Growing Season’s Crystal Ball: The Forecast is Cloudy, with a Chance of Bananas.

Word on the street from MGFD forager Chris Padin is we have a few more weeks of South Florida heirlooms.

If you’re a public radio junkie like me, you’ve been hearing a bunch of NPR reports on WLRN/91.3 FM about how dramatic the changes in weather are this year across the globe.  Here in the United States, the National Weather Service is reporting a record-breaking warm winter with more than 7,700 daily highs busted last month, on the heels of the fourth warmest winter on record. March was so hot in Iowa with temperatures hitting 84 degrees that oats are now running ahead of schedule, with 58% percent of the crop planted up from 7%.  Experts are divided as to if this is good news for farmers, extending the season’s productivity, or dangerous, since crops could still get hit with frost as late as May.

Closer to home, in the midst of our growing season winding down here in South Florida, farmers appear to be optimistic.  The feeling from the warmer winter, less dramatic than up north, is less growing pains and more dazed and confused than anything else. We tapped farmer Margie Pikarsky, our trusted source who not only has a handle on what’s going on at her Bee Heaven Farm in Homestead, but many others across central and South Florida, for the outlook on upcoming summer crops.

“Yeah, it’s been weird again,” she explains.  “This time the entire season started late due to too much rain for too long. Then it stayed warm, with only one cold episode of freakish 29-degree cold spots on the farm, with extremely dry conditions – whitefly heaven.”

“To be honest, I have no clue what to expect regarding summer rains. Predictions don’t seem too reliable now,” she continues.  “It does look like we might have a decent mango crop, if they stay on.  Avocados – at least ours – are looking good, and on-time. We have some lychee coming, but I’m hearing it may be spotty. Longans are blooming, so don’t know yet – may also be spotty (many growers use chemicals to force bloomset.) Mameys have already started, running a bit late.
Jackfruit is starting to show, probably will be on time.

In the meantime, we’re squeezing every last bit of juice out of what’s available locally that we can — like the 3-4 weeks we have left of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes like those above from Teena’s Pride — before we have to look further north for what’s in season.  Below is a current list of end-of-season produce that an assortment of local farmers say they’ll have available now as we head into May.  You have farmer’s markets to browse (for two more weeks, that is,) and we have daily menus to plan @MGFD_MIA and @harryspizzeria, as well as visiting chefs to inform, such as Kevin Sbraga.  Michael hosts his Top Chef friend from Philly at Harry’s to do his own menu for SBRAGA Pizzeria on May 22, and we want to make sure he knows what he has to work with, too. Tickets go on-sale here on April 25.

Maybe passionfruit, bananas, mangoes, collards, dinosaur kale, Asian eggplant and parsley.  Definitely papaya, allspice, peppermint, basil, Chinese leeks, callaloo…

– Muriel Olivares, Little River Market Garden, North Miami

We should have our lettuces, specialty greens, micro greens, and herbs, beets, carrots, squash / zucchini, eggplants, corn, potato’s, onions, gooseberries, radishes, and more, I’m sure! Swank Farm will shut down around June 30th for the summer  –  We begin seeding again on September 1st with hopes to ready by October 15 for the new season… Hope all is well.

– Jodi Swank, SWANK Specialty Produce, Loxatachee Groves

Well…..let’s see. Eggs! All colors. Garlic chives (year-round), sage, genovese & lemon basil, scallions (fat sassy ones!) Allspice (leaves only-fruit will be too small yet.) Curry leaf, Oregano (Syrian, ‘regular’) peppermint. Probably rainbow carrots, but we might have already pulled them and taken the tops off, sitting in the cooler waiting for just this moment… Ditto for beets (golden, Chioggia, red.) Maybe some raspberries – they’ve been ripening only a handful at a time right now-acting a bit weird. Assorted edible flowers, mostly nasty-urchins (nasturtiums), ruellias, clitorias and lemony begonias – weather might kill the nasties off sooner. Doubtful any avocados will be big enough by then. Maybe some mangoes. Maybe some bananas (they’re unpredictable.) Looks like we might have a small lychee crop, not sure when they’ll be ready. Maybe some ciruelas (Jocote, aka hog plum/red mombin), tho still a bit early for that. We should also have assorted heirloom eggplant, depending on how hot it is. Ditto for assorted heirloom hot peppers. We’ll have dried tomatoes and dried fruits of summer assortment. That’s all I can think of at the moment. : ) the crystal ball is kinda hazy…

 – Margie Pikarsky, Bee Heaven Farm & Redland Organics, Homestead

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