Community Supported Agriculture: Southern Florida's growing season is here!

Hello Darlings! While it snows and temperatures are dropping all over the country, Southern Florida's growing season has just begun! And that means La Diva gets her weekly farm share or CSA (community supported agriculture)

Back in July, I paid my fave local farmers money to buy seeds and supplies to grow the crops. Later in the year when they start to harvest the crops, I get a weekly share. The down side is that if there are high winds, hurricanes or any damage to the crops, we all take the hit (but so do the farmers.) However, if all goes well, I get fresh, farm picked vegetables from farms within 100 miles of my home every week that are delivered to a convenient location. I get to eat what's in season but also farm fresh produce. Another benefit is I get to try unusual fruits or vegetables that are not normally available to me at the local grocer! Last year I tried sugar cane, black sapote and canistel fruit for the first time!

Garlic chives growing under a banana tree at Bee Heaven Farm courtesy of Miami Dish blog. Click on photo to take you there!

Last year, I started my CSA for the first time and decided to challenge myself by eating what was only in the fridge, freezer or pantry with my farm box and ONLY going to the market if it was absolutely necessary! This was an amazing challenge as it allowed me to clean out my pantry of a ton of food that I had been storing and also saved me quite a bit of money and cut down significantly on food waste! It also really got my creative juices flowing! (You can see all of last year's recipe ideas if you click on the CSA side link to the right) I urge you to give it a shot because if you are anything like La Diva, you've probably got a lot of food in your pantry that could be utilized or have forgotten about!

This year, I've decided that when I get my box, I'm going to try to think of a number of dishes I can make with the items and post them with updates on the dishes I make throughout the week. That way if any of my local readers want some inspiration on what to do with their farm shares after they pick them up, they can come to my site for ideas or add their own in the comments section!

Margie, of Bee Heaven Farms has started her own blog! Click on the link above to take you to her site. Her farm is in the "Redland" in Southern Florida and is about 40 miles southwest of Miami Beach!

Here's what La Diva got in her box today:

  • Green beans
  • Braising greens mixture (mizuna, tatsoi, kale, raab and more)
  • Eggplant
  • Green pepper
  • Green chard
  • Piper Betel leaves
  • Thai basil
  • Cucumber
  • Cherry tomato
Here are my ideas for dinner this week:

  1. Vegan dinner of Betel Leaf Salad with shredded Carrot and Thai green curry with tofu, eggplant, green peas, water chestnut and Thai basil
  2. Risotto with green chard and sun-dried tomato chicken sausage
  3. Fish baked en papillote with garlic tomato sauce served over braised greens on quinoa
  4. Chinese pepper "steak" using chicken breasts instead
I'll use the green beans as a side or cold in a salad and the cukes and tomatoes will go into our dinner salads. I just CAN'T WAIT to use the betel leaves! I've seen them in Thai and Malaysian restaurants in Australia but its the first time I saw them here!

If any of you have any of your own ideas, post 'em here! I CAN'T WAIT for your comments! Ciao for now, darlings!cooking class, cocktails, parties, cocktail party, Miami, coral gables, events, bartending class, cocktail class, Laura Lafata, Miami Beach, miami cooking classes, bachelorette parties, bachelorette party, personal chef, corporate events, catering, personal chef, party entertainment


Buzz Kill said...

I've never heard of this CSA you've joined. I guess because we don't have them (to my knowlege) in South Jersey even though we are the Garden State. Can you elaborate a little more on the deal? Cost, how many boxes do you expect to get, where do you go to pick up the stuff, can you barter with other people in the CSA?

A lot of the stuff in your box I've never heard of. Betel leaves, mizuna, tatsoi, etc. You do have some great sounding recipes though. Some suggestions (as requested) would be cucumber and basil vinegar salad and eggplant Baba Ghanoush maybe? I'd love to see (and so would all your other visitors) a daily dinner picture of some of the more exotic, successful recipes. Good luck.

LaDivaCucina said...

Hi Buzzy! Your comment got me curious so I Googled CSA New Jersey and found a site that lists all the CSA's state by state. It says something about closed for 2008 season, so not sure if the site is up to date but they do give at least a dozen listings for New Jersey!

You can click on the farms and get the updated news. Actually, it's a good time of year for you to do this as your season would start in the Spring, so if you are interested, I would jump on it now.

