New Britain Farm Produces Exotic Fruit, Vegetables
A volunteer at Urban Oaks Farm in New Britain picks ripened exotic fruits and vegetables. The farm sells most of its crops to restaurants in Fairfield County. (Scott Vargas/Fox 61 / September 1, 2009)
Mile Kandefer, the General Manager of Urban Oaks Farm proudly walks through his greenhouse pointing out an array of fruits and vegetables that would never grow in Connecticut without his help. I have a green thumb says Kandefer.
Grapefruits are native to Florida and California. But three local trees at the farm produce 300 to 400 pounds of white Caribbean Grapefruit each year. I brought the seeds back from the Caribbean myself in 2000. They're loaded with seeds but they're also loaded with flavor and juice. Kandefer says there is only one other tree in Connecticut that grows grapefruits.
The farm boasts another rare tree. Native to the Mediterranean, Kandefer says he thinks Urban Oaks has the only Fig trees in the state. An old Italian guy gave me three trees. He said he was too old to take care of them. Although Kandefer says he had no education or experience with fig trees, they flourished. Now fresh figs are one of the farms most popular items. People usually eat them dried but if you can get them fresh its delicious. Theyre very sweet, theyre succulent, and theyre unusual.
Figs may be unusual in Connecticut. But some fruits at the farm are rarely grown anywhere in the United States. The Strawberry Husk Tomato looks like a small cherry tomato wrapped in a husk (hence the name). Although the fruit has the same texture as a tomato, it tastes like a cross between a strawberry and a pineapple.
Also at the farm are cucumbers from India, Tibet and Armenia, peppers from China and Mexico and Kale from Italy. Kandefer says the vast selection of produce help makes his farm different than most. I can grow cucumbers and tomatoes like everyone else. But it is always fun to grow something different.
The warmth, humidity and protection of the greenhouse help the farm grow such exotic produce. Outside the temperature is near 70-degrees, inside the greenhouse the temperature is approaching the 90 degree mark.
Gourmet restaurants from across the state are buying the farms fresh and exotic produce. The farms biggest seller is salad greens. They sell between 40 and 50 pounds of mixed greens each week. But in the recent economy Kandefer says sales have been cut in half. The farm says they'll survive the slump.
Urban Oaks Farm is non-profit and open to the public. For hours and directions you can visit their website: http://www.blog.urbanoaks.org