Follow the Forager: Growing Season Forecast is Bright on South Florida Farms with Chris Padin & His New Farm-to-Kitchen Instagram

photo-10What’s better than having a forager? A forager who uses Instagram!  That’s what we are lucky enough to have, now that Chris Padin has added an account for Farm to Kitchen, his small local product distribution business.  We rely on Chris for amazing eggs, beets, heirloom tomatoes, and more found on his twice-weekly, morning Homestead farm runs and then delivered those same afternoons to our chefs’ doorsteps in the Design District. This turn around is so fast and so fresh, that sometimes product hasn’t been out of the ground more than 5 hours before it shows up on our plates.  As you can see, Chris is off to a prolific start, as is the growing season:

[The crazy weather] actually worked in our favor. The cool nights and hot days speed up the process on a lot of things.  All of the growers are very happy. It seems like it will be a great season. [With the Instagram] I’m trying to let everyone know where all of their product is coming from.

Most of the farms pictured below, and their products, should be familiar to those of you who read the blog and know our menus well, except for maybe one.  You may recall Green Dean Richardson’s snake gourds from back in the day, but it’s been a while since we ordered from him. Chris reconnected with Dean yesterday, and says he is very enthusiastic about his crop this year, and that he is thrilled that we reached out to him. Look for Dean’s mustard greens, mixed basil tops, swiss chard, and mixed radishes to show up on the menu soon.  Who knew Chris such a great eye for photography, too?  It’s going to be a great season!

Harry’s Pizzeria Panna Cotta Goes Round the Mulberry Bush

It’s springtime, and Hedy Goldsmith is in love with a berry!  Here in Miami it may not be the cold and frosty morning from the nursery rhyme, but our executive pastry chef is frolicking in the short mulberry season.   She pickled the pencil variety from Bee Heaven Farm’s Margie Pikarsky to pair with chocolate-blood pudding for Cochon 555.  She’s baking pies at home with them.  But what about us?!

Hedy’s looking out and has planned a change for Harry’s Pizzeria’s panna cotta.  Meyer Lemon & Buttermilk with Local Mulberries, pictured here, is on beginning tomorrow at our lil neighborhood joint.  Enjoy!

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.

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#GenuineCayman in Photos

Chef Thomas surveys Patrick Panton's spread at the weekly Camana Bay Farmers Market for greens, soursop, eggplant, and more.

Margie found indian cucumbers at Wednesday's market and may try growing them next season at her Homestead farm.

Happy Birthday to Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink Grand Cayman which turned one on Thursday, June 16.  To mark this milestone, a quick update on some things we’re working on which I experienced first-hand when Michael and I were on-island this past week.  Our continued effort to work with local farmers and their product has manifested in a TV pilot called Genuine Cayman which we shot with producer Emma Gladstone for local station Cayman 27.  Hosted by Michael, each episode will take viewers out into the field to source a particular ingredient and meet the people behind it, culminating in the kitchen with a recipe using that ingredient. Bee Heaven Farm’s Margie Pikarsky came down again, continuing her Farmer Exchange and consultation on Camana Bay’s chefs’ garden project.  She also foraged just-about-ripe-for-drying dates from the decorative palms in front our restaurant in the The Crescent, and chef Thomas is figuring out how to work with them. It is going to be a big harvest if Michael can get the nets he wants! Continue reading

Farmer Margie Pikarsky’s Spice Route Yields Florida Citrus This Week

Hedy Goldsmith's sweet citrus special today.

Thanks to enterprising local farmers like Bee Heaven’s Margie Pikarsky, who also acts as forager and distributor, we can access beautiful product from farms so small that they might otherwise escape our radar.

Margie has carved out a central Florida spice route of sorts, sending her truck up to Punta Gorda once a week to tap the sporadic yet luscious bounty of producers like Virgina of Broken J Ranch.  You won’t find her on Google, but thanks to a partnership with Eva and Chris Worden of Worden Farm, her no-input (spray) ruby grapefruits, tangelos, navel oranges, and ponkans are picked for both CSA and restaurant use.
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