Get Growing at GrowFest!

Late October starts feeling like fall here, and there’s one event here that truly celebrates the very best of outdoor South Florida – subtropical flora, pleasant temps, the pastoral beauty of the Redland – and throws in homespun artisan products, edible plant sales and a friendly, laid-back vibe. The annual GrowFest! at Fruit and Spice Park, Oct. 18-19, is organized by Margie Pikarsky and her team at Bee Heaven Farm: “GrowFest! is about connecting the dots between the farm or garden and the dinner table. It’s about providing the knowledge and materials to grow, forage, buy, prepare and eat good, local, seasonal food.”

Every year, GrowFest! has gotten bigger and better, with more vendors and booths. This year, there’s a smart combination of practical (plant clinic, showerhead and lightbulb exchange, plant advice) with cultural (mango poetry, community art on Sunday and the screening of “Hungry for Justice” a documentary about social justice issues for agricultural workers presented by Florida Organic Growers). We’ll be there too, with our brand-new fall issue, so do stop by to say hello and pick up your copy.

Here are some of this year’s highlights:

Backyard plants: Get seedlings – including heirloom tomatoes and hard-to-find … Read More

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First SEED Growing & Thriving

Next week’s SEED Food & Wine Festival – the first plant-based food and wine festival in the country – is generating lots of buzz. Part of it comes from the star power they’re attracting: celebs like actor and author Alicia Silverstone, raw food chef Matthew Kenney, award-winning plant-based chef/restaurateurs Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, and retired NBA champ and vegan John Salley, to name a few. And the rest of it comes from a South Florida community that’s really “getting it” when it comes to healthy eating, says co-founder Alison Burgos.

“We’re riding the cusp of this very new conversation in Miami,” says Burgos. “I don’t think this is a fad. It’s the future.”

When Burgos and Michelle Gaber decided to launch SEED in South Florida, they knew “we’re in a community that celebrates excess and indulgence and can be fickle,” says Burgos. “Latins, eat healthy food?” Burgos says she grew up with traditional fare like roast pig and starches. “It would offend the family if I didn’t eat everything on my plate.”

Brendan Brazier

But that’s changing. “Meat is not the star anymore. Health and wellness is a real game changer. People want to be healthy.” Today, she sees … Read More

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Ein Prosit! Oktoberfest in South Florida

  Beer, wurst, schnitzel? Ja! Never mind that South Florida doesn’t have the rich German heritage of the Midwest. Revelers of nearly every cultural background are ready to celebrate the subtropical version of the annual Bavarian festival that begins in September and runs through the first weekend in October. Here are some places to get your dirndl or lederhosen on. Ein, zwei, drei, g’suffa!

Sam Adams Octoberfest (Sept. 19 & 20)

Now in its fifth year, this festival takes over SoHo Studios in Wynwood so it’s undercover and airconditioned – a smart move for South Florida since it’s still rainy season. Festivities include music from the International Polka Band, a “Raise the Stein” Contest  and Miss Octoberfest judging.

German-American Society of Hollywood Oktoberfest (Sept. 27, Oct. 11, Oct. 25)

Those looking for a traditional experience with their bier will get the most satisfaction from cultural organizations, who showcase local folklore groups and entertainment, and include members of the community. You’ll find young and old, many dressed in colorful costumes, enjoying German brews and fare.

20th Annual Coral Gables Oktoberfest (Oct. 2-12)

This event marks two decades of Oktoberfest led by Austrian Harald Neuweg. Held on the plaza of Fritz & Franz … Read More

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Joy of Jackfruit

Jackfruit at Fruit and Spice Park. Photo by Alfredo Añez

Only a few years ago, this massive fruit with its powerful fruity aroma seemed to be a novelty in South Florida, little known except to tropical fruit aficionados and members of the Asian community. Today, you can find fresh jackfruit at farmers markets, on restaurant menus and in backyards with increasing frequency.

