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Florida produce

Down here in South Fl the produce at Publix in particular but also Walmart/Target/Winn Dixie is woefully poor both in quality and diversity. Today I went to Publix to get salad items, there were no radishes, sugar snap peas, avocados, or anything interesting to put in a salad, then I looked at the rest of the produce and realized I could not get interesting fruit, today no mangoes, I never see rhubarb, passion fruit, kiwis, berries other than strawberries, blueberries and occasional other berries. I type of pear, I type of cantalope etc.

Why are we so neglected down here, you can barely get any local produce, the oranges and grapefruits are either Mexican or from Calif, I know it's not always season for things but surely the supermarkets could make more effort or maybe it's a demand thing?

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  1. I feel your pain, Smartie. I know exactly what you are talking about. The Publix stores near me are generally not the best option for produce. Their salad greens are almost always wilted and sad. I tend to make rounds of several different stores to find what I need.

    I tend to get greens and tomatoes from Winn-Dixie. In season, Costco used to have some fantastic peaches and nectarines (for some reason, not last year though). This past year, I've started getting some produce from Wal-Mart (yes, I know, there are many who would rather starve than buy anything there; and I respect that). There was a long stretch this past year when I couldn't find any edible garlic anywhere -- except at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart also has reasonably-priced greens like collards, which Publix doesn't carry and Winn-Dixie only carries sporadically (at much higher prices). For ginger, shallots, scallions, certain other items, I go to an Asian market.

    Occasionally, though, Publix will have some decent items -- it might be asparagus, or fennel, it's not a predictable thing. Last year they had some incredible honeydews, very large, extremely sweet and flavorful.

    But I have long wondered why we don't have better Florida-sourced citrus, seeing as we're right here. Why does the better-tasting stuff so often come from out of state, or even out of the country (Spain, Peru)? Something like those Cuties, for instance. When I buy tangerines at Publix that are labeled 'from Florida,' I know it's a crap-shoot. They might be ok, but they are often not very good (not very sweet, too sour, have hard flesh in some areas, etc). Is Florida still a major producer of quality produce, or has real estate development and other issues changed Florida agriculture that much?

    4 Replies
    1. re: racer x

      Talking about fresh produce, is there any store in Pinellas County where you can buy fresh rhubarb?

      1. re: kenr

        Sorry, I'm in Dade. I just saw some fresh rhubarb a couple of days ago. I'm pretty sure it was at Winn-Dixie.

        1. re: kenr

          They had some just the other day at the Publix in the Northeast Shopping Center in St. Pete. So it must be available. Talk to the produce manager to see if they will order some.

        2. re: racer x

          For the most part, Florida oranges are cultivated for juice. It is more important that a grove produce a high yield of juicy oranges as opposed to edible oranges. Sugar is then added as needed. I have found most local navel oranges to be very dry compared to Californias

        3. Somewhat off-topic, but since we are on the subject of Publix and grocery chains, I've noticed that prices on produce (and I imagine maybe on other items) can vary from Publix store to Publix store, even when the stores are just a few miles apart. I was looking at limes a few weeks back and noticed that they were only 8 for $1 at one Publix but 3 for $1 (or something like that) at another Publix that's 10 miles away.

          1. I have been very fortunate with the Publix I shop at her in St. Peter. Their selections seemed to really increase when a Fresh Market store opened up just down the street. They started getting in a lot of fruit and veggies they had never carried before. Now unless they are getting the extra items from a separate produce broker, then all these items must be available from the main distribution center for Publix. Just a thought.

            2 Replies
            1. re: RibDog

              In general, it seems like the further you get from Miami, the better Publix gets. My local store up in the panhandle gets all of the produce missing from the south Florida store except for passion fruit.

              1. re: beachmouse

                Publix produce quality is very store specific. Here in Plantation (west of Ft. Lauderdale) we have a large fairly new Publix across the street from a Whole Foods and the selection and quality is far better than most of their stores. Fresh Market's in S. Fl also have pretty good selections of quality produce. It's not west coast farmers market quality/quantity but it's not that bad either.

            2. Agree with your assessment, seems like for really nice produce I have to go to Whole Foods or Fresh Market.

              1. Depends on the competition. Here on the Space Coast, we have a lot of independent markets. I have my choice of West Indian, Jamaican, Southeast Asian, and Central American shops with a variety of imported and local produce. A few have butchers and fish mongers. I get wonderful quality at the three Publixs I habitually shop at. One, I might add, is a very small local neighborhood store. Advertised special last week of $1.89/lb for chicken breasts. That is what competition can do.

                There is absolutely no truth to the rumour that the cheap produce sold from the packing boxes at the local farmer's markets are out of date from the supermarkets.