Focus on Florida Food – Part II

Josh's Organic Market - Hollywood, Florida

After our 1-nighter in the Gulf Coast of Florida, where we saw a memorable Leon Redbone concert and enjoyed a good meal of local fish and seafood, Noshette of the North and I drove back to the Atlantic coast along the famous "Alligator Alley", gator.jpgwhere we saw plenty of gators relaxing by the side of the road. Safely back in Hallandale Beach, Noshette and I took a Sunday morning stroll along the warm sandy beach, and it truly felt like we were in paradise.

The sun was shining - not too brightly - and there were some occasional passing clouds to provide us with welcome relief from what could have easily given us some nasty sunburns, to which we are both prone. Whenever we were beginning to feel hot, we would simply drop our towels and wade into the Atlantic ocean, the cool, salty water soothing our bodies and minds.

This truly was paradise, but we were beginning to get hungry. Lucky for us, we wouldn't have to venture into a fast (or medium) food outlet to eat some cage-starved, drugged-addled, corn-fed meat with a side of wax-covered, pesticide-laced vegetables that had spent several days in a series of dark trucks, planes, more trucks, and maybe a few warehouses before landing on our plates. I had read about an organic market that appears every Sunday on a Ramada Inn patio near to where we were staying, on South Ocean Drive near Hallandale Beach boulevard. Our plan was to find it, and eat.

greens.jpgToday we would stroll in paradise, swim in paradise, and eat in paradise. We asked a lifeguard to point us toward the Ramada Inn, but he knew we were really looking for Josh's Organic Market, and he happily pointed us in the right direction. We made our way up the beach, and sure enough, set up beneath the shade of a stucco veranda attached to the edge of a multi-national chain hotel, was Josh's Organic Market. I took a quick tour, walking by bins of fresh fruits and vegetables that were labeled not only according to their geographic origins, but some made mention of when they were actually harvested.

josh1.jpgAfter watching and listening for a few seconds, it was easy to pick out Josh. He was moving a mile a minute, attacking tables full of produce like a bee stinging its prey, giving advice to customers and directions to employees, refilling bins and cutting open perfectly ripe specimens for customers to taste.

I approached Josh cautiously, hoping not to disturb him or get in his way, but before I could get close enough to talk to him, he had already shot to the other end of his market. I approached again, and then again, until I realized that I was just following him around in circles. Caution clearly wasn't getting me anywhere in Josh's world, so I ran straight up to him and blurted out that I thought what he was doing was amazing. "You want to see amazing? Come with me", shouted Josh, loud enough for everyone in the market to hear. "Grab that bin of celery! Throw it up on that table!".

arugula.JPGI was now part of the show, but I was more than happy to get a chance to manhandle some organic Florida produce and also talk to Josh. I followed him around and helped stack empty bins and refill tables with fresh loads of tomatoes, squash, lettuce, and peppers. "Taste this! Tell me it's not amazing!", shouted Josh, shoving a piece of arugula into my hands. I tasted it, and it was amazing, mostly because I hadn't experienced a good salad since my CSA and community garden plot had stopped providing me with greens back in October.

tomatoes.jpgJosh was talking a mile a minute, telling me about how everything is certified organic, how he isn't excited about his tomatoes this week (they were the best I had tasted since September) and how he hasn't eaten any chemicals since 1984 (or was it 1987?) and he would "rather die" than sell chemicals or pesticides to his customers. Sometimes, like in the case of the fruit vendor in my post from last week, I don't believe what I am told, but I sincerely believed Josh. For one thing, he was fit and healthy, a refreshing change from the pot-bellied chainsmoking fruit vendors I had become accustomed to buying my food from.

salad.jpgBesides local vegetables and some local fruit - most notably strawberrries - Josh sells a wide variety of imported organic fruits and nuts as well as running a juice bar from the same location - only on Sundays. As tempted as I was by the organic mangoes from Costa Rica, I stuck to Florida produce and walked away with arugula, some nice Boston lettuce, a red pepper, and some cherry tomatoes. We later made a beautiful salad from these veggies which we ate while sitting on our towels, right by the ocean.

