carambola is juicy & crisp and tastes a little like grapes. Aside from eating the fresh fruit, I add pieces to salads; juice them; and use them in smoothies.

 

© 2015 Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com. Excerpts and links may be used and are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given to Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any other use and/or duplication of this written material & picture(s) is prohibited without written permission from Beatriz Portela.

Rambutan

017e6c31ede (2)(2)Rambutan (Nephelium Lappaceum) is a tropical fruit tree which is originally from Southeast Asia. It also grows in south Florida. The medium-sized evergreen tree should be kept at 12′-15’ maximum so it is easy to pick the harvest. I bought some of the tasty fruit this weekend at Fairchild Tropical Garden. It has a sweet flavor similar to Lychee, which is more common here. To eat it, you slice the soft-spiny shell open and pop the fleshy white part in your mouth. There is a seed in the middle, which you don’t eat. Rambutan can also be added to salads, yogurt, smoothies and desserts.

© 2015 Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com. Excerpts and links may be used and are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given to Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any other use and/or duplication of this written material & picture(s) is prohibited without written permission from Beatriz Portela.

Mango Auction

Preview before bidding
Preview before bidding

Mango, the king of tropical fruits, was in full glory again today on the second day of the 23rd Annual International Mango Festival, at Fairchild Tropical Garden. One of the highlights of the event was the MANGO AUCTION, the world’s only such auction. Each variety of the tasty fruit was sold a few to a plate: from 4 to 8, depending on the size. While I was there, the highest price went for a plate of “Bombay” mangos from Jamaica. The winning bidder got it for $275, along with a clapping ovation! I spoke to him a while later, while we were both outside perusing a cooking gadget, and he told me he was very excited with his purchase. All proceeds are to support the work of Fairchild Tropical Garden.

According to the mango experts at Fairchild, the Bombay mango most likely originated from seeds brought to Jamaica from India. The fruit is similar in shape, taste and habit to the “Paheri” of India and “Pirie” or “Pairi” recognized in other Caribbean & mango-producing areas. The flavor is rich and spicy, reminiscent of the finest Indian dessert types. The trees bear only a few fruit each year due to their susceptibility to diseases. In local Caribbean markets they can fetch high prices since they are scarce. Congratulations to winning Bidder #14!