by RYAN MILEJCZAK
Sponsored by Farm Credit of Central Florida
While strawberries often steal the spotlight when it comes to winter crops, it’s also a season when many popular Florida vegetables are ripe for the picking. Some of these include bell peppers, cruciferous vegetables, and squash.
Easily the king of Florida winter vegetable production is the bell pepper. Florida has long been a major bell pepper producer, and in 2022, the state overtook California to become No. 1 in production. The season saw $262 million in bell pepper production, with more than 10,000 acres dedicated to this crop.
Bell peppers thrive here because the state has all of the best conditions for the crop: warm loamy soil, moderate temperatures, full sun, and adequate moisture. The Florida bell pepper season runs from October through June.
Broccoli is one of a variety of so-called cruciferous vegetables grown here in Florida, alongside cabbage and cauliflower. Known as “cole crops,” broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower are in fact all different forms of the same plant, Brassica oleracea.
Broccoli grows best in well-drained, fertile soil with at least six hours of sun, so the sunny Florida climate is great for it. Broccoli is susceptible to cold damage, so mild Florida winters are also ideal for this crop. Heat-tolerant varieties such as Green Goliath grow best here.
For the 2022 season, more than $72 million worth of broccoli was produced in Florida, on 8,900 acres dedicated to its cultivation. Florida broccoli season runs from January through July.
Cabbage is another major cruciferous vegetable crop that thrives here in Florida, with our state typically ranking in the top 5 growers of this crop. It is primarily cultivated in Northeast Florida, but Palm Beach county is also a major producer.
For the 2022 season, over $72 million worth of cabbage was produced in Florida, with 8,900 acres dedicated to its production. It is typically planted between August and February, and harvested from October to June.
Cauliflower also thrives in temperatures between 60 and 65 degrees, making mild Florida winters ideal. The majority of Florida cauliflower is grown in West Central Florida, with the season running from November through April.
Florida is one of the top producers of celery in the nation, consistently ranking in the top 5 producers for this crop. It is primarily produced in the Everglades region, and grows best with plenty of moisture and low temperatures. Celery has a long growing season, so faster maturing varieties like Conquistador and Giant Red are preferred. In Florida, celery season runs from December through May.
Squash is another winter vegetable grown extensively here in Florida, with our state ranking second nationally in squash production. Squash is unique because there is a summer and winter version. The summer versions are younger and much softer, while winter squash are more mature and much tougher, meaning they can be stored for months. In 2020, the most recent year for which we have statistics, nearly $34 million of squash was produced in our state between both winter and summer varieties.
Florida Winter Crops: From the Farm to Your Plate
Florida winter vegetable production is going strong, and continues to grow. From bell peppers to squash, our farmers work hard to bring fresh Florida veggies to your table. The next time you enjoy one of these veggies, make sure to thank a farmer!