Florida, the land of beautiful beaches, sunny weather, and delicious fruits. Yes, fruits. Florida’s warm climatic conditions make it ideal for producing a wide variety of fruits, mainy oranges. The state is one of the world’s major producers of oranges, and the fruit is a key contributor to Florida’s economy.
Other than oranges and other citrus fruits, Florida is also a major producer of strawberries, watermelon, papaya and grape. In this article, we are going to discuss the top 10 fruits grown and enjoyed in this sunny state. Hope you have a fruitful read!
Top 10 Fruits In Florida
Florida has a thriving citrus industry. The Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC) is an executive agency of Florida government which employs over 45000 people and contributes a whopping $8.6 billion to the state’s economy annually. According to the FDOC, the citrus industry also contributes hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues that help support Florida’s schools, roads and health care services.
In addition to a wide variety of other citrus fruits, the Sunshine State produces a range of oranges such as Valencia, Pineapple Oranges, Sugar Belle Oranges, Parson Brown Oranges, Temple Oranges, Ambersweet Oranges, Honeybells Oranges, Spring Navel Oranges, and Red & Yellow Navel Oranges.
Like other citrus fruits, oranges are an excellent source of fibre, potassium, and vitamin C; in fact, just one medium sized orange contains your daily requirement of vitamin C which contributes to boosting collagen production, reducing the risk of cancer, and strengthening the immune system.
Yes, orange juice is amazing, but have you tried incorporating this delicious fruit in recipes? For your next meal, try the warm and wonderfully sticky Orange Chicken. Or, on a sweeter note, give the Citrus Upside Down Cake a go. Oranges also make for a lovely addition to cocktails like mimosas and negronis.
The combination of fertile soil, warm days and cooler evenings make Florida the second largest producer of strawberries in the USA. The FSGA (Florida Strawberry Growers Association) produces the majority of the domestic winter strawberry crop valued at $300 million.
Florida’s love for strawberries does not end there; Floridians host the Florida Strawberry Festival every year which spans over 11 days (29 February-10 March) to show their appreciation for the fruit.
Florida strawberries have different flavor profiles from one berry to the next depending on the variety. For instance, pineberries are known to have notes of pineapple. The most commonly grown varieties include Florida Radiance, Calibrate, Camarosa, Florida Belle, Florida 90, Rosa Linda, Sequoia, Sweet Charlie, Strawberry Festival, and Tioga.
In addition to being delicious in any form, strawberries are rich in vitamin C and manganese and also folate (vitamin B9) and potassium. Adding strawberries to your diet might help with blood sugar control and heart health.
These sweet red fruits are delicious in smoothies, milkshakes, a wide range of desserts like strawberry shortcake and compote, jams, jellies, and ice cream.
Over the past 20 years, Florida’s blueberry industry has grown exponentially to cover over 5200 acres of the state’s land. Just in 2022, Florida produced 20 million pounds of blueberries.
Blueberries are usually grown in northern climates which have winter chill, and since Florida’s climate is on the warmer side, the University of Florida and others have developed low-chill cultivars that can grow in the Sunshine State.
Two types of blueberries are widely cultivated in Florida, Rabbiteye and Southern highbush. Rabbiteye is cultivated in areas wil colder temperatures whereas the souther highbush varieties are grown in warmer conditions. Some Southern highbush varieties include ‘Emerald’, ‘Jewel’, ‘Star’, ‘Windsor’, and ‘Sweetcrisp’.
Who wouldn’t love a slice of blueberry cheesecake, or a glass of blueberry lemonade? Try baking a warm blueberry pie, healthy and delicious blueberry lemon bars or treat yourself to a wonderful breakfast of a stack of warm, buttery blueberry pancakes to keep those blues away!
Often labelled as a superfood, these tiny berries are rich in antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese to keep your body healthy and happy.
Think summer, think watermelons, and what better state to grow them but the summery state of Florida? Due to the state’s warm climate all year round, Floridian farmers cutivate this “summer fruit” even in the winter months (December to April)! The state even has a Florida Watermelon Assosiaton (FWA) to support research, education, and promotion of the watermelon industry.
According to the University of Florida, there are a few varieties of watermelon that do particularly well in Florida; this includes the ‘Sugar Baby' or ‘Mickeylee' varieties, and the larger ‘Jubilee' (Florida Giant), ‘Crimson Sweet', or ‘Charleston Grey 133' varieties.
Watermelons are an excellent source of vitamin C, copper, potassium, vitamin B5, and vitamin A. They are also rich in amino acid citrulline and the antioxidant lycopene which provide numerous health benefits.
Watermelons are exceptionally refreshing due to their high water content; this makes them a great addition to your diet, especially in the summers to keep yourself hydrated. Enjoy them cut, juiced, in cocktails (watermelon daiquiri) and in a wide range of salads like the watermelon and feta salad which is a crowd pleaser.
In the day and age where avocados are all the rage, Florida is catching up with this market. The Florida avocado is lesser known than the popular Hass variety, but it’s larger and lower in fat and calories. After citrus, avocados (and blueberries) are the top fruit crops in Florida.
There are about 25 major and 25 minor varieties of avocados grown commercially among the 600 varieties in the state, including ‘Donnie’, “Dupuis’, ‘Hardee’, ‘Pollock’, ’Simmonds’, ‘Russell’, ‘Lula’, ‘Choquette’ and ‘Monroe’.
Avocados provide several nutrients crucial to boosting immune health including vitamin C, B6, and E, potassium, magnesium and folate. Avocados are also high in fiber, providing about 14 grams in each avocado, that’s half the daily requirement of fiber!
