Bell Peppers, Cucumbers and Eggplants Thrive During Florida Winters
by ERIKA ALDRICH
Sponsored by Farm Credit of Central Florida
The arrival of winter in The Sunshine State means a shift in crops. Florida’s tropical climate is well-suited for year-round growing, and the winter months in Florida are perfect for crops that like it warm but can’t take the heat or humidity of Florida’s summer growing season. Winter vegetables such as bell peppers, cucumbers and eggplant are traditionally grown in Florida during the winter months, supplying fresh vegetables to the rest of the country.
A member of the cucurbit family alongside pumpkins, squash, gourds, and watermelon, cucumbers are believed to have originated in India and were brought to the Americas by European explorers like Christopher Columbus and Hernando de Soto. Cucumbers need warm weather to grow, and they are especially popular to grow in Miami-Dade County. There, cucumbers are grown on anywhere from 200 to 900 acres, according to UF/IFAS Extension. The production season for cucumbers in Florida is October to June.
In 2017, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), Florida was first in the country in the value of production of cucumbers. The total value of processing cucumbers, mainly for pickling, was $97 million, or 38 percent of the total U.S. value; and the total production value of fresh market cucumbers was $76.3 million, or 32 percent of the total U.S. value.
The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) maintained that Florida farmers planted and harvested 23,000 acres of cucumbers in 2019 and produced 3,450,000 CWT of cucumbers, mainly for the fresh market rather than the processing market. Those cucumbers had a production value of $89,277,000.
Bell Peppers and Eggplant
Bell peppers and eggplant are in the same plant family—the Solanaceae family, also known as the nightshade family—as are tomatoes. Bell peppers are native to Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. Eggplants are believed to have originated in India or Africa, but the first mention of the plant’s cultivation is in Asia. Both plants have tropical origins and thrive in Florida’s warm climate.
According to FDACS, Florida was second in the country in the value of production of bell peppers in 2017. The total production value of Florida’s fresh market bell peppers in the 2017 harvest year was $206 million, or 32 percent of the total U.S. value.
The USDA’s NASS reported that the 2019 growing year saw 12,200 acres of bell peppers planted in all of Florida, with 11,800 acres harvested. Production amounted to 3,481,000 CWT, and the value of that production was $234,968,000.
Eggplant is not a huge crop in the U.S., but Florida ranks highly in the annual production of this unique vegetable. Production is mainly in the southeastern parts of the state—mainly in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties—though eggplant is grown all over Florida.
Florida’s agriculture industry is varied and diverse, owing largely to Florida’s year-round growing season. Florida’s farmers work hard year-round to deliver fresh produce to points near and far!