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Eating from Backyard Gardens in South Florida

The pandemic of 2020 has many families faced with job loss, reduced income, and tight budgets leading to limited food options. Food donation lines are long. Many are in need. Farmers are making local produce available directly to consumers.

Families and consumers need to eat well-balanced and nutritious meals that are also economical. There is a need for simple recipes for those on a budget. Check out these recipes in the following websites:

Food safety needs to be prioritized. Handwashing for twenty (20) seconds with soap and water is always recommended before and after food preparation along with other food safety best practices.

Here are some recipe ideas using South Florida grown ingredients (avocados, star fruit, mango, green beans, tomatoes) that people enjoy and may have growing right in their own backyard.

Avocados– Avocados come in a wide assortment of shapes. Depending on the variety, the interior of the avocado ranges from bright yellow, to yellow green, to pale yellow. Avocados have a smooth, creamy texture. Avocados are generally available from late June to February.

Fruit-Stuffed Avocados
2 avocados, halved and pitted
1 orange or tangerine, peeled and sectioned
½ cup sliced strawberries or other berries
½ cup chopped mango, papaya, or pineapple
2 carambolas, seeded and sliced

Mix the cut fruit in a bowl and put ¼ of the mixture into each avocado half. Top with yogurt-honey dressing.

Yogurt-Honey Dressing (serve on the side)
½ cup low-fat plain yogurt
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon skim milk

Blend together ingredients for yogurt-honey dressing and chill. Spoon ¼ of the dressing (about 2 tablespoons)

Florida Guacamole Chicken Salad
1 cup cooked chicken breast, diced
2 tablespoons minced chives
½ Florida avocado, diced or mashed
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
1 teaspoon minced jalapeños (more or less, to taste)
½ lime, juiced (about 2 teaspoons)
½ teaspoon each salt and pepper
3 cups mixed salad greens

In a medium-sized bowl, combine all ingredients except the salad greens. Stir together and combine with the greens in a large bowl. Toss and serve. Serves 2.

Carambola (Star fruit)– Carambola trees produce yellow fruit with four to six ribs that are star-shaped when sliced in cross sections, which is how “star fruit” got its name. Carambolas flower and fruit several times during the year. The fruit is delicious and generally available from July through March.

Carambola Bread
6 to 8 carambolas
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon each: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice
1½ teaspoons baking soda
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup vegetable oil
¾ cup brown sugar, unpacked
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cut and remove seeds from fruit and process in a blender to fine puree. Retain juice to make 2 cups. Sift the flour, salt, spices, and baking soda, then set aside. Mix the eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla, and fruit puree together. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in 2 installments and blend well. Pour into a greased loaf pan (9x5x2½ inches) and bake at 350°F for 1 hour or until done (soft). Makes 9 servings. NUTRITION INFORMATION 240 calories, 35 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams protein, 10 grams fat, 3 grams fiber, 24 milligrams vitamin C, 160 milligrams potassium.

Carambola Fruit Salad
1 sliced, seeded carambola with brown edges removed
1 orange, peeled and sliced
1 banana, sliced
Juice of 1 lime

Lightly mix fruit with lime juice. Serve cold over lettuce leaves or as fruit cups. Makes 4 servings.

Carambola Pickles
4 cups carambola slices
1½ cups sugar
½ cup white vinegar
1 stick cinnamon
½ teaspoon whole cloves

Place carambola slices in glass jar or bowl. Make a syrup of sugar, vinegar, and spices. Bring to a boil and pour over carambola slices. Let stand overnight in the refrigerator. Next day, drain off syrup and bring to a boil. Place carambola slices in hot, sterilized jars and pour boiling syrup over, leaving a ½-inch headspace. Wipe jar mouths and adjust lids. Process in boiling water-bath canner 10 minutes. Makes 16 servings.

Mango– Mango is one of the most enjoyable fruits grown in South Florida. The fruit can be used in many ways, with fresh, right off the tree being one of the most popular. It can also be frozen, dried, canned, or cooked in jams, jellies, and preserves. It can be used to make fruit leather, pies, mango chutney and mango smoothies.