Any avocado recipe recommendation list is incomplete without good old guacamole. Traditionally, avocados have always been used in South American and Hispanic cultures. Now, they have gained global popularity and you can find these beloved green berries almost everywhere from avocado toast to avocado sushi.
Florida’s peach industry is small compared to its citrus one. Florida peaches are not like Georgia (the peach capital of the USA) as they have different genetics. One of the biggest differences between Florida and Georgia peaches is the growing season. Georgia peaches are typically harvested in May and June, while Florida peaches are harvested from late March to early May.
Florida peaches which are very red also tend to be smaller than Georgia peaches, but they are just as sweet and juicy. The University of Florida has developed high quality, low-chilling, early-maturing peach cultivars such as Florida Grande, Florida Prince, Tropic Beauty, Tropic Prince, Tropic Snow, and Tropic Sweet. These varieties require lesser chill hours than most other varieties grown in cooler northern states.
Peaches have been studied for their powerful antioxidant properties which may help reduce the risk of cancer development. They are also an excellent source of iron, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
Peaches are almost synonymous with the popular dessert peach cobbler. For your next dinner party, try something new with a peach galette, or add a twist to your regular ice tea and make some refreshing peach ice tea, or make a simple yet lovey peach jam and enjoy this gooey beauty on a slice of toast.
Even though mangoes are native to Southeast Asia, Florida has its own varieties like Tommy Atkins and Kent. Florida first cultivated its first batch of mangoes way back in 1833 and just never stopped. Usually considered a summer fruit, Florida’s mango season starts late May and ends in October.
Florida mangoes dominated the market in the US until Hurricane Andrew wiped out a huge chunk of the state’s groves in 1992, but this didn’t deter Florida’s love for the king of fruits. In 2021, Florida was ranked as the leading producer of mangoes in the USA. Some of the commonly produced varieties include Carrie, Haden, Kent, Valencia Pride, Tommy Atkins, Cogshall, and Keitt.
Mangoes are packed with essential nutrients such as vitamin C, copper, vitamin A and vitamin E. They are also a good source of Folate (vitamin B9), magnesium, potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin K. They boost skin, hair and gut health, help lower cholesterol, and control blood pressure.
Mangoes are incredibly versatile in that they can be used raw or ripe in a wide variety of sweet and savory dishes. Simply chop them up to make a bright, tangy mango salsa or go all out on a majestic mango meringue cake.
Pineapples are not grown on a large scale for commercial production in Florida, but one can find them in farmers markets. These slow-growing plants are grown across Florida in protected locations. The time (typically 18-24 months) for planting and harvesting depends on the variety and the climatic conditions of the landscape, and the pineapple season is between mid-June to September.
Some of the commonly grown varieties of pineapple in Florida include ‘Red Spanish’, D-2’ (or Del Monte Gold), ‘Singapore Spanish’, ‘Queen’, ‘Sugarloaf’, and ‘Smooth Cayenne’.
In addition to being rich in vitamins, minerals (vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese, copper) and dietary fibers, pineapples also contain bromelain, an enzyme which has anti-inflammatory and digestive properties.
From appetizers (caramelized pineapples), to entrees (pineapple-glazed chicken thighs), to desserts (pineapple upside down cake), to cocktails (pina coladas), pineapples are incredibly versatile and delicious with just about anything. With that said, pineapple pizza, anyone?
Florida is one of the few states in the USA where papayas can ebe grown as they are a tropical fruit and thrive in warm, humid conditions. Commercially, papayas are grown in South Florida for its warmer climatic conditions which the plants love. Florida-grown papayas are sweet, flavorful and can be found in farmers markets if you wish to buy them.
Several varieties can be grown in Florida, the most popular of which include ‘Red Lady', ‘Maradol', ‘Tainung No. 1', and various Solo-types.
Papayas are a powerhouse of nutritional benefits. The nutrients present in these fruits help ward off muscular degeneration, prevent asthma, promote eye health, reduce the risk of cancer and even filter out harmful blue light rays because of Zeaxanthin, an antioxidant found in them.
Enjoy this fruit in a wide variety of salads including papaya, beansprout and mangetout salad, summer salmon with papaya salsa, and seared beef and papaya salad with a tamarind soy dressing. In the mood for dessert? Whip up a quick and yummy orange soured cream cake with syruped papaya.
While grapes are not traditionally grown in Florida the same way they are in California, Florida’s warm climatic conditions make it an ideal place to grow some varieties of grapes. In the past few decades, researchers at University of Florida have grape varieties which are commercially viable in the state. Florida has a fast growing grape industry– From a humble 329 farms in 2007, there were 574 reported farms in 2017!
Florida is famous for its muscadine grape which native to the state. These grapes mature in August to early September and varieties include ‘Carlos', ‘Polyanna', ‘Florida Fry', and ‘Southern Home'.
Grapes contain vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese. They also contain contain a chemical compound called resveratrol which helps metabolize fatty acids, increase energy levels and improve metabolisim, all of which can help with weight loss. In addition to that, grapes also contain several flavonoids, a strong antioxidant which helps maintain a healthy weight.
Enjoy grapes raw, juiced, in fruit salads, syrups, and sorbets!
Also read: How To Prevent Fruit And Vegetable Wastage
These are just a few of the many fruit varieties grown in the Sunshine State. Florida is also home to lesser known fruits like chocolate pudding fruit, loquats, jaboticaba and canistel, so be sure to try them all!