On our way to the cashier, we passed the dried fruit and nut table, and even though a lot of the stuff on that table wasn't from Florida, it looked and tasted (with Josh's blessing) much better than any nuts or dried fruit I had ever consumed before. The nuts seemed brighter and crisper than what I could find in Montreal, and the dried fruit were exactly that - dried fruit (no sulphur dioxide or added sugar).

Everyone who worked with Josh seemed happy to be there, as did his customers. I can only hope that more places like Josh's Organic Market will open all over North America as more people become conscious of what is happening to their food supply. If our government won't stop Big Business from making us sick (so they can get rich), and that includes Big Organic, then we have to change the system from the bottom up by buying our food from small, privately-owned businesses who can be confident and honest about what they are selling.

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Whole Foods Market - Aventura, Florida

Before returning to the frigid cold of Montreal, Noshette and I wanted to find some Florida grapefruit and oranges to bring back home. Our first stop was a Whole Foods Market, mostly because I was curious to see how much local produce they actually carried. Even though Florida grows a lot of fruits and vegetables, most of the produce on the shelves was imported. At least this disappointing information was mentioned above each bin.

orange2.jpg I easily found some conventional grapefruit, which were from Florida and seemed pretty fresh, so I grabbed a few and put them in my basket. I scoped out the orange situation and found three varieties, all from California!

We don't have Whole Foods in Montreal - most probably due to our strict language laws which would make it too costly to translate and reprint each and every label and marketing effort into French - so I wasn't entirely sure I believed what I had read in the papers and in "The Omnivore's Dilemma", but Michael Pollan wasn't lying.

orange3.jpg

It made me sick to know that Whole Foods was selling California oranges in their Florida stores. I am happy than John Mackey is reducing his salary to $1 a year, but why can't he stock Florida oranges in his Florida stores?

On our way back to to my parents apartment, we saw a nice roadside display of citrus at a locally-owned shop, and that is where our oranges were bought.

citrus.jpg

5 Responsesto “Focus on Florida Food – Part II”

  1. Jeff Kahn says:

    A 1979 Florida statute that requires country of origin labeling of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and honey was the first in the U.S. State-of-origin labeling allows consumers to support their state’s farmers. The Florida law allows "Produced in Florida" labels, as do laws in South Dakota and Minnesota among others.

    Florida Statutes
    Chapter 504.012 Label marking permitted; removal prohibited.--
    All producers, growers, and shippers of fresh fruits and vegetables and bee pollen and honey in this state shall be permitted to mark each individual fruit or vegetable, package of bee pollen, or package of honey in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly, and permanently as the nature of the fruit or vegetable, package of bee pollen, or package of honey will permit, in such manner as to indicate to an ultimate purchaser that the product was produced in Florida. Any fresh fruit or vegetable, package of bee pollen, or package of honey, including any package containing foreign honey blended with domestic honey, produced in any country other than the United States and offered for retail sale in Florida shall be marked individually in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly, and permanently as the nature of the fruit or vegetable, package of bee pollen, or package of honey will permit, in such manner as to indicate to an ultimate purchaser the country of origin. Markings shall be done prior to delivery into Florida.

  2. Nosher of the North says:

    Thanks Jeff!
    But, if you notice, it is "permitted", not required.
    Nosher

  3. Jeff Kahn says:

    Hi Nosher. In Florida, country of origin labeling is required; produced in Florida labels are optional. I think this has discouraged stores from buying foreign produce, which is a good thing for any number of reasons. And it has allowed consumers to begin thinking about their choices.

    I posted the law hoping it would encourage its spread to other states that might take it to the next level: a requirement to label point of origin.

  4. Sophie says:

    I've no idea about the legalities of it but it's just so disappointing. You'd hope that somewhere like a whole foods market would be trying to do the right thing :-(

  5. Juice oranges from California in a Florida Whole Foods seems crazy to me too. Although I had a vague memory that most juice (Valencia) oranges came from California, that memory is wrong. According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistical Service, Florida produced almost 8 times more Valencia oranges than California in the 2006-07 season, and almost 3 times more navel oranges than California. (the ratios are about the same for previous years which did not have massive freezing in California)

    Reference: http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/CropProd/CropProd-03-09-2007.txt
    Note that a box of oranges in California is 75 lb. while a Florida box is 90 lb. (gotta love agricultural units...)