It took me just about 2 hours to reach Zen Organic Farm in Fan Ling on that Tuesday morning. Ping picked us up at the Sheung Shui train station and drove us to the farm which was about 15 minutes away.
When we arrived I felt like home.
Joey, Ping and their Mother gave us a truly heartwarming welcome. Mum prepared a cold infusion of Roselle in water – superbly refreshing! We were there because Ada, talented journalist of TVB Magazine, arranged the outing where I picked fresh figs to later bring them back to our kitchen and demonstrate recipes with it.
While Ada was interviewing Ping about the cultures of the farm, I did my little round and discovered a lot of different things. First of all, there was about 90 kids from a school seating downstairs, listening to Todd’s speech. Todd is the mastermind behind Homegrown Foods in Hong Kong. I couldn’t help listening to his lecture and it was truly inspiring. Raising the awareness of children in regards to biodiversity, usage of chemicals, fertilizers and other hormones was just SO right. While children might still be flexible enough to listen, I think too many adults aren’t ready to agree and that is a sad situation. Todd had prepared a whole range of fresh organic produces from the farm which are in season now to show to the kids that for example a real lemon isn’t as good-looking as the one you have in a supermarket. Expanding on how globalized food companies hold their monopolized market by projecting images of how a lemon or a tomato should look like. And I swear, while Todd was speaking, I was commenting all along to my colleague Angela on how companies like the evil Monsanto trashes every efforts farmers are doing to grow fruits and vegetable naturally.
Anyway, back to the Zen Farm… The structure of the farm is amazing. I noticed a lot of natural insect traps around the plants; also, the main plantation are covered with mosquito nets to avoid damage to the organic culture. I noticed a few very clever gardening methods that my brother also uses back home in his permaculture garden; definitely a sign of knowledge and know-how from Zen farm!
Around the corner was a whole bush of Roselle ready to be harvested, that exact same one I used in my sugar-free pate de fruit… but we weren’t there for the Roselle.
There was 2 massive areas with fig trees and one of them was nothing less than the tree we’ve planted about a year ago. The trees were starting to give fruits, but not all of them were ripe as the temperature didn’t fall enough. We’re in the middle of November and it’s still 25 degrees! Anyway, there was 2 kind of figs ready to harvest. The golden figs (or how we call it in Europe white figs) and the purple figs. Both were delicious and unlike their imported counterpart from Europe, you could eat the fruits with the skin as it is so thin. Their fragile skin makes them very hard to transport – so we end up having imported figs that aren’t really great to eat compared to those local ones!
We later brought back the figs to the house and discussed about it lengthily. On the table I was very honored to find a print out of this article which I wrote for my column on Asia Tatler. Thin skin, fragrant and perfectly sweet – the only lack was the inner color, but who cares – these figs were miniature atomic bombs!
I remembered the chutney I did last year and wanted to do something with it. So, once we’ve got back to the hotel, I straight away cooked the chutney to later use it inside a financier tart. I thought the fresh figs would blend well with the season’s spices such as star anise, cinnamon, vanilla, a touch of honey and vinegar too. Then the hazelnut butter flavor of the almond financier brought all that together and I served it with a quenelle of blackberry frozen yogurt and blackberry sauce. Will definitely have that on our Lounge restaurant daily dessert!
This is what people need to support, you can call this literally “Farm-to-table” cooking and that is exactly what needs to be done, just like what Todd and Homegrown foods are doing. Admirable.
So, wherever you live: Buy local! :)