Herb Harvest Fall Festival Celebrates Central America, the Caribbean Basin and Mexico

comments (0) October 11th, 2017

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cookinwithherbs susan belsinger, contributor
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This years Herb Harvest Fall Festival featured the folks, foodways and plants of the Caribbean Basin, Central America and Mexico. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.
The garden reception, sponsored by the HSA-Ozark Unit, kicked off the event with a tropical Jamaican punch and a variety of tasty salsas and bean dips.
We also had an audience-participation Mexican Hat dance conducted by Martha Stanley.
Eye-catching and sweat-producing, the chile pepper display garden attracts many visitors.
A brilliant-flowered herb found in many tropical gardens and kitchens is Tagetes lucida, often referred to as Mexican marigold. It grows well in hot climates and has an herby, tarragonlike flavor.
Hibiscus sabdariffa produces these red calyxes, which are dried and used as a beverage in tropical climes. It is very tart and sour, so if combined with sweetener, it makes like a pink lemonade-type drink. Called sorrel or roselle, it is often prepared with spices like fresh bay leaf, cinnamon stick and allspice berries; we had this to drink with our feast.
Two plants included in the herb display are papaloquelite (left) and pepicha (right). Both are substiutes for cilantro--stay tuned for a blog on these plants and others with similar flavor characteristics.
Amaranth is used for its greens and its grains in many tropical countries. In the Caribbean islands, a popular dish called Callaloo is eaten--the leaves which are a cousin to amaranth--are wilted and used in stews, curries and as a side dish cooked with coconut milk.
Cotton is also a crop which is cultivated at the OFC, native to tropical and subtropical regions.
Although quite small in size these little chiles pack a piquant punch!
Tropical salad with mango, cucumber and avocado. Table decorations were done by Jennifer Blankenship.
We had a sellout crowd dining at the Skillet Restaurant for the Lavish Herbal Feast, Caribbean-style.
This years Herb Harvest Fall Festival featured the folks, foodways and plants of the Caribbean Basin, Central America and Mexico. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.Click To Enlarge

This year's Herb Harvest Fall Festival featured the folks, foodways and plants of the Caribbean Basin, Central America and Mexico. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.

Photo: susan belsinger

Every year at the Ozark Folk Center's HHFF, we celebrate different regions of the globe and see how they relate back to the Ozarks. This year we celebrated some of the tropical areas and had a Caribbean-Style Lavish Herbal Feast and two days of inspiring educational programs featuring Mexico, the countries on the Isthmus of Central America and the many islands in the Caribbean.

In preparation for these events, we start planning as soon as the last one is over since the gardens need to feature plants from the regions selected, as well as the chosen herb of the year. Then we have to do research to create menus, recipes and programs, as well as select speakers that tie it all together.

Besides cultivating botanical specimens from the tropics, this year we created a jungla in the Heritage Herb Garden--a rainforest jungle under shade trees--with many of the plants that we are familiar with as houseplants in this climate, grown in containers outdoors. Also since Cilantro & Coriander are Herb of the Year 2017, and a popular herb in many of the cuisines of these countries, we cultivated them as well as other plants used in place of Coriandrum sativum, that have similar flavors. The chile pepper bed contains many showy members of the Capsicum genus, which attracts visitors to the park with their colorful array of fruits and we used in the food and decorations.

Our event was kicked off by an al fresco reception in the park, which the Ozark Unit of the Herb Society of America sponsored with colorfully decorated tables featuring a variety of salsas and bean dips along with a lovely libation, Jamaican punch. Then we moved across the street to the Skillet Restaurant, where the staff had been working for days to prepare our Caribbean-style menu which featured a tropical salad with mango, cucumbers and avocado dressed with a mango, lime and vanilla bean vinegar; curried tomato bisque for the vegetarians, which had crab added for the rest of the folks; jerk chicken and roasted goat; oven-roasted vegetables with mojo sauce and black-eyed pea croquettes; served with a sofrito and coconut-based rice pilaf and Jamaican-style greens; and the finale was a lime pie with a thin layer of bittersweet chocolate over the crust, served with vanilla bean whipped cream! Kudos to the entire staff at the Skillet for preparing such delicious meals for us--including Friday's Ole Buffet! and Saturday's Cuban-Style Lunch.

The lobby was decorated with many tables--including one with foods, textiles, spices and herbs from these countries--many vendors and of course the raffle items from the Committee of 100, as well as their baskets of goodies to sample, and the silent auction by the HSA-Ozark Unit. We appreciate the hard work of these dedicated supporters as well as all of the OFC staff who help to pull these events together.

We had a superb line-up of speakers--Dr. Art Tucker, Steven Foster, Kathleen Connole, Pat Kenny and yours truly-- with lots of on-stage fun, where we learned so much it is hard to process it in a weekend. We had a great tour of the plants throughout the craft village with Tina Marie Wilcox and the other gardeners and speakers, which everyone seemed to really enjoy.

Pictured in the photos are some of the plants which were discussed as well as a few visuals of a great weekend. Look for a link to one of the favorite feast recipes which you can make with the last of your garden tomatoes!

 


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