Summer in Miami is grueling — the combination of heat and humidity makes us move like a snail — so it was surprising to hear from local farmers that many fruits and vegetables thrive in our hot summers. Slow Food Miami’s vice president, Chef Julie Frans, organized a Chefs Alliance recently at Wynwood Yard to showcase Florida farmers and their summer produce, with a wonderful farm talk aimed at chefs, caterers, cooks, educators, and artisans.
Slow Food is a grass-roots association, which started in Italy in 1989 and now has thousands of members in over 150 countries. The group’s main objective is to promote growing and eating locally, preserving heirloom foods, supporting artisan food makers, and in reference to its name, avoiding “fast” food.
If you are lucky enough to be in a town with a local Slow Food chapter, attend some of the many free events. You’ll learn a lot and get to meet like-minded people. For the Chefs Alliance, you didn’t need to be a member or a chef to attend; you just needed enthusiasm for cooking and eating local.
My favorite Slow Food program is building edible gardens at schools, in order to teach kids at a young age where their vegetables come from and how to prepare them.
What we gleaned from the Chefs Alliance farm talk:
- We learned how to use fruits and vegetables to get the best out of them. For example, we got a demonstration from Aden, of LNB Grovestand, on how to open a jackfruit, how to use it, and how to store it. Fortunately, I videotaped the demo. Visit LNB website for the crops they grow and which market to buy them from lnbgrovestand.com.
- We tasted a variety of jackfruits and voted for the ones we liked.
- Chefs, who are usually stuck in the kitchen, got to interact with the farmers and other chefs.
- We heard an informative talk from farmers Muriel Olivares and Tiffany Noe of the Little River Cooperative, who introduced us to numerous unusual plants and vegetables that we normally don’t see at supermarkets, such as fresh tamarind pods and betel leaves (which are quite common in Asia, but not in Miami).
- The Little River Cooperative holds frequent educational workshops by artisans who teach making kimchi, and fermenting. They sell their produce to restaurants and at farmers markets and have their own CSA program. They also build and maintain edible gardens for schools and restaurants. I can’t wait to visit them in the fall. For information, or to sign up for their e-news, visit littlerivercoooperative.com.
- We were encouraged to use local produce, which supports our local farmers and is better for us in so many ways. The produce is much fresher, which equates to higher quality of nutrients.
- We received a list of summer produce from Emily Rankin of Local Roots. Her company connects farmers, foragers, and artisans with consumers and chefs. She brought us a tasting of Florida shrimp; papaya topped with a radish salad; and fresh whole coconuts, to drink right out of with a straw, so refreshing and good. Emily was so passionate about her work, she was texting during our talk to take care of a customer. For more details, visit localroots.com.
Head over to Slow Food Miami’s blog for another perspective of the Chefs Alliance event: slowfoodmiami.org/farm-to-table-in-miami-bring-on-the-summer-flavors.
For more information on the Slow Food, Miami chapter, go to slowfoodmiami.org.