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By: Gretchen Schmidt & Shayne Benowitz

Is your breakfast table filled with colorful papaya and starfruit, toast with red mangrove honey, eggs from chickens that roost amid palm trees, and tea flavored with backyard lemongrass and decorated with hibiscus?

Welcome to Miami, where farm-to-table cuisine means juicy heirloom tomatoes in the middle of winter, mangos and jackfruit in the summer and fresh greens year-round. Here, chefs embrace the bounty of fruits and vegetables that flourish in South Miami-Dade’s agricultural district.

Robert is Here
Tropical flavors abound at Robert is Here.

The rules are different here. Because of South Florida’s subtropical climate, the growing season is the opposite of what it is in the north and Midwest. In the summer and early fall, farmers market offerings are sparser than their northern counterparts, showcasing tropical produce like mango, avocado, dragon fruit, yuca and okra. But from November through April, markets are overflowing with local tomatoes, beans, eggplant, peppers, strawberries and greens. This is also the season for fruit shakes and other treats from farm stands like Knaus Berry Farm and Robert Is Here.

Now part of holistic wellness destination Sacred Space Miami in Wynwood, Paradise Farms was established in 1999 to specialize in organic produce and edible flowers sold to restaurants. As conscious, sustainable and vegetarian farmers, their offerings include specialty microgreens and herbs, baby root vegetables, mushrooms, raw honey and an array of tropical fruits – many supplied to some of the area’s top farm-to table restaurants.

In Homestead, you can sample authentic tropical farm-to-table dining – and drinking – any time of the year in a lush, palm-lined outpost in South Dade at Schnebly Redland’s Winery & Brewery and its RedLander Restaurant. Your meal might include jumbo seared scallops and crispy breaded avocado bites or guava-basted chicken wings. Accompany your meal with avocado or passion fruit wine or a Big Rod coconut ale, all made onsite at the winery.

Michael Schwartz in his garden
Michael Schwartz picks fresh ingredients in his garden.

Bringing the Farm to Your Plate

James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz is credited with making fresh, local ingredients the star of the show when he opened Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami’s Design District in 2007. Since then, he has added Harry’s Pizzeria in the Design District and Coconut Grove, which sources produce from many farms, including the urban Little River Cooperative in Little Haiti.

Elsewhere in Miami and Miami Beach, many chefs count on local farms to supply their seasonal produce and get them from harvest to plate as quickly as possible, preserving freshness and maximum flavor.

Chef Laurent Tourondel finds tasty ways to incorporate local ingredients at LT Steak & Seafood at The Betsy – South Beach, concocting a dragon fruit “salpicon” with lemon ricotta gelato and lime honey.

Spices at Ghee
Enjoy fresh spices in your dish at Ghee.

Backyard Gardens

Chef Niven of Ghee, located in downtown Dadeland, is growing the ingredients for his Gujarat-inspired cuisine at his two-acre farm in Homestead, Rancho Patel. The South Florida climate is similar to India, so he can focus on the ingredients that complement his style of food, while incorporating local favorites as well. The Backyard Pakora uses “calabaza,” the Saag Paneer incorporates local greens and the Bhatura, a favorite Indian snack, is made with avocado.

The Restaurant at The Palms at The Palms Hotel & Spa takes local love a step further. While they’ve relied on farmers like Teena’s Pride for heirloom tomatoes and other produce, they also grow their own herbs and vegetables in an organic garden behind their tiki bar. Thai basil, lemongrass, lemon balm, Cuban oregano, edible flowers and vegetables all find their way into recipes and cocktails on the menu.

Backyard garden herbs and produce from Little River Cooperative are featured prominently at 27 Restaurant & Bar and The Broken Shaker cocktail bar at the Freehand Miami, where the menu constantly changes to highlight the best of fresh local fruits, herbs and some creative surprises you wouldn’t expect to see on a cocktail list.

Pizza at Planta
Vegan flavors come to life at Planta South Beach.

Plant Power

When fruits and veggies are the showstoppers, nothing but freshly harvested produce, just hours from the fields or groves, will do. At Plant Miami, an upscale vegan restaurant at Sacred Space in Wynwood, the team tracks down the best of the farmers markets and Homestead farms, turning their discoveries into delights like a starfruit tart with macadamia mascarpone and coconut ceviche tacos. Other vegan restaurants with a similar approach include Plnthouse at 1 Hotel South Beach, Full Bloom Vegan and Planta in South Beach.

J. Wakefield Brewing
Enjoy craft beers at Miami's breweries.

Artisan Love

For a true taste of authentic Miami, look for local artisans who’ve made a name for themselves and whose products appear on menus and at farmers markets. These include rustic bread maker Zak the Baker, encased-meat gurus Proper Sausages and Little Havana favorite Azucar Ice Cream. Local breweries like J. Wakefield Brewing and Wynwood Brewing Company often use local fruits in their beers.

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