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Fifth Annual Tropical Fruit Festival set for June 30

By Staff | Jun 23, 2012

Free fruit samples, punches, tropical fruit ice cream and even a Carmen Miranda Contest will highlight the fifth Annual Tropical Fruit Festival to be held next Saturday, June 30.

There also will be numerous experts on hand to answer questions about tropical fruit growing and cultivation, and plants for sale.

The event will be held 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Fort Myers on Jackson Street in the River District.

The cost for admission is only $1 for those over 12 years of age. Many Cape Coral and North Fort Myers residents will be there.

It is a gift to the community from The Lee County Extension Office and Caloosa Rare Fruit Exchange, said Lee County Extension Director & Horticulture program leader Stephen Brown, who is also a well-known gardening expert.

There will be an “ask the expert booth” featuring Brown, who will be present to answer questions.

“I’ve been associated with tropical plants all of my life,” he said.

“We’re presenting tropical fruits for taste, all of which can be grown in Lee and Collier County.”

Those include longan, starfruit, mangos, sapodilla, bananas and more.

“Come see and taste all ripe tropical fruits that can be grown in Southwest Florida,” he said.

The event has drawn more than 1,500 in the past.

“People really enjoy it,” Brown said. “It’s fun and educational and indoors so if rains, they won’t get wet. Also, there will be lots of tropical fruit plants for sale.”

There also will be the Carmen Miranda contest, with a cash prize.

“If you don’t know what she looks like, go on- line,” he said. “Dress as close to the likeness as possibly; open to women and men.”

That part of the event will take place at noon.

“She’s known for her signature tropical fruit hat, and flamboyant dancing attire,” Brown offered.

Event chairperson and North Fort Myers resident Rachael Singletary is actually in Miami right now, picking more fruits for the free tastings.

She had some fun tropical fruit facts.

“Did you know the largest fruit – jackfruit – is used to make Juicy Fruit Gum? It looks like a huge spiked watermelon. Also, three different passion fruits are used to make Hawaiian Punch,” Singletary said.

She grows everything that can be grown in North Fort Myers, tropical trees and plants, tomatoes, roses and more.

“Master gardeners will be there to assist you with information and websites that will be helpful,” she said.

She also grows worms, which she uses to help fertilize.

Cape resident Doris Poissant, whose home and gardens are full of tropicals, will be there as well.

“I planted my first tree in 2001. It was a Glenn mango. In 2006, I joined the Caloosa Rare Fruit Exchange and, from learning from all the members, all the good tropical fruit that we can grow in our area,” Poissant said.

Today she has about 20 fruit trees ranging from macadamia nut and lychee to grumichama.

“I have four mangos and two avocado and a longan – part of the lychee family – and a papaya and two different varieties of banana.

“The Cape is absolutely a great place to grow tropical fruit, she said.”

She’s been to the festival each year.

“I love talking to the people and inviting them to do what can be done, like planting.”

First Baptist Church is at 1735 Jackson St., Second and Jackson Street in the River District. For information, call 543-9910.