Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fruit and Spice Park

The Fruit and Spice Park, located in Homestead, Florida, is a unique place to visit. It is a thirty acre public park that features 500 varieties of fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs, and nuts. Guided tours are available, and visitors can quite literally munch their way through the garden.  (There's a tasting counter at the park shop to sample things you can't yank off the plants and eat.)  If you want to learn about fruits and vegetables and see how they are naturally grown (especially ones that aren't found in your area), this is the place to visit.

The park is open daily from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Cost of admission for adults is $5.00, and for children, it is $1.50.

Before I go, I'd like to let you know that as a follow up to my radio interview, Solving the Hunger Problem, I created a Facebook group dedicated to sharing ideas that might make a difference for those who struggle with hunger issues.  You can find it here.  If you're on Facebook, I invite you to join.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Fairchild Tropical Gardens

Fairchild Tropical Gardens is located in Coral Gables, Florida.  It is an 83 acre botanical research and education center that contains an impressive collection of tropical plants.  Featured on the grounds is an 16,500 square foot conservatory called Windows to the Tropics, the McLamore Arboretum (10 acres of flowering trees), an endangered plant garden, a Keys Coastal Habitat (4 acre garden), and a rainforest exhibit (which contains the People of the Rainforest exhibit).

The gardens are open daily, except on December 25th, from 7:30 AM - 4:30 PM.  The cost of admission for adults is $25.00, and for children, $12.00.

Before I go, I wanted to let you know about a radio interview I did called, Solving the Hunger Problem.  In it, I discuss a very big problem facing a lot of families, and possible solutions.  I invite you to listen.  (It's short.)  You can find it here.  (Episode 20)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ernest Hemingway Museum Gardens

The Ernest Hemingway Museum Gardens are located in Key West, Florida.  These are the gardens which surround the Spanish colonial home where famous writer, Ernest Hemingway wrote most of his novels.  There are many lush, tropical plants on the grounds.  But the most interesting thing, in my opinion, are the cats.  They are descendants from the fifty cats Hemingway used to have.  Many of them are six-toed poly dactyl cats.  And they are everywhere!

The cost of admission for adults, which includes a guided tour, is $13.00.  The cost for children, is $6.00.  The gardens are open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

How to Collect Seeds from Fleshy Fruits and Vegetables

Are you interested in learning how to collect seeds from fleshy fruits and vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers?  Perhaps you have some heirloom tomatoes you'd like to grow next year from this year's crop.  Here's how you do it:

1.  Scoop out the insides of the vegetable and leave in a container to ferment.

2.  In three to five days, a mold will have formed over it.  This is fine.  It encourages germination.

3.  Scoop the mold off with a spoon and then add water to the container and swish around.

4.  Some seeds will float, others will sink.  Keep the ones that sink.

5.  Rinse and dry on a tray out of direct sunlight.

6.  When dry, store in a labelled envelope.  Include date on the envelope.

7.  Seeds should be stored in a cool, dark place.  They are viable for about three years, but it's better if they are used the following season.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Canning Your Fruits and Vegetables

Canning is a great way to preserve the fruits and vegetables you have harvested, and enjoy them year round.  Here's how to do it:

1. Peel the fruit.  (Tomato and peach skin can be removed by placing the fruit in boiling water for 30-60 seconds.  The skin will crack.  Remove the fruit and place in cool water.  Once cool enough to handle, slip the skin off.)

2.  Remove the cores, pits, or damaged parts.  Tomatoes can be canned whole.

3. Slice fruit to preferred size.

4.  Place fruit in a pot with water and turn on high heat.

5.  Add sugar to fruit:  approximately one cup per quart of fruit.

6.  If desired, add seasonings.

7.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat.  Simmer for twenty minutes.

8.  Prepare jars.  Use clean, sanitary jars.

9.  Turn off heat and fill jars to about a half inch from teh top.

10.  Place lids on each one and screw on a band, tightening snugly.

11.  Process the filled jars by bringing a large pot of water to a boil.  Boil the jars with water level a half inch above the tops of the jar.  This kills any remaining microorganisms.  (Process times are listed below these instructions, or follow your recipe.) Start timing when water comes to full boil."

12.  Remove jars carefully and place on a dish towel to cool.

13.  Jar lids should snap down and make a "pop" sound.  When the lids are pressed, they should not pop up.  If the jar is not properly sealed, refrigerate.

14.  Dry the jar lids to prevent rusting.

15.  Store in a cool, dry place.

Process times for jars:

Quart:  Apples:  20 minutes,  Apricots:  25 minutes,  Berries:  15 minutes,  Cherries:  20 minutes,  Peaches:  25 minutes, Pears:  25 minutes, Tomatoes:  45 minutes.

Pint:  Apples:  20 minutes,  Apricots:  20 minutes,  Berries:  15 minutes,  Cherries:  15 minutes,  Peaches:  20 minutes,  Pears:  20 minutes,  Tomatoes:  40 minutes.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Bok Tower Gardens

Bok Tower Gardens, located in Lake Wales, Florida, covers 157 acres, and sits on top of Iron Mountain, one of Florida's highest points (298 feet above sea level.  For Florida, this is high!).   This National Historic Landmark was begun in 1921, when Edward Bok, editor of the magazine, Ladies Home Journal, decided to create a bird sanctuary.  Mr. Bok died in 1930, and is buried at the base of the bell tower, which is located on the property.

Not only are there thousands of beautiful flowering plants, there are other interesting sites and events to see while visiting this place.  There is the bell tower, which contains 60 bells, and chimes at 1:00 and 3:00 daily.  Tours are available to see the inside of the bell tower.  The Pinewood Estate Mansion, located on the grounds, is also available to see.  There's a short 3/4 mile trail to wander down, too.  And as an added bonus, throughout the summer months, there are live orchestra and jazz concerts at 7:30 PM.

   The gardens are open daily from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM.  Admission is $12.00 for adults and $3.00 for children.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Butterfly Rainforest

If you like butterflies, the Butterfly Rainforest, in Gainesville, Florida, is the place to go.  This 6400 square foot enclosure is part of the Florida Museum of Natural History.  It houses gorgeous tropical plants, birds, and over 1,000 butterflies.  There's also a butterfly hatchery, for those who are interested in seeing the life cycle of a butterfly.  Visitors walking through the rainforest will see waterfalls, ponds containing koi and turtles, and plenty of feeding stations for the birds and butterflies.

Admission is $10.50 for adults and $6.00 for children.  The rainforest is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and Sunday from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM.