Summer Wild Foods in South Florida

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Wow, it is hot already. Afternoons are in the 90’s, the sun blisters everything it touches, and walking barefoot is not longer an option – even the sand burns your feet.

But there is good news. Being the tropics, there are quite a few exotic (to a hillbilly) forms of food that you can gather around here. Last week, I mentioned lychees, and those are just about done here. I want to touch on a few of the other options here in south Florida, in order to get myself in the mood to brave the heat. I promise that the flavors are worth it. I call them “wild” though some are merely yard plants waiting to be harvested. I used “wild” since they are NOT located in a store.

Blue Crabs

Not all of the items I plan on gathering this summer are tropical in nature, some are merely salt-water based. Blue crabs are on this list. With gear as simple as a string, a chicken neck, a bucket and a net, you can spend a morning gathering enough food to feed your family…if you are lucky and hit the right spots.

Chicken neckin’ is the simple method we usually resort to, allowing the entire family to join in. Tie a chicken neck on a string, toss it out into “crabby looking” waters, and wait for the line to get pulled taught.

Blue crabs are scavengers, and greedy ones at that. When they come across your chicken neck, the grab it up, then try to move off to a sheltered spot to eat it all themselves. They usually head for submerged roots or rocks, and since they hunt around those areas a lot, they make for some of the better places to try to find them. We hit a lot of the saltwater drainage ditches along the barrier islands to try to fill up our buckets.

If your are good (or lucky), you can provide a tasty main attraction to your dinner table. Boiled or steamed with some Old Bay, and served with some cold beer, you’ll be happy you made the effort.

While they are here year round, summer is the time we find them easiest to catch this way.

Scallops

Another saltwater option we are hoping to try this year is scallops. This will be a part of a family road trip, since they are mainly gathered along Florida’s west coast. I consider this to be more of a fun family event than a food gathering one, since the limit is a pint of scallop meat per person. I can personally eat our entire family’s daily limit, if given the chance.

All I know about the process is you snorkel and pick them up with your hands or a  net. I plan on getting a local to help us out, so we can hopefully find SOMETHING. If nothing else, at least we get to go snorkeling together.

By the way, this trip should also include some you-pick blueberries, as well as watermelons by the truckload, since they are all available in the same area around the time we plan on being there.

I mentioned this so I could show off the fancy watermelon slicer I watch SB try to use a few weeks ago, what fun it was to watch:

 

Shrimp

Along the same note as scallops, shrimp can be picked up by the gallons, with a little bit of effort. Shrimping is a better option for those that hate the heat, since shrimping is best done at night. I am planning to use the “pick them one at a time” method instead of nets or traps. We’ll see how that goes.

The Florida limits on shrimp are far larger than scallops, so this has a lot more potential to fill the freezer. Filling those limits is up to me….

Coconuts

Yes, one of my favorite topics, coconuts. I spent Father’s Day with SB, testing out his recently rebuilt boat (and what an adventure THAT was!). We met at Coconuts

his house, and his yard is FULL of coconuts, all of them now promised to me, thank you very much! I even get to store them on the tree, to keep them fresh.

While I like them brown for the mature meat inside, my favorite way to consume them is green, both for the water and the young tender flesh inside. Yesterday, SB and I opened several, and found them to be at the peak of water production, and still mature enough to have a decent amount of mat in them.

Sb commented on the fact that they seemed to be carbonated, and I had to agree. I have known green coconuts to be under pressure when opening the,, the water inside spraying out, so the fact that they were slightly carbonated didn’t seem unrealistic. So I researched it a bit.

What I found was several references to the hydrostatic pressure holding CO2 in gaseous form in the coconut water. In layman’s terms, this means it is bubbly because it is under pressure as it grows. I guess SB was right :) I should tap a few of the green coconuts, store it in a sealed bottle, and then chill it to see how it is, and if it will maintain its bubbliness.

Avocado

avocadosI now have a line on some avocados, I’ve leveraged some work into a favor owed to me that I plan on converting into some avocados. The avocado is a favorite of my wife and I, and we would eat them 4-5 times a week, if given the chance. This is the #1 entry on my list of trees I want to add to my yard.

I’ve read about a fellow south of me that grafts 4 varieties onto one tree. Each variety has fruit that matures at a different time, so the tree provides avocados for almost 6 months. What a fantastic thing that would be….

Mangoes

MangoesYes, mangoes are coming into season in my back yard, and I’m all excited about it :)

My tree has about 200-300 fruits on it right now, in various stages of growth. I am planning on canning large portion of them this year. This is assuming that we don’t get a giant windstorm before they ripen like we did last year. I don’t mind eating them green as a vegetable, but I also like to have them canned in light syrup for future use. I’ve found that by pressure canning them in water in pint jars, they make the perfect smoothy base by simply dumping the entire jar, water included, into the blender.

Rumor has it this has also been the base for the elusive Mango daiquiri here as well, but I won’t confirm that. ( Try adding 2 ounces of light rum to the blender…don’t ask me how I know..)

Either way, nothing brightens up a cold winter’s day light a home canned jar of tropical fruit from your back yard.

And yes, I now consider 65 degrees to be brutally cold….it’s all perspective.

 

Peace,
db

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3 comments:

    1. Here is a great place, easy access, and pretty good crabbing:

      http://goo.gl/maps/fXS6P

      Much better when the pumps are running and the water is flowing in the mosquito ditches though. The ditches are flowing most of the summer months, though.

      About any salt water works though, and mangrove trees are a great indicator of perfect blue crab territory.

      Hope that helps!
      Hope that helps!

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