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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.

                1. Here we go again. Just bought some cantaloupes from Publix. Yes, ripe; yes juicy. But not much cantaloupe flavor, and almost no sweetness. Have to add sugar to them to make them barely edible.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: racer x

                    Right now Florida peaches, yes Fl. peaches, are peaking, white freestone and yellow clings and freestones, very juicy and sweet. Blueberries are just about all picked, strawberries are long finished, as are the tasty citrus like Honeybells, (mineola tangelos), and Indian River Ruby red grapefruit, navel oranges are also past the last harvest. Watermelons, Lychees, limes cantalopes, heirloom tomatos, some lettuces, many variety of peppers, sweet potatoes, etc. are around from local farmers now.
                    My preference is to buy locally produced, naturally or organically raised meat, poultry, veg and fruits when available; rather than some exotic items that are air freighted from around the world, then trucked hundreds of miles until it finally arrives on the shelf of a mass merchandising operation like Whole Foods, Publix Walmart, etc. Just my personal preference on what I eat.

                    1. re: ospreycove

                      I live in Venice, where do I buy this local produce? I bought a cantaloupe at Publix last week and threw it out.....it was mushy and tasteless!

                      1. re: prairieprincess

                        i would investigate about where your local farmer's markets are...

                        1. re: pdpredtide

                          Lots of "farmers" and green markets but the last time I asked a vender if the represented a particular farm I was told they get their produce from the regional produce depot. Same as the grocery stores. No farmers selling their wares

                          1. re: scubadoo97

                            Audubon Park's Farmer Market features only local producers and vendors, so there are a few places that are more true than others. i know how you feel

                            here is a link to Homegrown Co op
                            http://www.homegrowncoop.org/

                        2. re: prairieprincess

                          that happens to me all the time with publix produce and fruits :(

                        3. re: ospreycove

                          how do you know what is in season, is there a website that lists this info? that would be AwEsome

                          1. re: pdpredtide

                            I use the attached guide, as a start, it lists the contacts for local farmers in my area. After making contact with them it leads to other sources, etc.

                            http://eatlocalguide.com/sarasota/dir...

                      2. Over here at our Publix in Vierra. they have a huge range of fresh produce for Strawberries, kiwis, dragon fruit and any fruit you want. Always fresh and never wilted. Make your way this way and its an amazing store.

                        1 Reply
                        1. I felt the exact same way when i moved to Miami in 2009. Since then, I've met a lot of great people and a lot of great farmers, started the non-profit Urban Oasis Project (.org) to help people grow more food, and we now run a few markets in season, and have the Upper Eastside Farmers Market in Miami every Saturday year-round- featuring all-local produce. It's near impossible to get farmers to come to market, so I sell lots of stuff i grow and that is donated by numerous local home-gardeners, as well as buy a bunch of stuff directly from local farms- Bee Heaven, Worden Farm, Possum Trot, 3 sisters, Green Dean... (links to them all on our webpage). It's a big mix of organic whenever possible as well as some conventional produce. We also have a ot of the best local vendors, such as Proper Sausage, Copperpots, Nature Boyz, Hadaya Spice, Novae Gourmet and many others. Usually about 14 vendors.
                          And no sunglasses!
                          Check us out at NE 66th and Biscayne Blvd, entrance to Legion Park, Saturdays 9-2 PM.
                          SNAP (EBT) benefits accepted and doubled for the first $10 of fruit and veggies purchased!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: urbanoasis

                            Why does Publix have to wrap all of it's veggies with plastic on styro-foam boards? Not only is this not green, but usually when you get them home and open them up 25% of the product is rotten. Not to mention I am forced to buy larger amounts than needed to feed my wife and 3 year old.
                            I live in Key Largo so during season I make a weekly trip and drive around the Redlands to pick up produce. Robert is Here has turned into a tourist trap now though and it's not fun to shop with three bus loads of people slamming into you. Florida is definetly behind in the local Farmers Market scene though, but it is making strides with more and more people wanting fresh, local produce. I am originally from Stuart, FL and there are markets popping up more consistently though Stuarts is not so good, but Ft. Pierce has a pretty good one on Saturday and I read an article that Port St. Lucie is bringing back one as well.

                            I will have to check out your market Urban when I am up that way, and for all of you that are new to South Florida...our seasons are backwards...want a local heirloom tomato, you are going to have to wait until December.
                            Eat local, eat seasonal, no farms- no food

                            1. re: Lucas19

                              Lucas19-
                              Just wanted to make sure you saw my post. Sounds like you need to check this out. They deliver to locations all over the Keys. It would save you the drive :)

                              http://www.anniesbuyingclub.com

                          2. I was shocked at the state of produce when I moved to the Ft Myers area from Boston. Even farmer's markets are a huge disappointment with maybe 2% actually being farmed locally. I recently found an amazing buying club that services most of Florida, even the keys. The produce is all organic, looks great, and tastes amazing. They try to source local when they can, but try to offer a variety of different fruits and vegetables, their prices are very reasonable and did I mention all organic! This is the best thing I've found since I moved down here 10 yrs ago! I highly recommend checking this out if you're seeking out good produce!

                            http://www.anniesbuyingclub.com

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Melissssa

                              Where does Annie's get their produce?

                              1. re: scubadoo97

                                I copied this from their site. I recommend visiting the website it's very informative. ( I do not work for them, I'm only excited that I found them and want to share)

                                Where does the produce come from?
                                ADuring season we get as much local as possible. That being said, quality is of utmost importance to us as well as variety, value, and a changing selection. While the local farms are harvesting the same things, our members don't necessarily want Cabbage, Eggplant, Grape Tomatoes every week. We always provide a colorful healthy selection of the freshest organics at a great value. If we find quality not as good locally, we will go to organic farms elsewhere even if those things are being harvested here sometimes. We will never support not organic, even if local. Poisons dumped in my own back yard to buy from a local farm is not what we care to support.
                                Our buying club is big, we have strong respect from organic growers in FL as well as the west coast in CA. We believe in organics without borders. Farms and growers count on us and we on them.

                                Most food in the US is grown in CA, both organic and conventional. While we get as much local as possible, there is no escaping CA grown for outstanding quality and variety - many farms send us their entire harvest and will grow a crop just for our club members. We will go outside the U.S. when necessary or for specialty items not available but we do shop seasonally so that is not common, except from Mexico occasionally but most of the MX farms are U.S. owned. That means, as you probably are aware, that they must meet the same strict standards of USDA certification. In addition, anything outside the U.S. must pass a third party certification which sets standards that exceed those of the USDA. We are proud of the farms we support in this area as they help build communities, schools, and better living conditions.

                                The produce comes from a mix of only certified organic farms that have the paperwork and tracking to prove from seed to harvest it was treated with respect to planet and people.

                                1. re: Melissssa

                                  Thanks. I did look at the site but didn't see that part.

                            2. I have found a great resource for local organic produce. It is called the HomeGrown Co-op. One great thing is that you don't have to be a member to shop in the store front. The site is http://www.homegrowncoop.org/

                              I ordered twice on line before I joined- you do save a bit by being a member.