May 272011
 
I have a secret to share…….
Much to my initial shock, the growing season for most farms here in Florida is actually over the winter.  I quickly found this out when I decided to join a CSA/farm share and was informed that pickups started in November.  Being a northeastern girl by birth I always assumed that it started in spring and ended in fall.  That is when my dad did his gardening after all, and what inspired my love of the earth and fresh foods.  He had raised gardens flanked by trellises for peas.  I always felt as if I were walking into the Secret Garden; cool mornings with dew glistening on leaves, gorgeous blood-red tomatoes, peas that snap when you bite into them, watermelon heavy and bloated with white bellies and sweet juice, blackberries so juicy they stain your hands and face as you pick them and eat them off the bush.

The wonderful thing about Florida is that, not only do we have all these wonderful fruits and veggies down here, there is also the prevalence of southern greens!

They, of course, are grown in the north as well, but greens aren’t ingrained in the traditional northeastern food culture.  I didn’t know what I was missing; collards, kale and mustard.  What a travesty! 

Though the warmer weather offers much variety, it also poses some additional challenges. The summers bring more pests and the intense heat dries the soil and withers the crops. 
Alas, yesterday, as my csa season came to a close and I picked up my very last share of vegetables.  While I was there, I paused to reflect on what I gained through this experience; a sense of community with my fellow members, chatting and sharing recipes at our Thursday pickups and through our farm-to-table potluck. The event was held at the farm; the quiet of the expanse of land filled with vegetables, sounds muffled by the soft ground, broken only by the laughter of children.  We gained a sense of being closer to the earth; getting our hands dirty; pulling our own potatoes and sharing foods that came from the earth and we made with our own hands.
My daughter and I sought out farmers markets and visited other farms, we met the actual farmers and their animals; goats, chickens and cows all roaming free.   

I learned about the growing season; about vegetables I didn’t even know existed and challenged myself with creating recipes, that didn’t just include them, but featured them.  
I learned a fraction of what the small organic farmer endures for the love of whole foods.  In the Florida summer, though the season is ending for me, for the organic farmer the work does not end.  The fields need care and seedlings are planted in preparation for the new growing season.  There are few nights and weekends off and the labor is manual and intense.  I can sympathize that the seductive pull of growing genetically modified crops is strong.  In the short term, more crops can be planted per acre, weeds can be killed by spraying herbicide rather than by hand or by laying out mats, pesticides can be used, farmers can even take a summer vacation.  But at what cost? 
Is it a coincidence that the rise of food allergies has a direct correlation with the emergence of genetically modified products? Do we really know all the repercussions of tampering with nature? I’m not sure if these questions will be answered in my lifetime but what about my daughters?  The only thing I can control now is ensuring I know where my food comes from, developing relationships with the people growing and raising it, and sharing the wonderful, amazing experience with my two year old daughter in the hopes that she will carry it with her through life.

p.s. I must share that there are some farmers that still do grow a few crops in the summer but as a whole, it is just much harder between the heat and the pests. 

To close out my story, I will share a recipe that embodies everything I learned.  My new friend Wendy, also an organic farmer, dropped me off two of these purple heirloom tomatoes at my front door (one of the benefits of knowing and loving your farmers). Sweet, juicy and the best part…purple! I pared it with some organic, grass fed and free range beef and some goat cheese from goats I personally met. 

Purple Heirloom Tomato and Goat Cheese Burgers on Open Faced Portobello with Balsamic
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

Ingredients

1 lb organic, grass fed beef
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, to taste
3 Tbsp whole grain mustard
1 Tbsp Worcestershire
2 Tbsp organic ketchup
Canola oil spray
4 Portobello mushrooms
4 thick slices tomato
4 oz fresh goat cheese
2 cups spring mix
4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Directions

1. Preheat grill to medium high.  Mix beef, salt, pepper, garlic powder, mustard, Worcestershire and mustard in a medium bowl.  Divide into four sections and shape into equal size burgers.  Season mushrooms with salt, pepper and garlic powder; spray both beef and mushrooms with oil.

2. Add burgers and mushrooms to the grill.  Reduce heat to medium; grill 4 to 5 minutes per side.

3. Place each mushroom on a plate, top with 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1/2 cup lettuce, 1 burger, 1 slice tomato and 1 oz goat cheese.  Serve with grilled asparagus.
Nutrition Facts
4 Servings
Amount Per Serving

Calories 423.1
Total Fat 30.1 g
Saturated Fat 13.6 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat 11.9 g
Cholesterol 98.1 mg
Sodium 648.8 mg
Potassium 459.1 mg
Total Carbohydrate 9.5 g
Dietary Fiber 1.6 g
Sugars 3.4 g
Protein 27.4 g

Vitamin A 27.6 %
Vitamin B-12 45.3 %
Vitamin B-6 20.7 %
Vitamin C 8.7 %
Vitamin D 4.4 %
Vitamin E 3.7 %
Calcium 8.3 %
Copper 20.3 %
Folate 5.4 %
Iron 19.1 %
Magnesium 9.0 %
Manganese 6.6 %
Niacin 31.8 %
Pantothenic Acid 10.8 %
Phosphorus 26.7 %
Riboflavin 27.0 %
Selenium 37.7 %
Thiamin 8.1 %
Zinc 32.5 %

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
 Posted by at 3:46 pm  Tagged with:

  8 Responses to “What I learned this year and Purple Heirloom Tomato and Goat Cheese Burgers on Open Faced Portobellos”

  1. I bet that goat cheese was out of this world amazing…

    These pictures are wonderful, I am so inspired to find a CSA, get to know my local farmers, and to try to cook and eat a little more locally this summer!

    Great post Dawn!

    (sorry about your trouble commenting, I hope it wasn't my blog's fault)

    P.S. I too have been doing some serious stress eating, pretzels and pb being the main culprit.

  2. Treks Farm's goat cheese is AWESOME and those are some very nice goats that share their milk to make it! Great recipe idea and I will be sharing many more tomatoes with Miss Dawn!

  3. Even being from the South, I was always afraid of greens actually. Thought of them as bitter and was afraid to try. I love kale now, but have yet to try collards or mustard greens. I'm really loving your pictures by the way. And I am not at all surprised about food allergies coinciding with modified & processed foods. It makes sense. Too bad it doesn't make sense to everyone.

  4. I must share an additional comment that I got from Wendy and in turn updated my post. Thanks so much for the comment Wendy!!!!
    “Now don't forget that although there are many csa farmers that don't have a summer growing season that there are many things that are grown by some of us. We grow green beans, summer squash, zucchini , cucumbers many varieties of sweet and hot peppers and strawberries thru the summer. All of which I will be sharing with you in the coming weeks. I don't know why many farmers don't have a summer season. We are canning mild and hot peppers today so let me know if you would like any of those! :)”

  5. I'd say you took great advantage of the CSA season! Well done. Ours just started last week, funny enough. Turnips were my challenge! Recipe will be online soon…still working out some kinks :-)

  6. Very interesting! I love learning about farming and growing your own produce, it's so fascinating. These burgers sound great too!

  7. Wow I definitely did NOT know that about Florida growing seasons! But it does get super hot and humid there…and I wouldn't want to farm in that weather. My CSA is just starting next week and you've inspired me so much! These burgers look absolutely delicious, especially with that goat cheese and heirloom topping!

  8. I have some goat cheese I need to use up. Thank you!

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