UF/IFAS Extension Lee County to Host Tropical Fruit Fair on June 25

Kelsey Fry Tropical Fruit

ifaslogo-1MYERS, Fla. — Julie Falconer, walked through the teeming aisles of the “Taste of Lee Tropical Fruit Fair” in Ft. Myers, Florida, and popped a piece of jackfruit in her mouth. She savored the sweet, pungent taste of the fruit usually found in south and Southeast Asia.

“Everyone in our family is a gardener, and I grew up on a farm in Michigan with tons of fruit trees,” said Falconer, who lives in St. James City, Florida. “Now, we are trying to learn what grows in Florida, because we love to eat fruit and want to grow our own tropical fruits.”

The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Lee County office hosts the ninth annual “Taste of Lee Tropical Fruit Fair” on June 25 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will be held at Gate Ministries, 1735 Jackson Street, Fort Myers. Admission is $2; children under 12 are free.

The fair, a collaboration between UF/IFAS Extension Lee County and the Coloosa Rare Fruit Exchange, draws more than 3,000 visitors each year. Young and old taste everything from mangoes to gooseberries to jack fruit.

“We’re educating people about what we can grow in south Florida and the value-added products that are available,” said Fitzroy Beckford, director of UF/UFAS Extension Lee County. “We are educating people about the foods that improve their health, and the fair broadens their taste and preferences.”

The fair is a big draw with Floridians who hail from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia, Beckford said. “They are not aware that they can find these foods here. Now, they can find out where they can buy these things,” he said.

Visitors to the fair can also taste and purchase products made with tropical fruits, including ice cream, jellies, jams, and juices. “The vendors offer everything you can find in the cottage food industry, from avocado ice cream to mango candies,” Beckford said.

Each year, Falconer and her family purchase herbs, papaya smoothies and tropical fruit jellies. Though she has a mango tree in her backyard, Falconer still buys mangoes at the fair. “We had no idea how many kinds of mangoes there are in the world,” she said. “It was fun to learn the kind that is growing in our yard, but it was also interesting to try other varieties.”

Also, participants will learn how to grow and harvest tropical fruit trees, Beckford said. And, the event offers classes on food preservation and preparation. Vendors will also offer herbs, vegetables and seafood.

“This is a very holistic event for the whole family,” Beckford said. “These fruits are so nutritious and make for great juicing and summer treats.”

By: Beverly James, 352-273-3566, beverlymjames@ufl.edu

Source: Fitzroy Beckford, 239-533-7512, fbeckford@ufl.edu

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