I have been fascinated exploring the local Miami farmers markets and meeting the passionate farmers and learning about their growing seasons and produce. I was tipped off recently about a farm growing some unusual greens (exotic edible vegetables) near Homestead called Mr. Green Dean's Vegetable Farm.
My curiosity got the better of me and I naturally had to investigate. I gave Mr. Richardson, the owner of Mr. Green Dean's, a call and he happily gave me a tour of his farm, which was a rabbit’s paradise. For me, it was as though I was in a toy store being introduced to some cool, new toys.
Mr. Green Dean's started as an exterior flowering tree and palm landscape nursery, but with the economic down turn in 08', Mr. Green Dean (aka Dean Richardson) decided to segue from his nursery business to including unusual greens to eat. The farm is "sustainable, naturally grown" and pesticide free. Mr. Richardson uses a combination of compost and potting soil, which he believes, is the best way to control the growth of his greens. The greens are also cultivated in raised beds and covered with raised plastic tarps, which eliminates bugs and animals.
Dean had me try every type of green he was growing, snipping a sample right in front of me and motioning"here, try this!" The following is what I tried: wing beans, wild/heirloom arugula, red giant mustard greens, edible nasturtium, garlic chives, anise, Chinese kale, Vietnamese spinach (more on that later), French sorrel (grows year round and has a mild lemony flavor) and believe it or not, catnip! Yes, you read that correctly! Catnip is not just for cats but also for human consumption and it tastes delicious either eaten as a snack or incorporated into a salad. I learned that catnip has so many medicinal properties from headaches to stomach issues. Catnip actually has the opposite effect on humans in that it is calming. No, you will not find me in a corner chasing a ball of paper around.
Vietnamese spinach (longevity spinach) also has some fantastic healing benefits such as lowering bad cholesterol, lowering blood sugar to control diabetes etc. Again this spinach is so tender to eat and is an extremely versatile green to incorporate into your diet. Dean was told that his growing season would be only October to April, so he set out to find heat tolerant varieties of greens to be grown and eaten year round. Voila, Vietnamese spinach is just one of those varieties.
You can find Mr. Green Dean at the Coral Gables Farmers Market along with his lovely bride Christine (Christine is the new Executive Director of the Dade Heritage Trust, another cool place to check out in Brickell.) Both Dean and Chris are at the market armed with recipes and helpful hints if you are ever in doubt with what to do with your newly found, unusual greens.
I made Sorrel Soup, which was easy to make, satisfying and tasty.
1/2 lb sorrel
1/4 cup sliced onion
4 tbl butter
1 pint chicken broth
1/2 cup half and half
Salt to taste
Remove stems from sorrel leaves rinse and set aside.
Sauté onion in butter until translucent.
Add sorrel leaves to onions and wilt.
When sorrel leaves and onion are wilted, place in blender to make a puree.
Add chicken broth to your pan and warm while you are blending the sorrel/onion mix.
Add sorrel puree to the warmed chicken broth and stir until blended.
Add 1/2 and 1/2 and stir.
Simmer for 5 minutes.
Season to taste. Garnish with then slices of sorrel leaves and perhaps some fresh baguette rounds.
Coral Gables Farmers Market
Saturdays 8-2 until March 26, 2016
405 Biltmore Way
In front of City Hall
Coral Gables, FL