Florida has acres upon acres upon acres (three-quarters of a million acres!) of citrus groves that produce orange, grapefruits, and limes year-round. The Sunshine State also has over 8,000 miles of coastline from which Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico seafood is harvested. See what's in season, where to get it, and learn about Florida specialties—from Miami up to Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville—below. Find more Florida gems or tell me all about your favorite thing about eating locally in Florida.
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What's In Season In Florida?
Florida's semi-tropical climate means a year-round growing season and plenty of tropical fruits. Mangos, guava, and passion fruit are all grown in the state. Many of the common fruits and vegetables grown in Northern states have flip-flopped seasons, with harvests lasting into winter and early spring. Winter strawberries come from Florida, as do winter green beans and eggplants. Floridians need to adjust their "seasonal cooking" accordingly. This Guide to Florida Seasonal Fruits & Vegetables should help.
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Florida Farmers Markets
Florida is awash in farmers markets. Not all markets are equal in terms of local foods, though, so be sure to find a market that requires farmers to sell only their own produce. For a complete list of farmers markets in Florida, see this list from the Florida Department of Agriculture.
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Florida Specialties: Oranges and Grapefruit
Florida oranges are famous, in fact, state growers have gone so far as to patent "Florida Oranges" to make oranges labelled from Florida really come from Florida. Oranges grown in Florida are grown mostly for the juice market, but plenty of out-of-hand oranges are available for locals to eat.
Grapefruit are also grown mainly for juice in Florida. But sweeter, eating varieties like white grapefruit and red grapefruit are grown for produce markets.
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Florida Specialties: LimesContinue to 5 of 10 below.
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Florida Specialties: Mangos
Mangos come in many shapes, colors, and sizes. From giant greenish-hued Kent to small, golden Ataulfo mangos. The most common ones in Florida are Tommy Atkins, with reddish-hued skin and bright gold fruit. Look for fragrant fruits that feel heavy for their size. Cut in half, skirting around the flat, oval pit in the center, score the fruit still in its peel, push the half out, and nibble away. See How to Cut Mangos.
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Florida Specialties: Stone Crab
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Florida Specialties: Tupelo Honey
Tupelo honey is light, sweet, and has a slight, oddly musky aroma. Its distinctive taste and light sweetness make it prized by those who know it. Tupelo honey is harvested from hives in the Florida panhandle whose bees have feasted on the blossoms of the tupelo gum tree.
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Florida Specialties: Hearts of Palm
Locals may call it "swamp cabbage," but I think we can all agree that "hearts of palm" sounds slightly more appetizing! Hearts of palm come from the terminal bud (or heart) of the sabal palm, which just happens to be the state tree of Florida. With these buds, the tree can't replace its old leaves and will die. When swamp cabbage got renamed and marketed as something fancy, its new-found popularity almost ruined it. The trees are now largely protected in Florida, and hearts of palm on the market mainly comes from Central and South America.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Florida Food Events: Fruits
Florida is a fun state. Is it the sun? All the tourists looking for a good time? A local, tropical joie de vivre? A combination, perhaps? In any case, the state is rife with festivals of all sorts. Some of them even focus on food:
- International Mango Festival, held every July in Miami, this weekend festival has the standard tastings and chef demos, but also pruning workshops and seminars on diseases and pests for those lucky enough to have their own mango trees.
- A Kumquat Festival is held every winter in Dade City to celebrate this sour-sweet tiny citrus fruit.
- Plant City hosts the annual Florida Strawberry Festival in February because the state is, after all, the home of winter strawberries.
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Florida Food Events: Seafood
Over 8,000 miles of coastline - and plenty of inland bodie sof water too, make fish and seafood a big part of local eating in Florida. It is richly celebrated in festival form:
- Key fishermen put on the Florida Keys Seafood Festival in Key West every winter and cook seafood fresh off the boats as crowds gather to eat at communal tables.
- In May Pensacola celebrates its Cajun influence with the Pensacola Crawfish Festival which lasts an entire weekend and involves lots and lots of crawfish boil.
- The South Beach Food & Wine Festival is more national than local, with the spotlight on celebrity chefs, but some local specialties make it into the stands too.