Sweet Summer: Tropical Fruit Festivals

LNBjackfruitComplain about the heat and humidity all you want. We wouldn’t trade summer in South Florida for one anywhere else, not when we can stroll in our backyard for a breakfast mango every morning or pick up lychees from a roadside stand and pop them in the freezer for an icy treat. This is the season for ciruelas – hog plums – and longans (the brown, grapelike fruits similar to lychees), pineapples and bananas, mamey sapote and sapodilla and many other tropical treats. Farmers markets vendors, like Adena of LNB Groves, right, at Pinecrest Gardens, offer up tastes of jackfruit and passionfruit.
Here are the best events in June and July where you can taste, celebrate and learn more about your favorite fruits:

Redland Summer Fruit Festival

lycheeSat.-Sun., June 13-14 • 10am-5pm • Fruit and Spice Park, Homestead • Adults $8, children 11 and under free
With hundreds of varieties of fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs and nuts, Fruit and Spice Park is the perfect host for this annual festival. If you’ve already visited this gem, part of the Miami-Dade County Parks, you’ll know that you can always sample what’s growing. At this event, it’s all about tasting their bounty. Look for vast tables laid out with mangos and fruit displays, plus vendors showcasing local produce, ice cream and other delicious treats. Bring the family – this is one of the most affordable festivals in town.
Insider tip: If you love mangos, look for the Tropical Fruit and Vegetable Society booth, where they’re selling a cup of four different mangos for only $3.
Bonus insider tip: Check out the newly revamped Asian Greenhouse, home to tropical Asian fruit trees, spices and other edible or economically important plants.

chrisrollinsMango Mania

Sat., June 20 • 10am-3pm • Fruit and Spice Park, Homestead • $40  • Register: tropicalfruitvegsocietyredland@gmail.com
Former Fruit and Spice Park manager Chris Rollins is returning for this all-things-mango event. Learn about growing, propagating, grafting, dealing with diseases – and then taste some of the 250 varieties on display. Rollins, who hosted Mango Mania for many years, is being sponsored by the Tropical Fruit and Vegetable Society of Redland, says the group’s Sandi Chamyan. Rollins will teach the workshop and help gather mangos from trees at the park, the USDA research center and the Tropical Research and Education Center (TREC) to serve at the event. While many come to learn more about caring for mango trees, Chamyan says “what a lot of people come for is the sampling.” They’ll also sell bags of assorted mangos “that you won’t be able to get anywhere else” for $20-25.

bananas

Tropical Fruit Fiesta
at Grimal Grove

Sat., June 27 • 9am-2pm • Grimal Grove, Cunningham Lane, Big Pine Key, MM 30.5 • Free
Now under restoration, this two-acre piece of property represents the extraordinary efforts of Adolf Grimal to successfully grow tropical fruits in the Florida Keys. When Grimal died in 1997, the grove fell into disrepair. Today, Growing Hope Initiative and its volunteers are working to bring back the property and its elaborate irrigation system. This event includes a tropical fruit display, tastings and tours, lectures on diseases and insects, fruit tree sales and kids activities, wrapping up with a tropical fruit auction. There will also be food vendors and live music.

mango23rd Annual International Mango Festival

Sat.-Sun, July 11-12 • 9:30am-4:30pm • Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Coral Gables • $25 adults, $18 seniors 65 and older, $12 children 6-17, under 6 free
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

This two-day affair is the granddaddy of South Florida’s tropical fruit festivals, celebrating the mango, considered by many to be the king of all fruits. This year honors the colorful mangos of Jamaica, including the exquisite ‘Julie’ and the spicy ‘Blackie’, plus hundreds of other varieties, all grown in South Florida. Festival highlights include:

  • Tree sales, including ‘Julie’, ‘Blackie’, ‘Bombay’ and ‘East Indian’ (Jamaica); ‘Emerald’, ‘Angie’, ‘Rosigold’, and ‘Cogshall’ (Florida); ‘Graham’ (Trinidad); ‘Fairchild’ (Panama); ‘Mallika’ (India); ‘Manilita’ (Mexico) and ‘Nam Doc Mai’ (Thailand).
  • Lectures on mangos and their care from experts including Dr. Richard Campbell, Fairchild’s director of horticulture (and our Sustainable Living columnist) and Dr. Noris Ledesma, curator of tropical fruit.
  • Chef demonstrations using mangos, fruit tastings and a fruit market
  • Mango Brunch (Sun., 11am-1pm), featuring chefs Kareem Anguin of The Oceanaire, Jimmy Carey of Jimmy’z Kitchen, Cindy Hutson of Ortanique on the Mile, Frank and Andrea Randazzo of Creative Tastes Catering, Allen Susser of the Cafe at Books and Books, and Kris Wessel of Oolite Restaurant and Bar. Brunch tickets are $125 for the general public and are available here.
  • The Mango Auction (Sun., 2pm), an absolute must-see event. Mango expert Campbell manages to describe each variety in such lavish detail that aficionados sometimes pay upward of $100 for a plate of their favorite cultivar. It’s so much fun watching the mango frenzy, you may find yourself in a bidding war for a prized plate of Alphonse fruits.

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