There’s a billboard along I-4 that I’ve passed a million times during my countless trips between Tampa and Orlando. It’s a billboard that boasts the ‘world’s best milkshakes’ and advertises seasonal fresh strawberry shortcakes between December and mid-April. It’s a billboard that has tempted me many times to take a slight detour in Plant City and see what this Parkesdale Farm is all about.
The above photo isn’t the actual billboard I drive by (I didn’t snap a photo and google has failed me), but if you’ve ever been on I-4, I’m sure you know the one I’m talking about near exit 17 – it’s hard to miss.
After repeatedly telling myself I’ve needed to visit Parkesdale Farm Market in Plant City for a couple of years now, I was more than a little excited when a member of the Parkesdale team asked if I was interested in attending a Tampa blogger meet up at the market. Finally, the excuse I needed to check this place out!
I passed the invitation along to my friend Diana and we decided to make the 17 mile trip to Parkesdale together. It’s a straight shot on I-4 and really wasn’t that bad without traffic.
We were greeted by two other lovely bloggers (Jackie from Syrup and Biscuits and Jeanette from Sweet Jeanette) and Xiomara, the owner’s daughter-in-law who runs their website and social networking site. All of the ladies were lovely and we spent close to two hours covering everything from pinterest to the local Tampa foodie scene. It was fun getting to know two new bloggers and learning a bit of history about Parkesdale Farm.
(Did you know the farm started in 1956 by Xiomara’s husband’s grandfather and has remained a family run farm for over three generations? They mainly grow strawberries, but also grow a few vegetables that they sell seasonably in the market.)
While we chatted, we each enjoyed one of Parkesdale famous strawberry milkshakes.
Oh. My. Word. I don’t even like strawberry milkshakes (I’m not a fan of strawberry ice cream in general), but this baby won me over. It was so decadent and so fresh that it was love at fist sip. Xiomara let us in on a little secret… the milkshakes only consist of fresh strawberries and vanilla ice cream – that’s it. No weird fillers or syrups – just fresh from the farm strawberries. I think that’s why it was so good. Fresh chunks of strawberries kept getting stuck in my straw and – at the end – there were pieces of strawberries left at the bottom of the cup. I was not complaining.
Once our bellies were full, we explored the market a bit more. This place was hoppin’ for a Wednesday afternoon. The line for strawberry shortcakes and milkshakes went out the door and almost every table was full!
Parkesdale Farm plays a major role in the Strawberry Festival every year and I love how that same festival feel carries into the market.
Of course, the best part was the market portion. The majority of the jams, preserves, breads, and cookies are all produced in house or locally outsourced.
Not all of the produce is local, but they try to carry as much local produce as possible. We asked Xiomara whether they carried any organic produce, but she said there really wasn’t a market for it in rural Plant City. The majority of their customers base is a bit on the older side and don’t fall into the organic movement. She and her husband had big plans for bringing organic produce to the market, but no one bought it – they all favored conventionally grown produce instead. I found this information fascinating.
The produce they did have was fresh and vey reasonably priced. Everything was just so cheap, that I wanted to buy and try it all.
Something I learned today – strawberry onions are onions that are grown in the same fields as the strawberries. They’re called strawberry onions because they thrive off of the cast-off water from the strawberries, which gives them a sweeter taste. Good to know.
I went a little crazy filling my basket.
All this for only $10.66. Rock on.
Diana scored too. She and her husband are currently juicing and she was just complaining about how expensive good produce is in Tampa. I think we may have just solved her problem.
I wasn’t expecting to stay at Parkesdale all afternoon, but it was definitely worth the long outing. I can’t wait to go back when Derek and I have a free weekend or if we have friends or family in town and are looking for something to do. They serve their milkshakes year around (yum!), but only serve their famous strawberry shortcakes from December to mid-April (Florida’s strawberry season). I wonder if we can squeeze in a trip before then? Or I’m sure strawberry milkshakes will taste mighty delicious in the summer heat too.
Before we headed out of Tampa, I had a quick lunch around noon.
Derek is very anti-butt of the bread, but I think the butts make great sandwiches. I used the two bread butts to make a turkey, cheddar, and spinach sandwich and grilled it on the George Foreman. Butt-perfection.
A side of pretzel sticks and hummus.
Dinner tonight was inspired by my Parkesdale Farm Market purchases.
Black beans cooked with the Parkesdale fresh peppers, strawberry onions, and avocado.
Parkesdale kale lightly steamed and seasoned with salt.
And Parkesdale beets roasted with strawberry onions.
A mish mosh of Parkesdale’s finest.
Parkesdale even had a hand in dessert.
A tiny slice of strawberry swirl bread just to have a taste.
It was a great pound cake, but needs more strawberry swirl to it.
Derek just got home and we’re about to watch My Week With Marilyn (i’m excited about this one!).