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‘Taste of Lee’ to highlight local growers, products

By Staff | Jul 17, 2010

A week from now the rare, wild and exotic are going to descend on Lee County, as the third annual “Taste of Lee” returns to downtown Fort Myers.
Sponsored in part by the UF/IFAS Lee County Extension Service, and the Caloosa Rare Fruit Exchange, the event will feature all the things people loved about the previous years, but add an increased educational component.
According to Rachel Singletary, Caloosa Rare Fruit Exchange President, there will be plenty of opportunities for people to educate themselves on a myriad of topics.
She said last year the event was flooded with people asking questions, but members of the extension office were so busy they were hard to keep in one place.
“We had a lot of people come through last year and ask a lot of questions,” Singletary said previously. “This year we’re going to have all the extension people in one place.”
Classes will include: banana propagation, pineapple production, pruning tropical fruit trees, and food preservation, among others.
One class will focus on local honey growers and the propogations of honey.
Kieth Councell, owner of Councell Farms and former President of the Southwest Florida Bee Keeper’s Association, said they hope to spur people’s interest in bee keeping.
The demonstration will use live bees, he said.
“We’ll harvest the honey, and show the live hive behind glass,” Councell said. We’ll also have honey and bee products for sale.”
Councell said this year’s savage cold snap, along with the rampant use of pesticides, have killed more than two-thirds of his bees.
Along with other challenges, Councell said it would take years to rebuild the hive, but added this year’s citrus honey crop is some of the best he’s ever seen or tasted.
“This is some of the best citrus honey I’ve seen in 20 years,” he said. “It’s very high quality.”
Pine Island grower Steve Curcura said he’s watched the event grow over its three-year run.
It’s done a good job of helping to highlight local growers, Curcura said.
“It really helps the small farmers and increases awareness of these fruits,” he added.
Not only the manager of Treehouse Nursery on Pine Island, Curcura also owns Fruit Scape, which uses tropical fruit trees in landscaping, and the Pine Island Tropical Fruit Market, which sells fruit and vegetables grown on the island.
“I’ve had an increase of local customers that have been drawn in from the Taste of Lee,” Curcura said. “I think it really opens people’s eyes to the different things that are available.”
General admission is $1 for anyone over 9, and includes access to all the samples on display, including exotic and tropical fruit, locally grown honey, seafood, ice cream, and edible plants, among others.
The educational programs and speaker series cost an additional $3.
Singletary said the proceeds will go to cover the cost of the location, at First Baptist Church in Fort Myers.
Fruits, trees, and plants will be available for sale.
The First Baptist Church is also air conditioned, a fact that Singletary said she wanted people to know, just so they would not get confused and stay away because of heat concerns. The third annual “Taste of Lee” is Saturday, July 24, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., at First Baptist Church in Fort Myers. Admission is $1.
Vendors space are still available.
For more information contact the UF/IFAS Extension Service Office at 533-7514