Seriously Local: Florida's Premier Farm Foragers
By Omar Sommereyns
Following a stop on the Miami River at Jungle Walls, where we try some herbs owner Peter Kastan is growing on small, vertical, manmade stands (including some very flavorful chocolate mint), we drive to the Miami G.R.O.W. (Green Railroad Organic Workshop), just west of the Miami International Airport. An independent nonprofit urban farm sponsored and supported by major produce and herb company Rock Garden, it sits on Flagler-owned railroad land—a burst of green beds spread across two acres between rows of nondescript warehouses. They offer education programs for kids and product for chefs, distributors, and urban foragers. As Rochaix and I walk the property, we’re treated to piquant aromas of mustard greens, chervil, sage, sorrel, and lemon verbena. Here, everything is certified organic.
Rochaix selects some tarragon flowers, “teen” romaine (intentionally overgrown baby romaine, which has a different flavor and texture), broccoli leaves, lavender, baby mustard greens, and hoja santa (all going to Bianca, Gigi, and Tuyo), and he’s done for the day. On the way home, he ponders the notion of farmers as the real stars of the culinary scene. “You hear a lot about chefs being the new rock stars, but it should be the small regional farmers, because they’re doing an amazing job producing these wonderful foods. Just try the honey from Lake Meadow. It’s made by bees nurtured on wildflowers. It’s so delicious and so warming, and if you put it on some toast in the morning and take a bite, then you just know you’re going to have a good day. Maybe there’s a placebo effect, but once you really start believing in buying local and appreciating where your food comes from, it can be life-changing.”
Photography by Presscott McDonald