Chicken Salad with Mango-This can be made with a few mangos, a fresh tomato, green pepper and green onions grown in your yard.
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
2 cups chopped, ripe mango
1 large tomato, chopped
1 medium green pepper
2 green onions, chopped
½ cup yogurt
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. sugar
Lettuce or spinach leaves

1. Combine chicken, mango, tomato, green pepper, and onion in a large bowl.
2. Blend vinegar, lemon juice and sugar into yogurt.
3. Fold into fruit/chicken mixture.
4. Chill for two hours.
5. Spoon into lettuce or spinach leaves. Serves: 4

South Florida Tropical Style Lentil Mango Rice
This is an entrée made from on-hand pantry items and fresh and/or frozen harvested garden items. The onions, mangoes and callaloo are homegrown from the garden. This recipe is both nutritious and economical. Callaloo is an ethnic leaf vegetable, similar to lettuce, that is grown in South FL. (Recipe contributed by Leann)

Uncooked rice (white or brown), 6 portions
1 can of pinto beans or 1 cup of dried lentils or split peas
2 small onions, diced (from the garden)
1/2 cup dried mango or fresh diced mangoes (from the garden)
1 cup, frozen callaloo that has been thawed or 1 cup of fresh spinach (from the garden)
1 -1-ounce packet of Indian seasoning (Any brand found in the seasoning section of grocery store)
Olive oil
Optional: Other frozen or dried vegetables, tuna fish

1. Wash hands with soap and water. Dry hands thoroughly with a clean towel.
2. Prepare six portions of rice in a rice cooker or on the stovetop. Once cooked, keep the rice warm.
3. Peel two small onions and then dice them on a clean cutting board.
4. Sautee the onions in 1 tsp. of olive oil in a sauté pan, until cooked.
5. Add 1 cup of dried mango, 1 cup of thawed callaloo, and 1 package of Indian seasoning to the sautéing onions.
6. Stir and cook for 10 minutes, until hot and flavors have blended.
7. Mix rice and vegetable/mango mixture together.
8. Serve and enjoy!

Optional: Add additional frozen vegetables, dried vegetables or 1-2 cans of drained tuna fish. It is delicious!

Green beans-Green beans or snap beans are a popular vegetable grown in our Florida vegetable gardens. They are tasty and easy to grow.

Green Beans and Potatoes
1pound red potatoes
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1½ tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
1 pound green beans, trimmed and blanched
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Simmer potatoes until tender; drain and cool. Quarter the potatoes lengthwise and set aside. In large sauté pan heat oil, add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add rosemary, lemon zest, and chili flakes; sauté until fragrant. Add potatoes and beans; sauté until vegetables are hot and coated with seasonings. Sprinkle with lemon juice and season lightly with salt. Serve warm. (Serves 3)

Tomatoes– Homegrown tomatoes are popular and tasty. They can be grown in a garden or container. They are delicious in a fresh green salad, in pasta dishes or sliced and eaten alone.

Vegetable Pasta w/ Tomatoes
1 medium zucchini, washed and ends removed
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon dried leaf basil, crushed
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 cups prepared no-fat pasta sauce
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
8 ounces dried pasta, shape of choice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or basil
grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Cut zucchini in quarters lengthwise and cut into ½-inch pieces. Place zucchini, onion, garlic, and olive oil with seasonings in large, deep skillet and sauté; over MEDIUM heat until soft. Stir often. Add prepared sauce, mix well, and let simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in ½ cup chopped tomato and allow to heat thoroughly.
In a separate pot, cook pasta as directed on package. Drain well and place in large serving bowl. Add sauce and mix gently. Top with the reserved ½ cup chopped tomatoes and chopped herbs. Serve hot. (Serves 4)

For more information
1. UF/IFAS Broward Website, Family and Consumer Sciences-

2. UF/IFAS Broward Extension Blogs-

3. UF/IFAS Extension, Solutions for Your Life, Family Resources-

4. Choose MyPlate-

5. UF/IFAS Extension, COVID-19 Updates-

7 Comments on “Eating from Backyard Gardens in South Florida

    • Thank you so much for your comment!
      Stay healthy and have a great day.

    • Hi Cindy-
      Thank you for your comment.

    • Thank you Liz.
      Have a great day.

  1. Great information and recipe. Thanks!

    • Thank you for your comment Liz.
      Have a great day.