Gather Family, Friends for Tailgate, Complete with Florida-Grown Foods, UF/IFAS Cultivars

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Sugar Belle citrus cultivar. UF/IFAS File Photo.

It’s game day. The excitement around stadiums is palpable. The college football season kicked off this weekend, and many fans enjoyed the company of family and friends while tailgating before and after the game.

That meant food – lots of it.

Tailgaters might think about eating some Florida-grown grub, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) experts say. That includes potatoes, beef, citrus, avocados (who wants guac?), tomatoes and more.

UF/IFAS breeders have bred some tasty strawberries. UF/IFAS photography.

Many of the ingredients coming from Florida farms were developed and refined through years of research by UF/IFAS plant breeders. Those include citrus, strawberries, tomatoes and sweet corn. UF/IFAS researchers have developed fan favorites including Tasti-Lee™ tomatoes, Brilliance™  strawberries and Sugar Belle™ mandarins, among many others.

“The UF/IFAS citrus breeding program is known worldwide for its work to develop new citrus varieties of all types, to support the future of the industry in Florida,” said Fred Gmitter, professor of citrus breeding and genetics at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center. “Why not start your tailgating day off right with a cool glass of nutrient-packed OJ at breakfast? And certainly, it would be great to have Florida-grown grapefruit in classic retro cocktails such as a Brown Derby or a Greyhound, as game time approaches, or to celebrate the outcome after the game.”

Other Suggestions

Andrea Nikolai, a family and consumer sciences agent and registered dietitian for UF/IFAS Extension Polk County, provides suggestions for eating Florida-grown food while you’re tailgating:

  • Snack on peanuts or make some peanut butter dipping sauce for raw vegetables or chicken skewers. In Florida, about 50% of peanuts produced are made into peanut butter. “Did you know peanuts have more protein than any other nut?”
  • Grill some Florida-grown lean beef patties or Florida grouper. Top them with slices of creamy avocados and tomatoes.
  • Savor mango salsa.
  • Gobble up some guacamole with avocados and Florida tomatoes.
  • Enjoy fruit skewers with strawberries and blueberries.

“Eating Florida-grown foods helps our local farmers and bolsters our local economy, and it also involves shorter food-transportation distances,” Nikolai said. “This means the food is often fresher with more flavor and nutrients and fewer food-safety risks. It’s Florida for the win.”

Before and after eating, you’ll want to consider food safety. UF/IFAS experts offer many tips to make sure you eat well and go home from the game feeling well. Among them are:

  • Wash your hands before any food preparation.
  • Use separate cutting boards: one for raw meats and one for fruits and vegetables.
  • Once food is prepared, keep it cold. The goal is to keep foods below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (F) so harmful bacteria don’t grow. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  • Perishable foods should not be left out for more than two hours. If it’s 90 degrees F or warmer, that time drops to an hour.

UF/IFAS offers more tailgating food-safety tips.