Image: Kari Perrin

Florida's agricultural production drops in the summer because of the state's intense heat and rain, but even if there isn't too much growing locally right now, there are still ways to eat seasonal produce, support local farms and improve your health by eating foods grown in your community.

According to the Seasonal Food Guide Organization, seasonal food is more nutritious than food consumed out of season. "Even though we all like to eat strawberries year round, the best time to eat them is when they can be purchased directly from a local grower shortly after harvest," says the organization's website. Seasonal fruits and vegetables grown on local farms also require less transportation, which reduces carbon emissions.

Jessica's Organic Farm has customers who purchase produce boxes throughout the year, and only eat produce found in-season from the farm.

"Last season we were growing eggplant, okra, tomatoes and peppers, right up until three weeks ago," says farm worker Alyson Noune. "Tomatoes do really well in the summer months, as well as cucumbers. They are able to handle the heat."

What about fruit? Jessica's farm gets bananas from a farm in Bradenton called Jubilee Organics, and tropical fruit like mango and mamey sapote (which looks similar to a sweet potato, but with a pit) from a farm in Homestead, Florida.

How does seasonal, local produce impact your health? According to an article by Medical West Health System, "vitamin C content in fresh fruits and veggies is higher than those out of season, which can reduce the risk of many infections caused by preservatives used in canned and processed food."

Noune also mentions the benefits of eating honey from local bees, to relieve outdoor allergen symptoms and help boost immunity. It also keeps local beekeepers and farmers in business.

Here are some other farms in town that will provide local produce:

Hunsader Farms
5500 County Road 675, Bradenton, (941) 322-2168, hunsaderfarms.com

Beginning in September, the farm's you-pick station will have ripe black-eyed peas, okra, green beans, purple hull and zipper peas. The regular farm will also have cantaloupes, hard squash, pumpkin, sweet corn and watermelon.

Blumenberry Farms
2151 Dog Kennel Road, Sarasota, (941) 256-0166, blumenberryfarms.com

Fall season will offer kale, collard greens, cucumber, cabbage, broccoli, melons, squash and tomatoes. The farm also grows bok choy and tropical fruits and sells fresh chicken and duck eggs.

Jubilee Organics
9000 Ninth Ave. NW, Bradenton, (813) 286-7606, jubileeorganics.org

This farm sells produce boxes, as well as fruits like bananas, plantains and mangoes.

Beside farms, there are also restaurants that understand the importance of utilizing seasonal produce. Here are a few spots you can check out:

Seasons 52
170 University Town Center Drive, Suite 103, Sarasota, (941) 702-9652, seasons52.com

This restaurant located at University Town Center changes its menu often to incorporate local produce grown in Florida. Right now, dishes are incorporate artichokes, avocado, sweet corn. Find a menu here.

Indigenous
239 S Links Ave., Sarasota, (941) 706-4740, indigenoussarasota.com

This Sarasota restaurant changes the menu almost daily to incorporate what's fresh. The current menu includes pickled peppers, a peanut and green tomato salad, wild mushroom bisque and lemon pickled shrimp and corn. For the full menu, click here.

Simon's Coffee House
5900 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 926-7151, simonstogo.com

This vegan and vegetarian spot uses produce from Jessica's Organic Farm and other local farmers. Fresh juices include carrots, cucumber and kale. Breakfast and lunch dishes incorporate local tomatoes, mushrooms and seasonal berries.

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