More than just oranges: Take a look at the top food products that come from Florida

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This story all started with a fact that made us scratch our heads.

Florida is one of the biggest producers of…tupelo honey? (So declared a recent New York Times article.)

For many of us, tupelo honey conjures the Van Morrison song before it even conjures images of the substance itself. But the Sunshine State is one of tupelo honey’s main homes.

Florida makes about 15 times as much tupelo honey as Georgia, The New York Times reported, the other major state where tupelo trees are grown.

Thinking about all that honey made us wonder: Are there other obscure foods grown or produced in Florida? Obviously, we associate the state with citrus and seafood. But what else?

Here’s a list of vegetables, fruits and other products that come from Florida. They may surprise you.

Cucumbers

The hands of Virginia Zele (cq), of Bradenton, Fl., ties a sack of cucumbers while helping outside the Tampa Convention Center. Times (2012)
The hands of Virginia Zele (cq), of Bradenton, Fl., ties a sack of cucumbers while helping outside the Tampa Convention Center. Times (2012)

Next time you have a Greek salad, think about this: In 2017, Florida ranked first in the U.S. in value of production of cucumbers, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture.

In 2017, the state was responsible for 38 percent of the U.S. value for processed cucumbers with about $97 million worth. Florida also produced 32 percent of the country’s fresh market cucumbers at a value of $76.3 million.

Watermelon

NASCAR driver Ross Chastain stands near a display of watermelons Monday, July 1, 2019 at a Walmart in Tampa. Chastain's family grow watermelon at a farm in Punta Gorda which supply watermelon to Walmart. CHRIS URSO | Times
NASCAR driver Ross Chastain stands near a display of watermelons Monday, July 1, 2019 at a Walmart in Tampa. Chastain’s family grow watermelon at a farm in Punta Gorda which supply watermelon to Walmart. CHRIS URSO | Times

Florida actually ranks second in the U.S., based on 2017 data, for the value of their production of your favorite summer fruit, watermelon. In 2017, Florida produced 23 percent of the nation’s watermelon at a value of $136 million.

Despite being an iconic summer fruit, Florida is actually the only state in the country that can grow watermelon from December to April, according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences site.

Strawberries

Strawberries sit after an autonomous machine named Thorvald bathed them in ultraviolet light on March 12, 2019 at a farm in Wimauma. Times (2019)
Strawberries sit after an autonomous machine named Thorvald bathed them in ultraviolet light on March 12, 2019 at a farm in Wimauma. Times (2019)

Think of strawberries and Florida and it’s hard not to think of Plant City. They have those iconic strawberries and that iconic Strawberry Festival.

In 2017, Florida was responsible for 10 percent of the country’s strawberries for a value of $337 million, ranking it second for the country’s value of production of the popular fruit. The No. 1 state is California.

March is generally the best month to grow strawberries in Florida.

Grapefruit

The effects of citrus greening can be seen on pieces of red Florida grapefruit from Premier Citrus groves in Vero Beach on Oct. 15, 2015. Times (2015)
The effects of citrus greening can be seen on pieces of red Florida grapefruit from Premier Citrus groves in Vero Beach on Oct. 15, 2015. Times (2015)

Florida was also first in the U.S. in the value of production of grapefruit, according to 2017 data.

Florida grew a whopping 54 percent of the country’s grapefruit in 2017, which is valued at $136 million.

But the industry is declining with the rise of citrus greening. Japan used to consume about as much grapefruit as the United States, a country with a population three times its size. And much of that grapefruit came from Florida.

That trade has diminished from 12.1 million cartons of grapefruit a year in 2003-04 to 1.58 million cartons only 13 years later.

Squash

Organic squash is just a sample of the types of produce that can be purchased through a co-op system at Cheyenne's Country Thangs.
Organic squash is just a sample of the types of produce that can be purchased through a co-op system at Cheyenne’s Country Thangs.

Florida produced about 17 percent of the country’s squash in 2017, at a value of $29.7 million. While that amount may seem small, the state ranked first in the U.S. in value of the production of squash.

