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Jun 14, 2005 09:55 AM

The annoying paradox of Florida produce

  • l

This situation is starting to bug me more and more. On Saturday my S.O. and I attended the Tropical Ag festival at the Fruit and Spice Park. It was your typical Ag festival with nurseries selling fruit trees and (very few) vendors selling actual tropical fruit. One sold sapodillas and tasteless dragonfruit. The other had the typical tropical fruits (mamey, mango, etc.) along with monesteras and some guavas. The biggest and by far best display was from the Tropical Fruit Growers of S. FLA. At least 20 different varieties of mangoes, jaboticabas, sapodillas, jackfruit, etc. It was great. When asked if I could buy some the volunteers said no, there were for display only. When asked where I could buy produce like this and they said that pretty much no one carries it. Robert is Here will have some different types of mangoes. Same with Gardeners and Norman Bros. But the other, funkier fruit, forget it.

So why then do fruit growers in South Florida extoll the virtues of the climate which is conducive to growing tropical fruit yet we don't have access to them? Florida is by far the largest grower of mangoes in the US yet what we have in our own supermarket are mangoes imported from Mexico which have been pasteurized to kill any fruit fly larvae. And with the hundreds of mango varieties available, we're stuck with some of the worst and most fibrous varieties.

Anyone have any answers?

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  1. I feel your pain! The quality of the produce at my local supermarkets is a crying shame! And NOT cheap either! I can't afford to buy all my produce at a fancy market like Norman's or Whole Foods. I'm just hoping one of my neighbors sets up a little stand to sell some of those gorgeous ripe mangos from their backyards.

    I'll be interested to hear other people's opinions.

    7 Replies
    1. re: flagal

      Agree witht the comments, same goes for Farmers Markets in south florida.

      How is it possible to being Dade county a heavy agricultured area there are virtually no good farmers markets?

      1. re: Mario

        I've lived in Naples since 1989...each year, more and more roadside stands/markets have closed, mostly due to's horrible. The only place where I can find locally grown tomatoes is at Captain Jerry's Fish Market for (usually) $1.00 per pound; their produce supplier is Three Oaks but I would much prefer buying in an open air market. Temple Citrus Groves here in Naples, a large orange grower/shipper, has a vegetable market but their prices are over the top!!! (It IS the only place, however, where I can readily buy overripe bananas for banana bread any day of the week, which they discount!)

        1. re: Val

          I don't even think their oranges are very good. I like the fresh squeezed orange juice available at Rodes, in Bonita Springs more. At least at Temple Citrus you can taste all the produce, so you know what you're getting. Sometimes some decent stuff comes thru there.

          1. re: RevrendAndy

            Thanks! I'll try Rodes too! The usual price for tomatoes at TC is $2.99/pound, pretty crazy. Have you ever been to the little 'farmers market' downtown on Saturday mornings (supposedly). I read about that in the paper a few months that any good?

            1. re: Val

              I've only been to the farmers market on saturday mornings in Bonita Springs. Not real impressive. The best thing was some guy selling seafood-shrimp with heads on, and some fish I've never heard of. Don't know if it goes on all summer. I'm seasonal and back home in Lake Tahoe.

      2. re: flagal

        The old story I've always heard was that the best
        produce gets shipped up north where it can be sold
        at a better price.

        1. re: flagal
          Liana Krissoff

          Is there not much demand for decent produce because so many people grow their own and therefore don't need to buy as much in stores? I would think that, on the contrary, people who have great gardens would know good produce from bad and would insist on better stuff in markets and grocery stores, but maybe I'm oversimplifying.

          Also, why is half the produce in supermarkets already portioned and packaged? Green beans, onions, okra, zucchini, even individual (Guatemalan) mangoes--they all come on styrofoam trays wrapped in plastic, or in sealed bags. Is this just more cost-effective, to prevent people from buying, like, single servings of brussels sprouts or whatever? I don't particularly like having my vegetables picked out for me, do you all? I mean, this is America, not Italy . . .

        2. Florida produce can be found. It just takes a little work.
          Josh's Organic Produce Market - 101 North Ocean Drive (Behind Hollywood Beach Hotel next to beach)in Hollywood every Sunday from 10-5 p.m. sells fresh organic Florida produce and other organic fruits and veg. Pricey but defintely worh it.
          Redland organics is a farm co-op. You pay at the beginning of the season and get a box of produce each week.
          Fruit and Spice Park sometimes sells extra fruit(even though they will tell you they don't)
          Lychees are in season now at Barrow Groves 178750 Sw 216 St.
          And just drive around Redlands and Homestead. Some farmers have roadside stands. There's a few markets on Krome Ave that sell local stuff.
          I wouldn't bother driving all the way to Robert is Here. It's ridiculously overpriced.
          But if you are in the mood for a long drive, Pine Island has several tropical fruit growers who have stands. Fantstic mangoes. Many different kinds available.

          1 Reply
          1. re: dmoon

            Thanks for the suggestions. And I agree, there's produce to be had, you just have to forage for it.

          2. One of my food goals on my trip to South Florida was to bring back a bunch of Florida oranges and grapefruits. We figured there will be plenty to choose from but we ended up going to Robert is Here. I noticed the groundwork for a shopping mall to go up in the field catty corner to Robert is Here. I wonder how much longer it will be able to stay in that location.

            Very good citrus and got to buy a lot of other fruit I can't get good quality in Kansas. I got key limes at RIH $2.50/lb while Albertson's in Key West was selling 10 (roughly a pound) for $2. I'll be making key lime pie and having a taste test challenge with RIH vs Albertson key limes. By appearance, RIH limes look a little bigger and slightly better looking.

            2 Replies
            1. re: vsoy

              > RIH limes look a little bigger and slightly better looking.

              Physical appearance is often the Achilles heel of Fla produce, at least to typical American consumers. My 84-year old father-in-law has a 3 acre micro-farm with 200 fruit trees in Naples. He sells to local farmers market stands. But it takes a lot of time for him to scrub the fruit clean to make it look it good. He does all the work himself and is getting too old for it. Anyway, I get to pick all I want, so I'm not complainin' about how they look. ;-)

              1. re: vsoy

                If you're looking for oranges and grapefruit, Miami-Dade's too far south. The best are to be had in Indian River and Brevard County -- my favorite groves are Harvey's in Rockledge, and there was a little place up on SR 3 (Courtenay Pkwy) in Merritt Island, a few miles south of the KSC entrance, but that might be a little out of the way for some.

              2. Let me know where he is and I'll help out! Anything to get good local produce!

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