Florida-grown gifts provide good options

While you can’t bottle up and send the Florida sunshine to friends and family this holiday season, shop local Saturday and send some other tasty and beautiful Florida-grown items.

Citrus is the traditional Florida-grown gift to send to family both in and out-of-state but Florida’s diverse agriculture industry provides a variety of items to share this holiday season. In addition to sending citrus, consider these items.

Honey products

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“Honey is an excellent holiday gift because it never expires, you have a variety of options to choose from and there are so many uses for honey,” said Amy Vu, UF/IFAS Extension honeybee research and extension lab coordinator.

Florida is one of the top honey producers in the nation and has more varieties of honey than any other state. We have almost 5,000 registered beekeepers in the state of Florida and produced 11,880,000 pounds of honey in 2015. We know that number has grown as well, there is a huge industry available to support this holiday season, Vu said.

Worker bees must visit around two million flowers just to produce one pound of honey and the average honeybee will only make about one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. It’s important that we support our hardworking bees and beekeepers, she said.

“Not all honey is the same,” Vu said. “We like to compare honey to wine! There are lots of specialized wines, there lots of specialized honeys. There are even people that specialize in honey judging.”

Citrus, tupelo, mangrove and wildflower are some of the most common honey varieties. The different varieties take on a different flavor profile, texture and color based on the nectar and pollen bees collect and turn into the honey.

“Our favorite is wildflower because you never know what you are going to get,” she said.

True honey, honey that has not been adulterated, never expires so you can send it across the nation and it would last, according to Vu. If honey crystallizes, it has not spoiled. It can be re-liquified easily by placing the container in warm-to-the-touch water, which will melt the crystals. Overheating honey can easily scorch the sweet, so make sure the water is not too hot.

As a reminder, we do not recommend honey be fed to infants under one year of age, so keep this in mind for the little ones this holiday season, Vu said.

Honey can also be purchased as a comb, crystallized, liquid, whipped and beyond. Additional honey-based products include candles, soaps and lip balms.

Cut foliage products

Gift Florida greenery this season!

“Central Florida is known as the ‘foliage capital of the world,” UF/IFAS Extension Volusia County agent Karen Stauderman said. “A great gift might be a holiday Christmas cactus, indoor plant or a festive cut foliage selection from our wide array of Florida greenery in a wreath or floral arrangement.”

There are foliage gifts for everyone! From miniature Christmas trees, magnolia garlands, brightly painted or adorned in uniquely

‘Florida-style’ foliage and fruits, or a stunning table-top display. These gifts are sure to entice smell, touch and visual senses, she said.

The cut foliage industry in central Florida is made up of a little over 50 growers that supply a $35 million industry internationally. Most growers are in Volusia county with a smaller group in Putnam and Lake counties, Stauderman said.

Cut foliage makes a great gift because it stays glossy and green with freshness through the holiday season, Stauderman said. Growers use highly effective products to keep the foliage from drying out.

“There are so many beautiful selections throughout the year,” Stauderman said. “It’s not just a Christmas gift choice. Popular times of the year include Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter. Seasonal decor is what the growers specialize in—including weddings and special events. Even though you may live up north, you can still take Florida with you in your decor. They can even color the foliage to match your specifications!”

The industry ships and delivers through their online websites so if you do not have time to visit the farm, you can buy online. It is important to remember that these gifts are greenery and are perishable, so avoid placing them in direct sun or under high temperatures. They will be shipped in cool transport to preserve their lifespan.

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