Squash can be hard to grow, particularly in the summer, but Florida gardeners have obviously had some success with it.

Bell Peppers

Red and green bell peppers for sale at Brady Johnson's stand at the Saturday Morning Market in St. Petersburg. Times (2008)
Red and green bell peppers for sale at Brady Johnson’s stand at the Saturday Morning Market in St. Petersburg. Times (2008)

In 2017, Florida was responsible for 32 percent of the country’s fresh market bell peppers at a value of $206 million.

Where are bell peppers most commonly grown in Florida? Right here in Hillsborough County, as well as Collier, Manatee, Hendry and Palm Beach counties.

Oranges

Florida oranges grow near Plant City. Times (1998).
Florida oranges grow near Plant City. Times (1998).

No surprise here. Florida ranked first in the U.S. in value of production of oranges in 2017, the fruit you probably expected. Florida accounted for 56 percent of the U.S. value of oranges at a value of more than $1 billion.

But Florida’s orange production actually decreased by 16 percent from 2015-2016 to 2016-2017. The state accounted for 45 percent of the total U.S. citrus production in the 16-17 season, providing 78.1 million boxes of citrus.

Peanuts

Florida is a major source of the nation's peanuts. Times (2004)
Florida is a major source of the nation’s peanuts. Times (2004)

Florida was ranked fourth nationally in the value of production of peanuts in 2017. The state produced about 9 percent of the country’s peanuts, worth about $154 million.

Peanuts are grown commercially in only 15 states, according to the Florida Peanut Producers Association. But the southeast region of the peanut-producing states, encompassing Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, is responsible for 72 percent of peanuts grown in the U.S. based on 2013 data.

Peanuts can be planted in north and central Florida from March through May, according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Blue Crab

Blue crabs caught by commercial crabber Gus Muench on the Little Manatee River in Ruskin, Fla. Muench has been a commercial crabber since 1976. MONICA HERNDON | Times (2018)
Blue crabs caught by commercial crabber Gus Muench on the Little Manatee River in Ruskin, Fla. Muench has been a commercial crabber since 1976. MONICA HERNDON | Times (2018)

From 1997 to 2016, Florida produced almost 200 million pounds of blue crab. That’s a lot of crab. Stone crab is less prolific, at about 100 million pounds of meat.

Crab was the third highest Florida seafood species in dollars in 2016. The state’s crab production had a dockside value of more than $43 million.

Grouper

Beer battered Florida grouper sandwich at Sea Sea Riders. - Sea Sea Riders, at 221 Main St., has been a solid part of Dunedin's dining scene for nearly 30 years, since really before the charming gulf-side burg with the Scottish accent had much of a dining scene. Times (XXXX)
Beer battered Florida grouper sandwich at Sea Sea Riders. – Sea Sea Riders, at 221 Main St., has been a solid part of Dunedin’s dining scene for nearly 30 years, since really before the charming gulf-side burg with the Scottish accent had much of a dining scene. Times (XXXX)

In 2016, the grouper produced by the state of Florida had a value of almost $21 million. Fried grouper sandwiches are a Florida classic.

Between 1997 and 2016, Florida has produced more than 116 million pounds of grouper.

Shrimp

Wild Florida Pink Gulf Shrimp cooked during the 2009 Tampa Bay Wine & Food Festival. CREDIT: Jeff Houck
Wild Florida Pink Gulf Shrimp cooked during the 2009 Tampa Bay Wine & Food Festival. CREDIT: Jeff Houck

If you’re a tourist coming to Florida, or a Floridian who has hosted a tourist, chances are you’ve heard them say: “I want to get some fresh seafood.” But the stats tell a different story. In 2016, Florida actually ranked 11th in U.S. states for fresh seafood production.

The seafood most commonly produced in Florida is shrimp.

About $52 million worth of shrimp was produced in 2016 from Florida. From 1997 to 2016, more than 220 million pounds of pink shrimp have come from Florida.

The largest producer of seafood in Florida in 2018 was Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys. Both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties ranked in the top five seafood producing counties in Florida, as well.



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