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Chocolate Festival—Day Two

Sun, Jan 26, 2014 at 08:47:31 AM

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Before the vegan brownie cooking demonstration Saturday at Fairchild’s International Chocolate Festival, poets from the Youth Writers Project at W.R. Thomas Middle School read several of their works about chocolate. Dariam Leal, 13, began with a poem entitled “A Rather Delicious Night Out,” which has my vote for one of the best rhymes ever: such a delicious aroma that could be detected all the way to Oklahoma. (This is not a direct quote, but aroma and Oklahoma will stick with me.) The Youth Writers had matching T-shirts and wonderful poise. Advisor Victoria Jarrett is a finalist in her district for Miami-Dade County’s teacher of the year, so little wonder the rhyme was so creative. Ms. Leal, by the way, has won first place in the district for the annual Patriot’s Pen, a Veteran of Foreign Wars contest open to all students in grades 6 through 8 in the United States.

 

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Mariana Cortez, followed the poets and made delicious brownies that were gluten and soy free. Her Miami bakery, BunnieCakes, has a slogan Our heart with every cupcake, so naturally the brownies were heart-shaped and decorated with a tiny red candy heart.

 

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Lectures in the Science Village were at capacity, reported Noris Ledesma, curator of tropical fruit. Ledesma expected a handful of people to attend her early talk and was surprised to find the room filled. The rainbow cacao pods that Noris arranged to be on display still amazed everyone with their colors.

 

 

And in the Window to the Tropics conservatory, Joshua Levine’s gold cast resin morel mushrooms were attached to the cork tree this morning, adding to the bounty of art already growing luxuriantly in this superb exhibition.

Sunday: more talks, more cooking and more chocolate. Come early and bring your sweet tooth.


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Chocolate Festival at Fairchild

Fri, Jan 24, 2014 at 04:03:47 PM

 

Fairchild's Chocolate Festival, 2014

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Noris Ledesma offers a taste of chocolate nibs to Alma Breeden and Linda Notery. Noris demonstrated how to heat the nibs and add honey (12 ounces for a pound of nibs) and annatto for coloring. Honey she said is "one of the best preservatives known and will help preserve the chocolate."

 

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Colorful pods of cacao are part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's genetic collection in Puerto Rico. 

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Charles McDonald demonstrated how to make dark chocolate caramel corn to a tent full of chocolate lovers. Popcorn, brown sugar, salt, light corn syrup, baking soda, vanilla, 12 cups of popcorn, dry honey roasted peanuts and melted dark chocolate all added up to a great snack. (The recipe will be on the Garden's website.) McDonald owns Peterbrooke Chocolatier in Coral Gables. More cooking demonstrations are scheduled Saturday and Sunday, beginning at 11:30 a.m. Saturday with Chef Mariana Cortez making vegan brownies. Four demonstrations a day are held in the Whole Foods Market Culinary Tent.


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Pupating lady bug larva

Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 06:42:03 PM

Three of these larvae are on my Jamaica capers. I
 never before have seen a lady bug larva pupate.

Look closely and you will see the wrinkled larval skin scrunching up toward
the top of her head.


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Ready for the cold?

Mon, Jan 06, 2014 at 08:41:33 AM

Our unusually rainy and warm November and December have fattened our tropical plants, but also made them more vulnerable to a sudden drop in temperature, predicted for tonight.

Water plants well as they will be better able to withstand low temperatures than dry plants.

Putting container plants on the south side of the house can help protect them from the wind that accompanies a cold front. Drop hanging baskets to beneath a tree and cover with a sheet. Wind may be more damaging than cold temperatures, pulling moisture from both the plant and the growing medium, so don’t leave them in harm’s way.

Orchid growers know to bring Phalaenopsis orchids inside if the temperature goes below 55. Vandas, too, would like protection when temperatures are in the low 50s to upper 40s. Mature Paphiopedilum orchids like temperatures between 55 and 60 degrees, but not below. Cattleyas also like the 55 to 60 degree nighttime temperature, but temps in the low 40s may stress them. Encyclias can tolerate cold, but evergreen dendrobiums and mule-ear oncidiums cannot. Renanthera and Rhynchostylis orchids want to be protected below 50 degrees. After warmth returns, spray your orchids with a mix of Dithane M45 and Captan (1 tablespoon each to a gallon of water) to avoid disease.

Birds-nest anthuriums are among the cold-tolerant aroids. Generally those plants with leathery leaves will do better in cold (as long as it is not prolonged for days). However, the strap-leaf anthuriums will need protection. Philodendron bipinnatifidum (what we used to call Phil. selloum) is quite cold hardy, but many others may have leaf-burn.

Ixoras will develop brown spots and leaves in even mild cold. Mussaendas, too, dislike cold. Ornamental bananas are more cold tolerant than edible varieties. Tall bananas are going to have leaves ripped by wind, and after days of cold may die back to the ground, but one night of cold should not harm them if they are growing well and disease-free.

Palm lovers know to use a copper fungicide for tender palms; mix according to directions and pour down the growing point if you can reach it. Copper will counter fungus and bacteria.

But do not use on Dendrobium orchids or bromeliads, as it will kill them.

If you have cared for your plants with fertilizer and water at the appropriate times, they should be robust enough to come through with the least amount of damage.

 


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