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Taste of Lee: Tropical Fruit Fair Saturday in Fort Myers

By Staff | Jun 19, 2015

Learn about locally grown tropical and subtropical produce this weekend. The Taste of Lee Tropical Fruit Fair will be held on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at City Gate Ministries in Fort Myers. A collaboration between UF/IFAS Lee County Extension and the Caloosa Rare Fruit Exchange, the event showcases unusual items many people have not seen nor tasted.

“It’s just to educate the public on what unusual tropical and subtropical fruits grow in Southwest Florida and easily in their own backyard,” Rachel Singletary, the event chairwoman, said.

“It’s just a lot of fun to watch people’s faces,” she said.

Some examples will include soursop, mamey, wampi, chayote and jaboticaba.

One fruit, known as jackfruit, can grow up to 150 pounds.

“They almost look like something from outer space,” Singletary said.

Dragon fruit, which grow on cactus, are lime and hot pink.

“They’re about the size of a large pear,” she said.

A minimum of 30 different types will be cut up for attendees to taste.

“We have done away with some lines,” Singletary said of the layout. “We’re putting the room in such a way that it will be more like a cocktail party, where people can go from table to table.”

A couple thousand people are expected to turnout, including children.

“Last year we had a couple thousand people, but it was throughout the whole day,” she said.

Other tastings will include sugarcane, green coconut, aloe and moringa leaves.

“All the samples are free,” Singletary said.

Admission is $2 for ages 12 and older; the funds cover the cost of putting on the event.

“Once you’re inside, all the samples are free,” she said.

There will be a variety of products made from the fruits and vegetables on site, including different flavors of ice cream, honey, jams, jellies and salsas, as well as juices and sauces.

About a dozen vendors will be on hand, along with a handful of non-profits organizations.

“They are local farmers, that’s one of the stipulations,” Singletary said.

“The focus in on bringing samples for people to taste – things that they’ve never tasted before,” she said. “This is for them to let people become aware of their establishment and taste their product.”

Fruitscapes Nursery, of Bokeelia, will be the sole tree vendor at the event.

“They are considered the experts in this area,” Singletary said.

Free classes will be held throughout the day with local experts, including:

* 10 a.m.: Growing tomatoes in Florida

* 11 a.m.: Local beekeeper on making honey

* Noon: How to grow your own mushrooms

* 1 p.m. Herbal beverages and teas

“We have four different speakers,” she said. “All of this is in air-conditioned comfort.”

Pre-registration is not required to attend the classes.

“The UF/IFAS Lee County Extension will have information on growing and landscaping with tropical and edible food – fruits, plants and trees,” Singletary said.

Raffles will be held every hour, with the prizes donated by the participating vendors.

“They are door prizes,” she said. “You do not have to be present to win.”

For more information on the event, call 239-533-7505 or visit: lee.ifas.ufl.edu.

City Gate Ministries is at 1735 Jackson St. in Fort Myers.