Our season runs from mid-November to about mid-April. I paid about $400 + a $50 annual delivery fee to get a half share each week. That's plenty for us. I ride my bike about a mile and a half away to pick up my share from a private home each week, she keeps them out on her covered back porch. Some shares are larger than others depending on what is harvested and if there's been any inclement weather. Last year we had a bit of damage due to winds and a cold snap so we lost some green beans. I also get organic honey in my share and can get eggs and other things too. I was surprised to find I get different stuff each week and thought I'd get sick of some things. But it has not worked out that way. Having said that, I will see eggplant again throughout the season as well as many of the veggies. Some will finish and some will continue through out while some will come into harvest later. It's great.

I guess what is grown depends on your area so your produce would obviously be different from mine. My CSA grows tropical fruits and veggies like the Caribbean green amaranth or callaloo, black sapote, canistel, reg. stuff like radishes, green beans, turnips and corn and also Asian like the betel leaf (Thai, Malay), mizuna (Japanese), tatsoi (Chinese) It makes for a nice challenging mix of veggies.

Click on the label link to the right that says CSA to see what I did for my challenge last year. I also made these excellent coconut canistel muffins, you can search them on the site too with the button. Canistel is also called egg fruit and is the color and texture of a hard boiled egg yolk.

Let me know if you find a local CSA and if you are going to do it! Thanks for your suggestion too. I've got plenty more cukes coming, incl. pickling ones, So your recipe will come in handy soon.

LaDivaCucina said...

Oh yeah, baba ganoush will be good to remember a month or two from now when I've tired of eggplant caponata and ratatouille!

moi said...

How cool, thanks for the inspiration! I don't think any of us in the U.S. live in an area so thickly urbanized that a local farm or ranch isn't within an hour's reach. We should avail ourselves of their services much more often. And if you can find someone who hunts, bonus!

My nearest CSA is Los Poblanos Organics down in Albuquerque's North Valley (along the river). Our growing season starts in May – I can't wait to give it a shot!.

So is that betel pronounced beetle or baytel? Oh, and a resounding YES! to baba ganoush!

Buzz Kill said...

Thanks Diva. I looked into some of these and they are either not up to date or too far away. The closest ligitament looking one is in Hoboken (if you can believe that) which is about 90 miles away. I bookmarked the site and will check back in the early spring to see if there are any updates.

Until then, I will have to look at sustainable foods and recipes vicariously through you.

LaDivaCucina said...

HI Buzz, you should get in touch with some of the farms because they will arrange delivery or maybe will get you in touch with someone closer.

LaDivaCucina said...

Moi, I'm not sure on the pronunciation as we Yanks like to pronounce things are own way. In Australia we pronounce lychees as LIE-Chee so not too sure but the dictionary said Beet- el.

So, have to say, that salad SUCKED!! The betel leaf is quite strong in flavor, very medicine/mint flavor and I didn't like the salad at all. When I was looking up the recipes, most served a bite ON the betel leaf and I've had them at a Malaysian restaurant stuffed with eggplant, chile and mushrooms. I have two leaves left with a bit of tofu, maybe I'll try stuffing them?

Big Shamu said...

It's funny to read about your CSA just starting when we're getting snow here.
I've always toyed with the idea of a CSA but here's the thing, the few times I've had the luck to get someone else's box while they were on vacation, I've been overwhelmed to use everything in the box before it goes bad. It doesn't help that I'm cooking for just me. I make up for it by visiting the farmer's market on the weekends and buying what's available from the local farmers. We have some fantastic markets on both sides of the state line. That way I can buy just what I need. Like an ostrich egg. I could see if I cooked and taught cooking all the time where this would be an advantage so it's wonderful hearing about your adventures in Mystery Farm Box cooking.

Buzz Kill said...

I've done a little more research into this (in my area) and I don't think it's for me. We will grow our garden again this year at the community garden, so we will be eating our own sustainable vegatables. We'll probably start planning after the new year because we did it a little haphazardly last year.

Different subject, did you see this article on the EPIC Hotel? Not to ruin your memories but there it is.

LaDivaCucina said...

Hi Shamu, if you can get what you need and still support the farmers and get farm fresh produce, then the farmer's market is the way to go! I get a half share and that is more than enough for two people. Why I do like about getting the Mystery Box is that is does include stuff I'd never buy! However, towards the end of the season, if I see one more freakin' turnip....

Buzzy, yeah, you gotta do what's right for you and your family. Good luck with the garden! My girlfriend told me about the Epic hotel and I think I could have had a case of the Legionairre's as I was there in the time frame for the disease to incubate and I had all the symptoms over Thanksgiving: chills, fever, body aches. But the big bear man didn't. So, it's still a mystery. Bad luck for the hotel though, they are just a year old and hardly need this now.

TROLL Y2K said...

