Florida’s local agricultural system consists of a wide range of international contributions that not only include a global array of fruits and vegetables from around the world, it is also comprised of a diverse assemblage of cultural and historic influences. The collections below represent cultural themes in Florida history.
The arrival of enslaved African people in Florida during the 16th century transformed the cultural landscape, and since that time African culture has played a significant role in shaping agriculture and cuisine in Florida. African crops, farming techniques, and cooking practices were integrated into Florida’s cultural fabric. Today, African culture and history in Florida is preserved in the history and culture of African-American communities throughout the state, and African influences are refreshed by the arrival of new immigrants from Africa each year. The crops below represent a few foods that are significant to African-American history in Florida as well as more recent arrivals that are gaining popularity today.
The mass immigration of peoples and cultures from Asia into the United States in the mid 19th and 20th centuries carried a wide spectrum of new crops and cooking practices from Asia into the Sunshine State. Many new arrivals established farming communities, such as the Yamato Colony established by Japanese immigrants in 1905, and these farms integrated crops grown in Asia for thousands of years into the local Floridian agricultural system. Today, Asian crops are among the fasting growing sectors of the local economy, and Asian Floridian cuisine represents a fusion of ancient flavors and contemporary diversity. The crops listed below represent a few foods that are significant to Asian history in Florida as well as more recent arrivals that are gaining popularity today.
Florida’s cultural history is shaped by a wide range of diverse influences from Latin America. Like Florida, Latin American peoples and cultures represent a diverse fusion of international influences from Africa, Asia, Europe and Indigenous communities. Diversity in Latin America is reflected in the wide range of unique crops and cuisines that flavor Florida’s agricultural and culinary history today. From historic Caribbean communities in Miami and Tampa to Central American farms workers today, Latin American peoples and cultures have always played a critical role in Florida’s agricultural history and culinary heritage. The crops below represent a few foods that are significant to Latin American history in Florida as well as more recently introduced crops that are gaining popularity today.
The arrival of Europeans in Florida, beginning with the Spanish in the early 16th century, launched the globalization of the Floridian landscape and the transformation of foodways in Florida and beyond. Known as the ‘Columbian Exchange,’ European colonialism and trade in the Americas by the Spanish, British, French and Portuguese introduced a wide variety of food and culinary traditions from throughout the European continent. In urban areas and homesteads, immigrant Europeans from France, Italy and Greece kept small kitchen gardens consisting of essential ingredients necessary to create cultural cuisine. The crops below represent a few foods that are significant to the French kitchen garden, known as the potager.
The religious landscape in Florida is comprised of a wide range of historical and contemporary communities throughout the state. Catholicism was introduced to the Floridian peninsula by the Spanish in the 16th century and Jewish people fleeing the Spanish Inquisition represent some of the earliest immigrants to the area. Today, the state is also home to some of the largest Jewish populations in the world along with some of the oldest and newest Protestant Christian communities. The crops listed below represent a few Florida heritage foods that are significant in Biblical Scriptures, and sacred foods in a variety of religions are represented throughout the cultural collections.
African food and culture entered European homes by the late 17th century through the enslavement of African people. Folklore, archaeological evidence, and a rich oral tradition has shown that enslaved cooks, most of their names now lost, weaved their knowledge of African food and cooking into the fabric of America’s culinary heritage by blending European, African, Latin American and Native American crops and cuisines. Enslaved cooks invented unique flavors and new recipes by combining old and new ingredients such as collards from Europe, sweet potatoes from Latin America, okra from Africa, and indigenous corn which have become staples of historically African-American cuisine and Southern food today.
Funding for the Florida Heritage Foods Initiative: Connecting Local Food with Local Culture in Florida Farmers Markets was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant Agreement Number 21FMPPFL1026-00. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.
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