When you think of Florida, certain foods may pop into your head, including fresh citrus and glasses of orange juice bursting with pulp, or freshly caught seafood that still has a hint of brine from the ocean. Or maybe even a frozen treat using fresh dairy that helps cool you down on a hot day.
But in reality, the diversity of Florida cuisine – thanks to its range of farms, ranches and agricultural commodities – is vast, encompassing culinary ingredients from peanuts to guava and food styles from around the Caribbean, Latin America and beyond.
“Here in the great state of Florida, we have the unique opportunity to grow a multitude of commodities that most states can only grow certain times of the year,” says Chef Justin Timineri, international culinary ambassador for the state of Florida. “While potatoes and peanuts grow well in northern Florida, we can’t discount the fact that those same commodities can really grow just about anywhere in the state. That’s just how versatile Florida is.”
He adds that the many cultures throughout Florida also play a role in diversifying the cuisine, such as Cuban food in south Florida, and those communities have adapted in their respective regions.
“Cooking in north Florida is going to be slightly different than south Florida,” he says. “It’s one state but it’s still so varied and that’s reflected by chefs and restaurants all over the state.”
Timineri says several factors contribute to the state’s culinary variety, including an abundance of sunshine, different types of soil for growing many crops and the nearly year-round consistent temperatures.
“For these very reasons, we encourage folks to seek out unique co-ops, farmers and locally owned restaurants within their communities,” Timineri says. “The same applies to commodities such as seafood or beef. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has a wealth of information regarding characteristics of each region and its hardworking farmers, ranchers and fishermen.”