Okay, you have inspired me to at least TRY to go the CSA route in some manner. There are SIX within 30 miles of Troll County.

However, the first one who's website I looked at used the term "groovy times in the 70s" in the text.

I'm not making that up! "Groovy times in the 70s". They have a "Fiesta on Siesta" on Sundays featuring a farmers market and "music and entertainment.

I'm frighted that I'll encountered old hippies wearing mandals reeking of patchouli and cannabis while playing Bob Dylan songs.

LaDivaCucina said...

Troll: OH NO!!!! NOT grilled-cheese-makin', tie-dyed shirt wearin', Grateful Dead listenin', hackey-sack playin' dreadlock sportin', underarm hair havin', no bathin' HIPPIES?!!! haha! To be honest, that line would have frightened me too. As long as they are good, responsible farmers! Maybe they are just "creative" and have a sense of humour? I'd talk to anyone else I could and do a bit of research about who is the best local CSA, that's what I did before I signed up last year.

Margie said...

Hey, man, this here's an aging hippie growing your food for you!! What's wrong with that? provided you've moved on... ;-)
Anyhow, the most comprehensive farm/CSA/farmers market locator that I'm aware of is at You input your zipcode and the type of place you're looking for (farm, restaurant, CSA, farmers market, etc or leave it blank for everything) and you'll be amazed at what you find near you!

LaDivaCucina said...

Uh oh, don't tick off Margie or there will be more turnips!!! haha! Thanks Margie, for the info, of course, I forgot all about that website! Hope to see you soon!

Sandcastle Momma said...

What a wonderful idea! I really liked the idea and followed the link you left for Buzz only to find that there isn't one anywhere in northwest Florida. Sigh. I guess I'll have to live vicariously through your blog. I can't wait to see your recipes!

LaDivaCucina said...

I clicked on the link Margie left and the correct link is:

Boxer said...

I think if I were Buzz Kill, I wouldn't want to eat anything made near Hoboken, NJ. bwahahahahah. This is seriously cool. The PNW is full of tree-hugging-organic-growing-farmers but I really love that you invested in the crop. I can't wait to see what you do with your bounty. And thanks for the vegetarian option. Too bad I really can't cook. :-) xoxox.

Marian said...

If you want to see picture of the weekly shares, I've been posting them on my blog These are the same pictures that Margie prints in the CSA newsletter.

Jill said...

You had me at risotto!

LaDivaCucina said...

I made the risotto last night! Delicious! I sauteed the chard stems with garlic,onion and a bit of celery and then added the chopped greens at the end once the rice was cooked!

TROLL Y2K said...

Margie the hippy's link was better designed, I think and had some not on the first link. Including one in Ruskin where I'm fairly sure there are no hippies. It also let you find restaurants and U-Picks and other stuff. That was neat.

Still working on the logistics and cost and comparing alternatives.

Dani said...

I love that you're posting the recipes! Gives me good ideas for the stuff in my own garden.

Redlander said...

Diva, I'm really surprised that neither Margie nor Marian mentioned to you that our area is called The REDLAND (no s)!
Redlands California is a whole 'nother place!
And about that betel leaf,I was taught to say BAYtel and thats as close as I want to get to it.I know people that have grown and chewed it,which I believe is the common usage but really why bother--YUCK

LaDivaCucina said...

Hi Redlander, welcome. Yep, Margie usually does correct me! haha! She must have missed it. I've corrected it and have been to the other Redlands too! Thanks for alerting me.

Yes, I say BAY-tel leaf too, that's how we say it when I lived in Australia. I'll have to try using it another way, raw was just tooo harsh! Thanks for stopping by!

Hey Dani, anytime! I am not going to make the chicken with green peppers but fajitas instead!

Aunty Belle said...

oooh! what a great discussion.

We'uns has an embarrassment of wealth when it comes to organic /local farmer grown foods. We has a bunch of U-Pick-it famrs, so ya can go right out in the fields to get yore own tomatoes or blueberries or beans. AN about a dozen local farmer's markets too. One lady an her son grow zinnas along wif' the lettuces.

Anyhoo--I did wanna mention natural grass fed beef. (an' natural pork chickens an eggs too)

Heah in Florida we has many options. here is a good link:

Now I'se off to read yore menus.

LaDivaCucina said...

Wow, Auntie, thanks for the FABULOUS link! I'd love to get my meat fresh and grass fed! Going to check these out and see who can accommodate me here in Miami.

Jill said...

I think that banana flower looks phallic...isn't the phallicness of the banana enough!?

I'll be roast is smelling too roasty.