Posts Tagged ‘Fruit and Spice Park’

Mango Cafe at the Fruit and Spice Park

Recently, farmer Margie Pikarsky and her husband Nick, daughter Rachel and my friend John DeFaro joined me for lunch at the Mango Cafe, located at the Fruit and Spice Park. The Cafe is by the park’s main entrance, inside a rustic wooden house. We were there for the fruit sampler, made fresh daily from whatever fruits are ripe that day in the park. Talk about extreme locavore! But the sampler was sold out so we had to console ourselves with other fresh, local delicacies like Florida lobster roll, shrimp tacos, and mango-passionfruit shakes.

John DeFaro and Margie Pikarsky dig in to lunch. On the wall behind is a picture of the Redland District Band of 1913, and a Redland District tour guide from the 1930s.

The wooden house is not as old as it looks. It’s a reproduction. The original was built in 1902 by pioneer settler John Bauer, and got destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The replica was rebuilt with FEMA funds and completed in 2002. Inside the house (where the original living and dining rooms would have been), framed old photos and maps lined the walls. Over by the front door was a map with charred edges. It’s the original planting guide that had been saved from a fire. By our table was a series of pictures of the first land survey for the park in 1944, the year the park opened. Sixty eight years ago the land was almost completely barren, except for a scattering of royal palms and Australian pines. Big difference between then and now!

Now the 37 acre county park is lush with over 500 varieties of fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs and nuts, some you may have heard of, and many you might not have. Tram tours will take you around, and the guide will fill you in about the plants and the history of the park. Where else in Miami would you find 150 varieties of mangos, 75 varieties of bananas, crimson gak fruit, sensitive cacao growing sheltered in a heated greenhouse, or annatto to stain your fingertips bright orange?

Park manager Chris Rollins

Fruit and Spice Park is also the site for many events and festivals throughout the year. Coming up this month is the Redland Heritage Festival, which will feature historical exhibits, local arts and crafts, and an Everglades reptile show. At one Heritage Festival a few years ago, I remember admiring a collection of vintage tractors, and at another sampling a variety of mangoes. Coming up later in the year, the park will also host the Asian Culture festival, the Redland International Orchid Show, and summer’s Mango Mania.

If you haven’t been to the park, go! It’s nothing you’ve seen before. If you haven’t gone in a while, go again. They’ve added an herb garden and a large pond edged with many varieties of bamboo. The place changes as different plants bloom and bear at different times of the year. Word to the curious — please don’t pick fruits off trees, but you may taste what has fallen to the ground. Most plants or fruits are safe to nibble, unless a sign warns otherwise.

37th Annual Redland Heritage Festival
January 21 and 22, 2012 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission $8 (children 11 and under are free)

Fruit and Spice Park
24801 SW 187 Ave. Homestead FL

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It’s never too hot to eat fruit in the summer, so head on over to the Fruit and Spice Park for their Redland Summer Fruit Festival this weekend. I don’t know about the other vendors, but Farmer Margie will be selling melons, melons, melons! She went to C&B Farms up by Clewiston and loaded up with end of season cantaloupes, cute “personal size” round watermelons, and giant winter melons that she’ll sell by the wedge. There will also be organic eggs, honey from the bees that live on the farm, fresh herbs and a few other interesting things.

The event looks like a whole lot of fun for the whole family. There’s balloon tossing for the kids, and fruit sampling for kids of all ages, a petting zoo, sack races, live bluegrass bands, along with ice cold fruit smoothies and chocolate-topped strawberries on the menu. Did I mention the pony rides? And melons, you can’t forget the melons!

Saturday June 19 and Sunday June 20
10 am to 5 pm

Admission: $8 per adult
Children under 12 admitted free
Come Rain Or Shine!

Fruit and Spice Park
24801 SW 187 Ave.
Redland FL 33031

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If you want to get heirloom tomato plants for your own garden, but didn’t make it to the Edible Garden Festival, you have another chance. Bee Heaven Farm will be at The Great Green Family Festival at the Fruit and Spice Park this coming weekend, Nov. 15-16. Farmer Margie will be selling more tomato starts (baby plants, seedlings) along with eggs, honey, lemongrass and who knows what else.

Late breaking news: here’s a list of the heirloom tomato varieties that will be available — Sun Gold, Jaune Flamme, Green Grape, Black Prince, Lollipop, Matt’s Wild Cherry, Black From Tula, Brown Berry, Brandywine OTV, and Homestead 24. Slow Food Ark of Taste varieties:  Cherokee Purple, Red Fig, Sheboygan, and Sudduth Strain Brandywine.

Also available, vegetable and herb starts:  Fordhook Chard, Genovese Basil, Mrs. Burn’s Lemon Basil, Thai Basil, Russian Red Kale, Lacinato (Dinosaur) Kale,  Garlic Chives, and Lemongrass.

According to the Redland Evening Herb Society’s web page, “The purpose of this event is to raise awareness of simple, green-living practices, products and services that local families can put into use in their homes and community.” (For some reason I was thinking of the Jolly Green Giant with his kids in tow… silly me… )

The Great Green Family Festival
November 14 & 15 from 10 am to 5 pm
Admission: $8 (Children under 11 are free)

Fruit and Spice Park
24801 S.W. 187th Avenue
Homestead, Florida 33031

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