In the northern part of Florida, the accent is decidedly Deep South. Dishes such as collard greens, cornbread, black-eyed peas, and fried chicken all make regular appearances. Vegetables and legumes are frequently flavored with ham hock. Traveling south through the state, though, influences quickly become Cuban or Caribbean, and flavors are much more tropical. Seafood and citrus rule the table in southern, peninsular Florida. Fish and shellfish are frequently paired with lemon, lime, or tropical fruits such as mango and pineapple. Caribbean influences mean that spicy dishes are both hotter and more common than elsewhere in the South. Conch is popular, probably more so in Florida than in the rest of the U.S. It’s most commonly chopped, added to dough, and fried into round fritters, but conch chowder and ceviche are also popular. Other types of seafood, including spiny lobster, shrimp, and local fish also appear, grilled, fried, or in soups. Other types of meat are often served as Latin or Cuban specialties, such as ropa de vieja, slow-cooked seasoned beef. Hearts of palm, affectionately called swamp cabbage, are also a popular ingredient in vegetarian or seafood salads. Coconut flavors savory dishes as well as coconut cake, and key lime pie is almost required for dessert.
-World Trade Press