Despite Florida's agrarian economy, it's sometimes difficult to find local produce around our area. Citrus and strawberries are usually well advertised and easily located. But I haven't found the same to be true for other types of produce.
When we decided to move here in 1985, I had dreams of scores of produce stands dotting the landscape. I thought a produce stand would be at the end of every street. Heck, maybe even the end of every driveway. I'm still waiting for a produce stand that's even within walking distance of my driveway.
The truth of the matter is that Florida is an export state and much of our produce isn't consumed by locals. It's shipped away.
So, I appointed myself Ambassador of Local Produce. The appointment came just this week, and I am so honored. I thanked myself graciously and promised to work hard not to disappoint myself. I have a mission to complete now: seeking out reliable sources of local produce.
This spotlight this week is on Parkesdale Farms (3702 West Baker Street, Plant City 813-752-0502). I've shopped at Parksdale Farms for years and have found their produce to be fresh and of a nice selection. Of course, you can buy all the citrus and strawberries that you'll ever need. Currently, in addition to citrus, they have locally grown zucchini, peppers, eggplant, cucumber pickles, tomatoes and yellow squash. If you happen to visit during strawberry season, don't leave without a strawberry shortcake or a strawberry milkshake, or both! Give them a call or a visit and tell them Syrup and Biscuits sent you.
Here's two recipes using the local yellow squash and zucchini that you buy from Parkesdale's.
Roasted Yellow Squash, Zucchini and Onions
The quantities aren't very important. This is more of a process than an actual recipe. Make sure you scrub squash very well. It tends to be sandy.
2 medium zucchini, wash and sliced
2 medium yellow squash, wash and sliced
1 medium sweet onion, peeled and cut into large chunks (sweet onions need to be cut in larger pieces than the zucchini and squash because they will start to brown fast due to the higher sugar content)
Prepare shallow roasting pan by covering with aluminum foil and spraying with non-stick spray. I cover and spray everything. It doesn't add anything to the flavor or appearance of the food. It only makes clean up easier.
Throw prepared vegetables onto the pan in a single layer. Don't crowd or they'll steam instead of roasting and turning brown. Drizzle olive oil all over and sprinkle on the seasoning. Toss until well combined.
Place in a preheated 400 degree oven and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring and turning occasionally, until vegetables have started to brown.
Stewed Squash and Onions
This is an old fashioned way to cook yellow squash. It's best done in an iron skillet to get it nicely caramelized. Don't forget to wash the squash well.
7 or 8 medium sized yellow squash, washed and sliced
1 medium sweet onion, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons butter (or bacon drippings)
Add butter to pan and melt. Add the rest of the ingredients. Don't be afraid to pile up the squash and fill the pan slap full. It'll cook down a good bit. You might begin to think they are going to disappear. But they won't.
Cover the pan and cook, on medium high, until the squash stops shrinking. Then, remove the cover and continue cooking, only stirring occasionally, until the squash and onions start to brown on the bottom. The more they brown, the more flavorful they'll be. Once they are nicely browned, remove from the heat and let them sit for 5 minutes before serving them up. This gives the squash a chance to absorb all the brown goodness from the bottom of the pan.