Football season starts soon, so gather your family and friends for a tailgate, complete with Florida-grown foods and UF/IFAS cultivars

It’s game day. The excitement around stadiums is palpable. The college football season will kick off shortly, and many fans will enjoy the company of family and friends while tailgating before and after the game.

That means food – lots of it.

Tailgaters might think about eating some Florida-grown grub, University of Florida experts say. That includes potatoes, beef, citrus, avocados (who wants guac?), tomatoes and more.

Many of the ingredients coming from Florida farms were developed and refined through years of research by UF/IFAS plant breeders. Those include citrus, strawberries, tomatoes and sweet corn. UF/IFAS researchers have developed fan favorites including Tasti-Lee™ tomatoes, Brilliance™  strawberries and Sugar Belle™ mandarins, among many others.

Sugar Belle
Sugar Belle citrus cultivar. UF/IFAS File Photo.

“The UF/IFAS citrus breeding program is known worldwide for its work to develop new citrus varieties of all types, to support the future of the industry in Florida,” said Fred Gmitter, professor of citrus breeding and genetics at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center. “Why not start your tailgating day off right with a cool glass of nutrient-packed OJ at breakfast? And certainly, it would be great to have Florida-grown grapefruit in classic retro cocktails such as a Brown Derby or a Greyhound, as game time approaches, or to celebrate the outcome after the game.”

Andrea Nikolai, a family and consumer sciences agent and registered dietitian for UF/IFAS Extension Polk County, gives lots of suggestions for eating Florida-grown food while you’re tailgating:

UF/IFAS breeders have bred some tasty strawberries. UF/IFAS photography.
  • Snack on peanuts or make some peanut butter dipping sauce for raw vegetables or chicken skewers. In Florida, about 50 percent of peanuts produced are made into peanut butter. “Did you know peanuts have more protein than any other nut?”
  • Grill some Florida-grown lean beef patties or Florida grouper. Top them with slices of creamy avocados and tomatoes.
  • Savor mango salsa.
  • Gobble up some guacamole, with avocados and Florida tomatoes.
  • Enjoy fruit skewers with strawberries and blueberries.

“Eating Florida-grown foods helps our local farmers and bolsters our local economy, and it also involves shorter food-transportation distances,” Nikolai said. “This means the food is often fresher with more flavor and nutrients and fewer food-safety risks. It’s Florida for the win.”

UF/IFAS varieties and Florida-grown foods are so popular, they were featured in this month’s edition of Gator Nation News, a publication of UF Advancement.

Before and after eating, you’ll want to consider food safety. UF/IFAS experts offer many tips to make sure you eat well and go home from the game feeling well. Among them are:

  • Wash your hands before any food preparation.
  • Use separate cutting boards: one for raw meats and one for fruits and vegetables.
  • Once food is prepared, keep it cold. The goal is to keep foods below 40 degrees so harmful bacteria don’t grow. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  • Perishable foods should not be left out for more than two hours. If it’s 90 degrees or warmer, that time drops to an hour.

UF/IFAS offers more tailgating food-safety tips.


The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.  |  @UF_IFAS

Feeding a hungry world takes effort. Nearly everything we do comes back to food: from growing it and getting it to consumers, to conserving natural resources and supporting agricultural efforts. Explore all the reasons why at or follow #FoodIsOurMiddleName.



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Posted: August 24, 2023

Category: UF/IFAS
Tags: Andrea Nikolai, Beef, Citrus, Citrus Research And Education Center, Corn, Florida-grown, Food Safety, Fred Gmitter, Potatoes, Strawberries, Sugar Belle, Tailgating, UF/IFAS Extension Polk County, UF/IFAS Plant Breeding

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