Category Archives: Uncategorized

Rabbit. It’s what’s for dinner.

P1080885I cried. It’s true. It’s difficult not to when something warm, fuzzy, and cute you have raised and cared for is about to meet its end in order to become dinner for your table. But then the reality sets in of this is the moment you have prepared yourself for, and this is what really happens when you eat meat. Animals die. Most of us never have to deal with or even think about the dirty side of eating flesh. I myself was a vegetarian for 8 years. My selective diet was not based on a bias against eating meat. My meal plans were based more on a desire to not be a part of the mass factory producing (not to mention hormone, antibiotic method) meat system. I do believe there is a massive difference between the way most Americans (and other countries) produce and consume meat and the way in which a small farm or self-sustaining family does. Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said, “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.” Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are. When we consume meat mindlessly, without thought to the creature to which we are ingesting, it trickles into our very being. We become mindless, tortured beings as those factory farmed typically are. When you have a relationship with the meat you eat, the consumption takes on a very different meaning, and I would argue a reverence. I am raising rabbits for my own meat. They are easy to produce, grow quickly P1080918

IMG_0651 to harvest, and are a delicious, nutritious source of meat. But eating them comes with a price. It means killing and letting go of something I have loved. But loved and cared for them I have, so when I read a declaration like that of Brillat-Savarin, I know that what I eat is love. And by that token, that’s what I am too.

Let’s Get Growing

What an honor it is to appear on the front page of the Florida Weekly with the Caption: Grow Some Garden Goodness: The time is right to get dirty and grow your own food. Not my words, but definitely my sentiment as well. That’s why I’m looking forward to another round of the upcoming hands on food growing course to help aspiring and advanced gardeners transform our yards and communities into food producing gardens.

This course was originally led by Frank Oakes of Oakes Farm and Food in Thought in Naples who inspired and encouraged a room full of participants to go out and share their knowledge and love of organic gardening with others. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the past three years. Let’s get growing!

Participation in this course benefits the Holton Eco-Preserve in Fort Myers, a community service project of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ft. Myers where the classes will be held.

Salad Mallow: A Green For All Seasons

Corchorus olitorius

Some time ago I attended a small farmer’s gathering at a local farm on Pine Island. During the gathering, which included small growers from all over the state, we enjoyed a tour of the farm, exchanged seeds along with a few trade secrets, and enjoyed a potluck style lunch. It was during the lunch that I was introduced to the delectable Salad Mallow (Corchorus olitorius) also known as Egyptian Spinach, Jew’s Mallow, Molokhiya, Jute and a variety of other names depending on the region where it has historically been used.

You might be surprised to know that when it comes to greens, I’m always a bit picky and therefore skeptical as to the palatableness of them, but as I sat there devouring a salad comprised of this plant, I couldn’t help being both astonished and delighted to want more. I was even more surprised when I recognized that it was being grown during our Florida summer months. I started interrogating the farmer who was responsible for the dish. How does it grow? Where do you grow it? What’s it called again? As soon as I returned home, I was online researching the green which would eventually become a full time resident in my garden. The same day I located a seed supplier and ordered my first batch of seeds. My research made it clear, this is one amazing and under used plant in our area.

Corchorus olitorius is a powerhouse of nutrition. Besides containing over 20% green leaf protein, it contains one of the highest levels of potassium in the vegetable world. It also contains significant amounts of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and other essential minerals. It’s packed full of vitamin A and contributes to the daily intake of vitamins B1, B2, B3 & C. Medicinally, this plant has been reported to be prepared as a tea and used as a tonic. Properties and traditional medicine also suggest it to be anti-diarrheal, demulcent, expectorant, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and digestive.  In India and Bangladesh, this plant is grown primarily as an essential fiber product known as Tossa jute. In my own garden, I grow this primarily for salad greens, but it also used in cooked recipes and takes on a mucilaginous quality when prepared this way. Molokhia is a popular Egyptian dish.

Growing 3-4′ tall and bushy if given enough space, this is a perfect plant for both container and traditional gardening. I harvest the leaves much like basil to encourage a continued bushy growth and prevent early flowering, but you can also harvest down to about 6 inches from the ground and wait for the plant to grow back harvesting 2-3 times this way. You can also dry and store the leaves to be rehydrated later or used in teas. This is an annual crop, so if you want a year round supply, you will need to start new plants 2-3 times a year especially in the S. Florida August-September months. The plants benefit from partial afternoon shade in the summertime. This is one of the easiest plants I’ve grown and it is mostly pest and disease resistant though black spot has appeared from time to time. I treat by hand removing the leaves and/or giving a light spray of baking soda and water.

From the high nutrition density, to the ease of growth, to the ability to preserve the leaves for future use, this is a spectacular candidate for your edible garden. If you are serious about producing nutritional food for you and your family then add this one to the list. I have both plants and seeds available for sale if you would like to explore the world of the Corchorus olitorious.

Hot! Hot! Hot!

Hot Peppers are one of my favorite things to have growing in the garden. As edibles go, they are easy to keep happy (even in the summer time), and their assorted colors, shapes, and sizes make them a flexible, showy addition to your edible landscape. Hot peppers also vary widely on the heat scale and can be suited to the least and most fire breathing among us.

With an abundance of cayenne peppers brightening up my garden this summer, I decided I would turn this batch of fiery red fruits into hot sauce. Mmm spicy!!!