Florida’s Local Produce Harvest: Winter’s Bounty

By Carol Church, Writer, Family Album
Reviewed by Agata Kowalewska, PhD, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida

As a parent living in Florida, I was often a bit frustrated when reading picture books about the seasons to my young children. Daffodils in spring, brightly colored leaves in fall, and snowflakes in winter don’t really reflect our reality.

Just as typical picture books don’t quite portray how life happens down here, typical ideas of what fruits and vegetables are in season at which times often don’t quite apply to Florida either. For example, when other farmers’ markets are at their peak in late summer, ours are a bit slow and quiet. But come back in January, and you’ll find a gorgeous array of cool-season vegetables for sale. This can be confusing, and many Floridians, especially those new to the state, may not know when local fruits and vegetables are in season here.

For this reason, Family Album is introducing a new series: Florida Local Produce Harvest. We’ll be talking about which fruits and vegetables are currently in season and sharing easy, healthy, family-friendly recipes. Eating local is good for your community and the environment. The items you buy will be fresher, cheaper, and tastier, and increasing your vegetable and fruit intake will benefit your health!

We’ll start off with Winter’s Bounty: fruits and vegetables that are in season during November, December and January. Be aware that some frost-tender vegetables may only be available in fall in North Florida while being harvested all winter in the milder climate of central and Southern Florida. These items can be found in grocery stores, at farmers’ markets, and through Community-Supported Agriculture subscriptions. Keep an eye out for “local” or “Florida” signs or labels. Here’s a list that can help you know what to look for:

Vegetables in Season in FL: Winter

  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Bell pepper (frost-tender)
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumber (frost-tender)
  • Greens (collards, kale, mustard and turnip greens, bok choy and other Asian greens)
  • Eggplant (frost-tender)
  • Lettuce
  • Okra (frost-tender)
  • Peas
  • Peppers (frost-tender)
  • Radishes
  • Summer squash (frost-tender)
  • Seminole pumpkin (frost-tender)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Turnips
  • Winter squash (frost-tender)

Fruits in Season in FL: Winter

  • Avocadoes
  • Carambola (starfruit)
  • Oranges, grapefruit, tangerines…all kinds of citrus
  • Persimmons
  • Strawberries

When trying out these recipes, don’t forget to include your children in preparation if you have time. They’ll learn valuable kitchen skills and are more likely to eat the dishes, too.

One healthy winter Florida veggie is broccoli. This vegetable is extremely nutritious and often popular with children. Here are a couple of simple broccoli recipes with kid appeal:

Broccoli Casserole (6 servings)


  • 1 lb fresh Florida broccoli florets
  • 8 oz. low fat cottage cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. flour


Whip the eggs together with the flour; add the broccoli, then the cheese. Bake in a casserole pan at 350 degrees until browned, approximately 30 minutes.

–Recipe credit: David S. Bearl, Program for Resource Efficient Communities, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Used with permission.

Snowy Broccoli and Cauliflower Bake


  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound Florida broccoli florets
  • 1 pound Florida cauliflower florets
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Florida rosemary, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Florida thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • Low-fat milk
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons unbleached flour
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Small dash of ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika


In a large saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil. Add broccoli and cauliflower; cook just until slightly tender yet crisp. Drain broccoli and cauliflower, removing as much water as possible. Set liquid to side. Add milk to the vegetable liquid to measure a total of 2 1/2 cups. Pour vegetables into a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in the saucepan over medium heat.

Blend in the flour, stirring until smooth and bubbly. Gradually stir in milk mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth. Season with the salt, pepper, herbs and nutmeg. Pour sauce over broccoli and cauliflower. Dot with remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and paprika; sprinkle over vegetables. Bake at 450° for about 20 minutes, until casserole is bubbly.

Recipe credit: Fresh from Florida, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Used with permission.

Cabbage is an inexpensive and very nutritious winter vegetable. If you haven’t had cabbage in a long time, give it another chance. My children love it.

Braised Cabbage with Sausage


  • ½ head fresh Florida cabbage, cut in julienne
  • 1 diced onion
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 2 minced cloves garlic
  • ½ tsp fresh thyme
  • ½ tsp caraway seed.
  • 1 lb diced turkey or chicken sausage
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 cup low fat milk
  • salt/pepper


In a large sauté pan add the oil and sauté the onion until caramelized. Add the cabbage, garlic, thyme, caraway seed, and diced sausage. Simmer the cabbage for 15 minutes then add the low fat milk. Cook for another 5-10 minutes. Adjust the flavor of the dish with salt and pepper just prior to serving.

