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Taste of Lee Tropical Fruit Fair set for Saturday

By Staff | Jun 24, 2016

Locally grown tropical fruits and vegetables will take center stage this weekend.

The annual Taste of Lee Tropical Fruit Fair will be held on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Community Room at CityGate Ministries in Fort Myers. Hosted by UF/IFAS Lee County Extension and Caloosa Rare Fruit Exchange, it highlights unusual edibles that are unknown to most people.

“This is a true tropical fruit fair,” Rachel Singletary, the event chair, said.

“It’s to show citizens what they can grow in their own yard that is full of vitamins and nutritional value,” she added. “Some are plants, some are trees, some are vegetables, some are fruits.”

Some examples are jackfruit, eggfruit, white and mamey sapote, lychee and longan.

Singletary noted that there are “dozens and dozens” to taste.

“We also have many varieties of mango and avocado,” she said, adding that each of the samples are labeled so visitors know exactly which types they like. “The same with bananas and plantains.”

All the vendors will bring edible food items.

“We’re going to have edible cactus,” Singletary said.

There will be herbs, collard greens, turmeric, jams and jellies, honey and more.

“There’s ice cream, there’s sauces, there’s punches,” she said.

Cold and hot food samples will be available.

Some club members own nurseries out on Pine Island.

“There will be a couple of vendors who are selling plants and trees,” Singletary said.

Local organizations will also be represented, including ECHO, HOPE Clubhouse and Florida Gulf Coast University’s Food Forest. There will be community gardeners and the 4-H Club on hand.

The UF/IFAS Lee County Extension will offer advice on growing and landscaping.

“All kinds of information on how to grow all of this,” she said.

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

* 10:30 a.m.: What can I grow in my backyard

* 12:30 a.m.: How can I eat food from my backyard for better health, with a holistic medical doctor from Charlotte County

* 1:30 a.m.: Growing and fertilizing semi-tropical fruits and veggies, with the UF/IFAS Lee County Extension

“Every vendor turns in a raffle gift, so hourly we will give away a nice gift,” Singletary said.

Even children under 12, who are free, will receive tickets for the raffles.

“So, even the kids might win a prize,” she said.

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

Now marking its ninth year, an estimated 2,200 people turned out last year.

“That’s throughout the whole day,” Singletary said.

She encouraged people to come out and check it out on Saturday.

“To taste delicious fruit and see unusual fruit that looks like it’s from outer space, and to know that they can grow it easily in their yard without a lot of fertilizer and without a lot of water,” Singletary said.

For more details, call (239) 533-7505 or visit: lee.ifas.ufl.edu or rare-tropical-fruit.com.

CityGate Ministries is at 1735 Jackson St. in Fort Myers.