“There is definitely more awareness today,” says Dr. Richard Campbell, director of horticulture and senior curator of tropical fruit at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden. “The jackfruit has a strong cultural connection with the people of Asia. Here in South Florida there is a growing awareness of the jackfruit that comes through these ethnic groups. Mango is indeed highly successful in South Florida and is our biggest farm-gate fruit, but jackfruit is also strong and growing. Using the Asian culture and awareness, South Florida farmers and markets have been successful with jackfruit.”

A member of the mulberry family, the jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) is native to Asia. Its spiky bright green fruits, weighing upward of 30 to 40 pounds, hang from the trunk. Inside are fleshy arils surrounding large, starchy seeds. Green jackfruit has a meaty quality … Read More

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Crowdfunding a New Greenhouse









At Bee Heaven Farm, Margie Pikarsky’s idyllic organic farm in the Redland, there are rows of avocado trees, papaya trees soaring high into the blue late-summer sky and fat starfruit (carambola) hanging from the branches. Workers are packing avocados. Butterflies visit flowers along the periphery. Tall rows of sunn hemp, a cover crop, serve as feathery walls. Everything is lush and green, except for a fragrant mound of fresh brown mulch and a large, leveled area of dirt, once part of the grove.

In the summer, avocados are Bee Heaven Farm’s key crop.

This will be the site of a new greenhouse. For 10 years, Bee Heaven’s small shadehouse was used for growing transplants and seedlings, sold at markets and festivals. But the demand for seedlings that grow well in South Florida has been increasing, so the farm needs a much larger greenhouse – one that can be used for growing trials and aquaponics, among other uses. The nursery would also be open to the public, Pikarsky says.

Pikarsky figures the new greenhouse will cost about $55,000. This will allow her to build a 60×90 greenhouse and a 60×12 pole shed to … Read More

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Streetscapes Make Downtowns Sparkle

It’s a whole new landscape in urban South Florida – one that recalls earlier days, when folks walked, biked and took trolleys and streetcars to get around. Streetscapes – wider, pedestrian-friendly downtown areas, with room for sidewalk cafes, lush landscaping, welcoming benches and street lighting – are business boosters and enhance neighborhood downtowns in fresh, new ways. They’re in the works in a number of busy urban areas: Coconut Grove’s Commodore Plaza is currently in the midst of a streetscape design, expanding the brick sidewalk area and adding new trees, while in downtown Miami, historic Flagler Street will soon be getting a major makeover with new trees, drainage repair and other elements to create a more inviting atmosphere for both tourists and residents. And in Coral Gables, an ambitious facelift for Miracle Mile and Giralda in the heart of the downtown business district aims to enhance this lively dining and shopping destination.

“To me, this is transformational,” says Marina Foglia, executive director of the Business Improvement District (BID) of Coral Gables. “Now we have the Design District, Wynwood, Downtown Miami, Brickell, Flagler, South Miami and Coconut Grove,” she says. “We need to make sure we are viable.”

For Coral Gables, … Read More

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Cheers! That cocktail’s gluten, sugar-free

Living that gluten-free, sugar-free, no-allergen lifestyle? Then you may be interested in Devotion Vodka, an American vodka made with 100 percent corn.

“Most vodka is made from a combination of mixed grains, wheat, potatoes or corn,” says Mike Calleja, partner and COO, Devotion Vodka. “The big role gluten plays in vodka is the source in which it originates. Devotion Spirits uses only 100 percent corn, leaving no room for mixed grains or wheat as some of our competitors do.

The corn is non-GMO and sugar is not added, Calleja says. For flavor, they teamed up with Allen Flavors, maker of Arizona Iced Tea, to develop a way to eliminate sugars as a flavoring agent in vodka. In place of sugar, they use a proprietary essence process and natural flavors to create desired components of taste, he says. The result is a vodka that is not watered down. “Today, most flavored vodkas on the shelves have been diluted by sugary flavoring agents, giving them the candy effect, and watering them down to 70 proof,” says Calleja. “Devotion’s proprietary flavoring process was created to ensure its flavored vodkas maintain all sugar-free attributes and remain 80 proof.”

“We are the first vodka family … Read More

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