Jun
20

seasonal flavors

Fresh is best! Knowing when items are in season is the key to knowing what to look for when shopping. Why eat seasonally? Eating fresh local produce when it is in season offers a variety of benefits including: products are fresher and tastier; nutritional value of products is optimized; it encourages a diverse diet; it is often more economical; and it harmonizes with nature’s production cycle.

What’s in Season Now? Below is a list of items that are in season. Look for these items in your grocery store and enjoy fresh Florida produce at its peak. These Florida items should currently be available in your grocery store; if you don’t see these items, ask your store manager.

Avocado – Native to Mexico and Central and South America. Harvested in Florida from late-May through March. Typical size is 2 1/2 to 14 inches long. Allow to ripen at room temperature until soft. Flesh is yellow-green to yellow; creamy with slightly nutty flavor. Best eaten fresh or may be refrigerated 1-3 days. Low in fat, no cholesterol, and good source of protein, potassium, iron, and vitamins C and B. Use fresh and in salads, guacamole and dips.

 

Bell Pepper – Florida bell peppers are grown mainly in South Florida and are available from November to July. The peak months of availability are March and April. Florida mainly grows green, yellow and red bell peppers. Choose peppers that are heavy for their size, and that have bright, tight, smooth, glossy skin with no watery looking spots or wrinkly patches. Green peppers are often less sweet than yellow or red.

 

Cantaloupe – Florida cantaloupe is harvested primarily from March through July, and is grown down the middle of the state and in the Panhandle. The orange flesh of a cantaloupe has a perfume fragrance and a sweet taste. Its texture is firm enough to hold its own in salads and other dishes, but is also easy to blend into smoothies and sorbets. No matter how you eat it, though, it is refreshing! According to the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory, 1 cup of cantaloupe cubes has only 54 calories, 1.4 grams of fiber, 5411 IUs of vitamin A, and 3232 micrograms of beta carotene.

Guava – Native to tropical America. Harvested in Florida all year long; main seasons are August – October and February – March. Typical size is 1-5 inches in diameter. Allow fruit to ripen at room temperature until peel color changes from light green to yellow. Flesh color varies from white to pinkish red and is juicy, sweet to acid-tasting and flavorful. Best eaten fresh or may be refrigerated 1-3 days. Good source of vitamins B1, B6 and C, niacin and phosphorus. Use in fresh jams, jellies, marmalade, desserts, and pastries.

 

Lime – The lime is a citrus fruit that grows in South Florida and other tropical areas. There are two major types: Mexican or Key limes (Citrus aurantifolia), and Persian or Tahiti limes (Citrus x “Tahiti”). The Key lime is small and round, about 1 to 2 inches in diameter. The fruit has a thin, smooth, leathery rind, and is green when immature and more yellow in color at maturity. The flesh is greenish-yellow, juicy, seedy, and more acidic than Tahiti limes. Tahiti limes are larger than Key limes and oval shaped. The fruit is dark green when mature, gradually becoming yellow when over mature. The flesh is light green, juicy, slightly acidic, and generally seedless. Limes are available all year long, but summer is the peak season. Look for limes that are firm, have smooth, shiny skins; are free from decay, broken, bruised or hard, dry skins; and are deep green (Tahiti) or yellow (Key lime) in color. Refrigerated limes will stay fresh 6 to 8 weeks.
Longan – Native to southern China, Malay Peninsula, Thailand. Harvested in Florida July-August. Typical size is 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. This fruit is picked ready to eat. Pulp is translucent, crisp, and juicy and has a distinctive sweet flavor. Best eaten fresh or may be refrigerated up to 7 days in plastic bags or frozen for later use. Very good source of vitamin C. Use fresh and in fruit salads, marinades, and sauces.

Mango – Native to India and Southeast Asia. Harvested in Florida May – October. Typical size is 3-10 inches long. Allow fruit to ripen at room temperature until soft. Flesh is yellow to yellow orange, richly aromatic and juicy with a pleasant sweet flavor. Best eaten fresh or may be refrigerated 1-3 days or freeze pulp for later use. Good source of vitamins A and C. Use fresh and in fruit salads, desserts, sauces, dried, juices and chutney.

 

Papaya – Native to tropical America. Harvested in Florida all year. Typical size is 4-14 inches long. Allow to ripen at room temperature until soft. Flesh is yellow to dark reddish- orange, aromatic and juicy with a pleasant, sweet flavor. Best eaten fresh or may be refrigerated up to 7 days. Good source of vitamins A and C and potassium. Use fresh and in fruit salads, desserts, and sauces.

 

Potato – The harvest season is January through July. They are mostly grown in the northeastern part of the state, although they can be grown throughout Florida. Florida potato types are varied; yellow, white, red, purple, and sweet.

Also on the summer shopping list: Peanut, Mushroom, Onion, Snap bean, and Watermelon

Weather conditions can affect the harvest schedule. Information provided by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services www.florida-agriculture.com / www.freshfromflorida.com.

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