Keys Cuisine

A few "typical" foods really stand out in south Florida and the Keys. Most Symposium activities will be held at the Ocean Reef Club, but if you find yourself with some time on your hands, check out the local options!


1. Alligator or "gator"- is very common around Southern Florida and the Keys. Their presence on the menu is no surprise considering 1.25 million American alligators reside in the state of Florida. The less common crocodile (at 1500 statewide) is not an edible option. Gator is sustainably raised in Florida's Everglades. 


2. Swamp Cabbage - it's not exactly from the swamp, but the name prompted the title. The Sabel Palmetto is the state tree of Florida and it's also edible. The indigenous populations in the area used to live on it long before the arrival of Europeans, and it now makes a great side slaw.

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3. Key Lime Pie- this signature dessert is distinctly NOT GREEN. You may have seen this item on the menu elsewhere in the world, but it is unlikely that you got the real thing because key limes come from the Florida Keys. What's the difference between key limes and regular limes? Key limes are more tart and have a more pleasant and distinct aroma in contrast to the typical Persian lime.

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4. "Floribbean" Cuisine- it's exactly what is sounds like... Florida + Caribbean= Floribbean. There is no better way to describe the diverse cultures represented in south Florida's local food. This type of cuisine combines flavors and cooking styles from the Caribbean islands (Cuba, Barbados, Haiti, Trinidad, Tobago, the Bahamas, and Jamaica) that came over with island immigrants to southern Florida and the Keys. These flavorful foods are sometimes made even more distinct with Latin, African, and Indian influence.


5. Seafood- as a coastal community, you can bet that Key Largo is seafood centric! Local favorites like conch (pronounced "konk") and stone crab are served fresh with a lime or made into chowder, while you can get mahi-mahi or "Dolphin" (the fish, not Flipper!) and other catch-of-the-day fresh fish served fried, broiled, blackened.

It is important to make informed choices when ordering your seafood here in Florida and around the world. For example, conch was fished to near extinction in the Florida Keys, and the conch you find on menus here is now raised in the Bahamas. This seems crazy when you consider that Key West is known as "The Conch Republic"! Download the Monterey Bay Aquarium SEAFOOD WATCH App and ensure the seafood choices you make are healthy and sustainable.


6. The newest item on the menu is LIONFISH! In an attempt to control this invasive yet delicious species, lionfish derbies are held to wrangle these guys off the reef. The Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), among many other partners, is trying to raise awareness by making safe cleaning Methods and recipes available to the local community.

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7. Tropical Fruit- Florida certainly has the climate to support fresh, local produce. Festivals are held throughout south Florida to celebrate mangoes, guanĂ¡bana (sour sop), coconuts (not technically a fruit) and more...as if Florida needed an excuse to indulge in nature's candy. You can find them all at Robert is Here the "Disney World of Fruit Stands" Homestead, FL, on your way to the Keys.

Robert Moehling was 7 when he started with Robert Is Here, at 9 he hired another kid to help, at 14 he was growing mangoes, and at 24 he converted the little fruit stand into a huge market. Peter W. Cross for VISIT FLORIDA


 Feeling brave? Check out as many of these local favorites as you can while you're here!