We're counting down to Fourth of July celebrations in the test kitchen. Check out our menus and party ideas today at OrlandoSentinel.com/thedish. In the meantime, let's dish:
Eat local, buy local. Floridians are buying more food grown locally or regionally and retail sales for these foods are higher here than in other states, according to a University of Florida study. Here are highlights from the report, which queried consumers last year about purchases in 2011.
•The average spent on local food was $1,114 per household. That number was higher in Central and North Central Florida, compared with South Florida and the Panhandle.
•Almost 75 percent of the total estimated revenue — about $6.1 billion — was spent on local food at grocery stores. Consumers also spent $1.8 billion at farmers markets, roadside stands and you-pick farms. Restaurants and other food-service establishments accounted for $320 million, and other prearranged farm-to-consumer sales totaled $103 million.
Those dollars not only support local farmers — the money feeds local economies.
More blueberries ready to pick. Just as most other fields are closing, Mark's Blueberries in Lake County are open until at least the middle of July. Fruit fanciers can pick from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Picking reports are posted on the farm's answering machine, 352-394-2135. Cost is $3.50 per pound and there is a $1 per person cover charge. Mark's Blueberries is at 18900 County Road 561 in Clermont.
Local field trip. Culinary artist Clare Crespo will be at the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday to inspire families to get creative in the kitchen. The workshop, included with zoo admission, will include a culinary demonstration and hands-on activities. Interested participants are encouraged to arrive early because space is limited. From 2-4 p.m. there will be an ice-cream sampling.
Crespo has written three books: "A Very Veggie World," "The Secret Life of Food" and "Hey There, Cupcake!" She also has created a set of children's DVDs called "The Yummyfun Kooking Series." Her website, Yummyfun.com, is a resource for activities and party ideas.
The Central Florida Zoo is at 3755 N.W. U.S. Highway 17 in Sanford. Admission is $14.95 for adults, $12.95 seniors 60 and older, $10.95 children ages 3-12 years and zoo members are free.
Road trip. The 21st Annual International Mango Festival is 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. July 13-14 at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Road in Coral Gables. The event includes culinary demonstrations, a mango brunch and an international fruit market. (fairchildgarden.org, 305-667-1651)
What's in season. In the produce bins, look for Florida avocado, specialty bananas, cantaloupe, carambola, eggplant, guava, longans, lychees, mango, mushrooms, passion fruit, peanuts, potatoes, sweet corn, tomatoes and watermelon.
At the seafood counter, Florida finds include alligator, blue crab, clams, flounder, grouper, king mackerel, mahi mahi, oysters, shrimp, tilapia, tilefish, yellowtail snapper and yellow-fin tuna.
Heather McPherson can be reached at 407-420-5498, Twitter@OS_thedish and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow daily food news at OrlandoSentinel.com/thedish.
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Check out the Morning Mix with Scott McKenzie recipe of the week, Grilled Asian Orange-Ginger Chicken, at OrlandoSentinel.com/thedish.