Optimism abounds at East County farm with its first bamboo harvest.
As Lakewood Ranch resident Andrew Hardie enjoyed a sample of chicken curry with bamboo and mixed vegetables at Mixon Fruit Farms, his wife, Madeline, went to find out the ingredients for the spinach and bamboo dip that was being served.
“If I knew they were going to feed me, I would’ve had a smaller breakfast,” Hardie said with a laugh.
The Hardies were among dozens of people to go to Mixon Fruit Farms for its first asper bamboo harvest, where attendees sampled recipes that used bamboo and took a tram to the four acres of bamboo-growing on the farm.
Janet Mixon, co-owner of the farm, said they started planting bamboo about two-and -a-half years ago after struggling to maintain citrus. She and her husband, Dean, decided to diversify the farm to include a wedding area, a play area, a farmhouse and now the bamboo crops.
University Park resident Barbara Isaacs said bamboo was a “magic plant” that has a calming effect.
“I love bamboo for decorating, and then it had all these other qualities,” Isaacs said. “They’re edible, which I had no idea. That’s what piqued my interest.”
Although the Mixons’ newest venture is bamboo, the farm still grows 40 acres of citrus. Mixon said the farm had trees that were planted in the 1800s, but after diseases killed most of them, the farm likely doesn’t have a tree over 12 years old.
“We’ve gone through a lot of really hard times because of problems with citrus,” Mixon said. “I mean, it’s been a battle. When you add things to your business, it’s like starting a new business, so it takes five to seven years to see its success. We’re excited for all these things to actually happen and actually be profitable.”
A more extensive harvest of the bamboo will be done in the fall. In the meantime, if people are interested in buying bamboo cones, farm employees are able to harvest a small amount.
“I don’t have any doubt about the taste of everything and the fact that it’s good for you, so that is all good,” Mixon said.
Alex Vazquez, the executive culinary director for Mattison’s restaurants and catering, said he went to the farm because they are always trying to source local products for the restaurants. He said the summer is challenging because not many crops grow in Florida during the season.
“Bamboo is something we can offer that is locally sourced, so we will be interested in seeing what the process is all about,” Vazquez said. “I think the different applications of bamboo are what I’m most intrigued about.”