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Tropical Fruit Festival set for June 30

By Staff | Jun 29, 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 on June 30.

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

The event runs 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Fort Myers on Jackson Street in the River District.

The cost for admission is $1 for those over 12 years of age.

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, a well-known gardening expert.

Brown will be at the “ask the expert booth” 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 visitors 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 is a Carmen Miranda contest with a cash prize.

“If you don’t know what she looks like, go online,” he said. “Dress as close to the likeness as possible – it’s open to women and men.”

That part of the event begins at noon.

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

Event chairperson Rachael Singletary is in Miami picking more fruits for the free tastings. She shared 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 – 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,” said Poissant. “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.”

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,” she said.

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