Celebrating Health and Nutrition Month

In Florida, beyond the beaches, theme parks, and condo districts there are the farms, ranches, and greenhouses. Florida is more famous for tourism, but not everybody knows that we are living in an agricultural state that is rated second in the nation. Florida is the nation’s top producer of oranges, sugar cane, sweet corn, and watermelons – and a major producer of tomatoes and other vegetables, strawberries, peanuts, and various other crops.

People say, “An apple a day, keeps the doctors away.” March means getting in the best shape possible and learn to live a better healthier life, by learning to make better choices with great food and exercises as your new BFF. Mothers know best – “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Today orange juice is not for breakfast anymore. Unfortunately, young Americans today typically skip breakfast, preferring a carbonated soda, vitamin-enhanced water, or the expresso.

For most of its 500-year history, Florida has been synonymous with the orange. Introduced in 1565 by Spanish settlers, citrus found Florida to provide the ideal environment for production. Not everyone knows that since the 1940s, Florida has ranked first in the United States’ orange and grapefruit production. In the 1970s, citrus groves cover one million acres in Florida. However, Florida almost lost its oranges trees as Citrus canker disease was detected in 1984 and infected trees were burned. Florida locals remember – government workers were going house by house and chopping off the beloved orange trees found in their backyards. Furthermore, the 1989 Christmas freeze practically wiped out orange groves along the north of Intersection 4. The beneficiaries of this disaster were Florida real estate developers and Brazil as Brazil replaced Florida as the world’s leading orange producer.

In 1995, citrus canker returned. Citrus greening disease discovered in Homestead orange grove. Scientists called the new disease “canker on steroids.” Unfortunately, the citrus greening disease invaded all 32 citrus-producing countries. Sadly, the greening fight affected bees, another vital element associated with the battle to save the Florida orange trees. The citrus greening disease originated in China, in 1911. With the growth of global trade, the disease made its way to Americas. It was detected in Brazil, Florida, and spread to Texas and California. Natural science professionals race to find a cure.

“Small things like drinking an orange juice with pulp or eating an apple is being received like a telephone call to your genes. Every thought, everything you eat, every single little thing can tweak your genes activity towards healing.” (Deepak Chopra)

So, what is happening in the naranja-land? Local scientists are working on replacing orange groves with peach orchards. All they have to learn is to develop the new peach varieties adapted to Florida’s short and warm winters. Blueberries have also considered an alternative crop. Today, Florida’s blueberries harvest topped $62 million, larger than that of Florida tangerines. Surprisingly, some farmers have taken an interest in producing olives.

Almost half of the nation’s tomatoes have been grown in Florida. Florida paths only California in strawberry production. Surprisingly, Florida is producing 20 % of the sweet corn national market. Peanuts grow well in northern and central parts of the state. Would you believe that Florida is the nation’s number-one producer of watermelons? People often ask, where? In the Panhandle, along the Gulf Coast, and in north-central Florida.

Also in the 2016, the Florida Legislature proclaimed the Key Lime pie the state’s official pie, annoying the pecan and sweet potato pie lobbyists.

Next time when you have the chicken, spinach, and strawberry salad with orange juice dressing, remember that all ingredients are grown locally, right here, in South Florida. Do you want to know more about bridging citrus nutritional culture and modern cardiac care? Then ask the Florida National University Allied Health academic programs professors: Dr. Almonte, Dr. Lammoglia, and Dr. Fernandez.

Ida Tomshinsky
FNU Library Director