–Recipe credit: David S. Bearl, Program for Resource Efficient Communities, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Used with permission.

Cabbage, Noodles, and Cottage Cheese


  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 head green or Savoy cabbage, sliced into strips (try for the same size as your egg noodles)
  • 12 ounces whole wheat egg noodles, cooked al dente
  • 24 ounces cottage cheese or 16 ounces cottage cheese and 8 ounces sour cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch of green onions, flat-leaf parsley or garlic chives, chopped


In a large pot, sauté onion and garlic in oil over low heat, until onions are soft and translucent. Add caraway seeds, stir until seeds become really fragrant, then add cabbage. Stir well to coat the cabbage with the onion mixture. Cook uncovered over medium heat until cabbage starts to wilt—be sure to stir it often so the cabbage cooks evenly. At this point the cabbage is a little crispy, but if you like a softer texture, just cook it a little longer. Carefully stir in egg noodles (a wooden spoon will help keep the noodles intact) and add cottage cheese. Over low heat, cover and cook, stirring often to prevent sticking, until hot. Taste for seasoning, stir in chopped herbs, cover and heat for 2-3 minutes. Stir well and serve.

–Recipe credit: Stefanie Samara Hamblen, Hogtown Homegrown. Used with permission.

It’s fun and easy to create beautiful kid-friendly salads with Florida’s abundance of winter salad greens. Including fruit adds eye appeal and natural sweetness.

Salad Your Kids Will Eat


  • 5 ounces mixed Florida salad greens
  • 2 Florida carrots, shredded
  • 2 small apples, shredded
  • 1 Florida orange, juiced and zested
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raisins (try mixed jumbo raisins)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4-1/2 cup Newman’s Light Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette (or another sweet dressing)


Place greens in a large serving bowl. Mix shredded carrots and apples with orange juice and zest. Toss mixture with salad greens. Add celery, walnuts, raisins and cranberries—mix well. Serve dressing on the side, to taste. Leftovers can be refrigerated without dressing for one day, so save some for the next day’s lunch.

–Recipe credit: Stefanie Samara Hamblen, Hogtown Homegrown. Used with permission.

Sweet potatoes appeal to many children due to their approachable flavor. They’re very high in vitamin A.

Sweet Potato Apple Casserole


  • 2-3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 2-3 apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 orange, peeled and sectioned
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In an ovenproof pan, layer sweet potatoes and apples with sections of orange and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Decorate the top with rows of alternating sweet potato and apple slices. Cover tightly with foil and bake at least 90 minutes, until potatoes are cooked through.

–Recipe credit: Stefanie Samara Hamblen, Hogtown Homegrown. Used with permission.

Have you ever tried a persimmon? There are two kinds—astringent and non-astringent. This interesting salad is made with two Florida fall crops—cucumbers and persimmons. It’s crunchy and sweet. You can leave out the scallions if your children don’t care for that flavor.

Persimmon Cucumber Salad


  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 2 firm non-astringent persimmons, peeled and diced
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice (lemon juice is okay, but lime juice is better)
  • 1 Tablespoon each olive oil and mild vinegar (white wine or unseasoned rice wine)
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste


Combine cucumber and persimmon in serving bowl. Mix together remaining ingredients and pour over veggies. Stir gently to combine. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.

–Recipe credit: Stefanie Samara Hamblen, Hogtown Homegrown. Used with permission.

(Photo credit: broccoli by Brenna. CC BY 2.0. Cropped.)

Further Reading:

Hogtown Homegrown–Gainesville-based free monthly newsletter and website featuring recipes using local and seasonal produce.

Hogtown Homegrown full logo-96dpi





Buy Local Florida–Information about Florida farmers’ markets.

Pick Your Own Florida–Information about where to find pick-your-own fruit and veggies in FL (and around the country).

Florida Crops in Season–Displays a chart of crops in season


Hamblen, S. (2007). Hogtown Homegrown. Retrieved from http://www.hogtownhomegrown.com/

Hillan, J., & Penuela, C. (2010). Finding fresh Florida produce. Retrieved from http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/fy/fy38000.pdf

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. (n.d.) Florida Crops in Season. Retrieved from http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Marketing-and-Development/Consumer-Resources/Buy-Fresh-From-Florida/Crops-in-Season


Posted: December 3, 2014

Category: Health & Nutrition, Work & Life
Tags: Local Foods, Nutrition And Food Systems

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