Quick Bites: Kumquats, Farmers Markets, Local Spices and Meal Deliveries
The tiny town of St. Joseph in central Pasco County touts itself as the “kumquat capital of the world.” That doesn’t seem to be hyperbole, as the vast majority of the small orbs that resemble miniature oranges grown in the United States hail from this area.
In celebration of harvest time, nearby Dade City expects to welcome as many as 40,000 visitors to its annual Kumquat Festival the last Saturday of January. The event – which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year – features old-style, family friendly entertainment (think gospel quartets, cloggers and a quilt contest), craft and food vendors, and, of course, many kumquat products, from jellies to chutneys to pie. And there’s lots of pie: The Kumquat Growers Association made more than 2,000 for last year’s event; local churches bring more for sale.
All that aside, if you’re more interested in the fruit than the fanfare, you might want to make the drive to Pasco County a day or two early. The Kumquat Growers host an open house the Thursday and Friday before the festival, giving tours of the groves and packing house. You can meet the farmers and get insight into their livelihoods – from the origins of the fruit to today’s challenges (unfortunately, the groves have been affected by citrus greening and other issues in recent years).
Whichever visit you prefer, kumquat season is a good excuse to head off the interstate and get a little closer to where your food comes from.
While they resemble miniature oranges and some botanists classify them as citrus, kumquats are often put in their own genus, Fortunella, after the British horticulturist robert Fortune who introduced the fruit to europe in the late 19th century. Either way, kumquats – which are eaten whole – have a citrusy but distinctive taste. the skin is similar to that of an orange, but thin and sweet. that’s a nice counterbalance to the pulp and juice, which pack a tart punch.
Dade City Annual Kumquat Festival: January 28 in downtown Dade City; Kumquat Growers Open House: January 26 and 27, 31647 Gude Rd., Dade City. More information availalble at dadecitychamber.org or kumquatgrowers.com.
Real Farmers, Real Food
Farmers’ markets are a popular destination for Tampa Bay residents who are looking for fresh local food. But too often, the balance of what’s available for purchase leans toward produce that’s from the same suppliers as the grocery store down the street, complemented by prepared foods and, typically, craft vendors.
While some of these markets stress proper labeling and transparency to help patrons determine which businesses they want to support, Temple Terrace Farmers Market makes it even more straightforward. That’s because Founder Travis Malloy of Trailbale Farms personally checks out each vendor to conﬁ rm sourcing before he invites them to join the market.
Travis, who oﬀers rabbit and poultry from his own farm as well as pork and grass-fed beef from Hammock Farm and Providence Cattle Company, respectively, knows that his commitment limits what can be oﬀered in the hot summer months when produce production is low. But he’s okay with that – it sets the right expectations for consumers, he says.
The market has a small band of regular vendors, who oﬀer up a nice variety no matter the season, from free-range chicken eggs and quail eggs to ﬁsh raised hydroponically, from heirloom seeds and vegetables to Tampa-made spice blends and baked goods. It also has a steadily growing clientele that appreciates the commitment to local, and the personal relationships they can build with the farmers and food artisans when they visit each Saturday. It’s a farmers’ market that’s truly about farmers, and Travis intends to keep it that way.
Temple Terrace Farmers Market, Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 11302 N. 56th St., Temple Terrace, ttfarmersmarket.com.
Words and Images by Morgan Burnett
It’s the time of year when it doesn’t hurt to have a few unique gifts on hand. Gulfport retailer Mermaid Bay Mercantile makes that easy with hand-picked products that are made locally in Tampa Bay.
One delicious option: Steve’s Gourmet Olives. Steve Dodd and his wife Susan marinate imported Greek and Italian olives in a variety of red wines, then dust them with Steve’s secret spice blend to create the small-batch, booze-infused garnish. With mild and spicy options, the olives are tasty on their own or add a briny zip to adult beverages.
The Dodd duo, both with traditional day jobs, started the gourmet retailer based on demand – Susan gave jars to clients as gifts, those clients in turn began to buy them in quantity. Now, Susan works full-time on the business, which has also recently added homemade bloody Mary mixes to its offerings. Fully loaded with a Roma tomato/Worcestershire sauce base, the mixes are available in two flavors: Spicy Bacon or Chipotle.
Pair a jar of wine-infused olives with the bloody Mary mix, add in a bottle of Florida Fire Ant Jalapeño Vodka from Ybor’s Florida Cane Distillery, and you have a local gift that packs a kick.
Mermaid Bay Mercantile, 3107 Beach Blvd. S., Gulfport, 727-2806667, mermaidbaymercantile.com; Steve’s Gourmet Olives, stevesgourmetolives.com; Florida Cane Distillery, cane-vodka.com
Weeknights can be a bit frantic, but sitting down to eat real food with family is something many of us strive for. Enter Peggy Davenport, whose aim is to help you save time and still serve up homemade meals.
Similar to popular online meal services that ship ingredients from afar, Peggy takes the service one step farther, making the full meal from her home base in Lithia, Florida, and delivering it to your door.
Peggy posts weekly dinner menus on her Facebook page over the weekend for delivery the following week. With a quick reply stating which days you’re ordering (though she’s testing a new order form to make things a little easier administratively), you can have fresh and wholesome meals magically appear on your doorstep in time for dinner. Pick up at Art Monkey in Fishhawk Ranch is part of the package; delivery is $5 a day and is available in South Tampa, Brandon, Valrico, Riverview, Lithia, Plant City and Lakeland.
The business started after her mother-inlaw and best friend encouraged her to make extra of her own family’s meals. The friendly spirit of that beginning remains: Browsing the Facebook page gives a sense of a tightknit community that shares recipes and their tables with each other, enjoying food and the feeling of togetherness it can bring.
Whether from her relatives or friends, most of Peggy’s recipes have back stories, and the choices represent a wide variety of styles, from kid-friendly parmesan-crusted chicken fingers with mac and cheese to meat-free meals like linguini with kale and white beans, to cultural fare (think Greek, Mexican and even Korean) and options where seasonal ingredients are the star. You can also choose Paleo and “Whole 30” approved dishes. A full order serves four for $30; half-orders are available for $16.
The idea is to give you some time back, so rather than figuring out what to serve and getting it on the table, you can simply sit down to enjoy a meal and hopefully make some lasting memories.
Davenport’s Daily Delights, davenportsdailydelights.com or facebook.com/davenportsdailydelights, 813-810-8513.