Notes from the Island Fishmonger

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By Scott Dolan, Big Water Fish Market

When we think of fresh foods indigenous to Florida, a few culinary products standout such as produce like oranges, grapefruits & strawberries and fish like Pompano and Grouper. Some of us are lucky enough to have fruit trees or the Intracoastal Waterway in our backyard supplying us with some of Florida’s finest. There’s nothing like picking a mango straight from the tree for breakfast, a fresh squeezed orange for your happy hour screwdriver or even catching your own fish for dinner.

Unfortunately, we do not all have this luxury but we can still reap the benefits of Florida’s homegrown foods. Florida farmer’s markets are great producers of inexpensive local products. You can find me every Wednesday at the Philippi Creek Farmers Market located right here in Sarasota where I benefit from and support the local vendors and entrepreneurs.

When it comes to food “Fresh is Best”.  We should all make it a habit to eat organic and seasonally because we know food is healthier and tastier when fresh. Plus, eating seasonally encourages a diverse diet and is often more economical. Look for the “Fresh from Florida” label that gives you the confidence of knowing what items are local and are in season.

IMG_1162The key to knowing what to look for when shopping is knowing what’s fresh. This is the reason I shop for food at local markets over a national grocery chain when I can (although I know we all depend on major chain grocery stores for many of life’s must haves). When it comes to buying fresh, I will always choose to support the local markets that can provide sustainable foods by retailers who have the knowledge of where the product came from and how it was raised.

Now that we are shopping local, the Florida produce crops in season for February and March include bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, cabbage, sweet corn, squash, tomatoes, grapefruit, oranges, papayas, strawberries and tangerines.

Browns Produce is an excellent source to buy “Fresh from Florida” foods and are available at both the Wednesday Philippi Creek Farmers Market and the downtown Sarasota farmers market on Saturdays. Make sure you get a flat of farm fresh organic brown eggs from Browns farm at the market…they are the best eggs ever! A few other good tips for fresh and local is the fresh squeezed Florida Orange Juice packed with Vitamin C and fresh flavor from Albritton Fruit Company on Proctor Road or Geier’s Sausage Kitchen on Tamiami Trail for authentic homemade German bratwurst or fresh cuts of meat and the Yoder’s Amish Market on Bahia Vista St. in the Amish village where you will find a farmers market and also Yoder’s Restaurant…nobody makes a homemade pie like the Amish!

When you’re talking seafood, “sustainable” is a word you must look for. Seafood is sustainable when the population of that species of fish is managed in a way that provides for today’s needs without damaging the ability of the species to reproduce and be available for future generations. If you buy fish managed under a U.S. Fishery Management Plan, you can be assured it meets 10 national standards. Florida fishermen are required to follow federal and state laws when harvesting seafood.

The Florida seafood industry provides 84% of the nation’s supply of Grouper, Pompano, Mackerel, Stone Crabs, Pink Shrimp and Spiny Lobsters. In order to protect the fish population and make the species sustainable there are many restrictions and seasonal closings placed on local fisherman to allow our fish to reproduce. These closings often cause the market prices to fluctuate.
For instance, starting February 1 there are many fishing regulations in the Gulf Coast waters which effects Mexico and parts of the Caribbean. Grouper and Mahi fishing is closed during this time which means all the Grouper and Mahi we eat come from the Florida Coast. That’s good but because we are also supplying Mexico with Grouper and Mahi, the price for these fish is always more expensive in the spring.
Visitors think that the cost goes up just for the tourist season but this is simply not true. It is the supply and demand effect we are feeling due to the yearly closing that affects our area. No worries as there will be plenty of Grouper and Mahi available. In addition, there will be plenty of local Pompano, Mangrove and Yellowtail Snappers to subside the situation which are a bit less expensive.

If you want truly fresh and wild caught from Florida fish packed with health benefits and the flavor of the sea, you might have to pay a few bucks more. Or you can buy previously frozen, farm raised, less expensive fish from the major chain grocery stores.
It’s your body so it’s your decision but if you’re looking for great fresh Florida seafood, look right here on Siesta Key where you will find one of the best fish markets in the state right down the street. Florida fishermen are continually harvesting sustainable seafood from the Gulf and Atlantic coasts and providing their fresh catch to Big Water Fish Market who is providing it to you 7 days a week.


Big Water Fish Market / 6641 Midnight Pass Rd. / www/ / 941-554-8101

Siesta Sand
Author: Siesta Sand

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