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Annual Taste of Lee packs them in

July 3, 2013
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

There was something for everybody at the sixth-annual Taste of Lee event at the First Baptist Church in downtown Fort Myers on Saturday.

Whether it was standard tropical fare such as pineapple and coconut, or something out of the ordinary such as lychee or sapote, or if you just wanted herbs or honey, there was something for the nearly 2,000 people who packed the gymnasium.

The best thing? It was all grown in Southwest Florida.

Article Photos

Chuck Ballaro

The First Baptist Church in Fort Myers was packed for the sixth annual Taste of Lee Saturday.

"It was started to give a gift to the community so we could educate them on what grows in Southwest Florida, and we bring the unusual that nobody has seen or tasted before," said event chairperson Rachel Singletary.

And although Mother Nature cut down on the amount of fruit the event offered, there was still plenty of interesting edibles to go around.

The $2 admission gave people numerous free samples of many home-grown fruits and vegetables. A long line of people waited on items like mango ice cream, black beans and collard greens.

It also gave people the chance to bring home some rare fruit trees and grow their favorite fruit at home.

Ellett Johnson of Fort Myers bought a guava tree so she could grow the fruit she used to eat when she lived in Jamaica.

"This is a great opportunity and I wish more people would come out. They need to make this a bigger event," Johnson said.

This event was a collaboration between the University of Florida/IFAS Lee County Extension and the Caloosa Rare Fruit Exchange, which brought much of the uncommon fruits and taught many of the visitors about what they grew.

Among the local growers was Suncoast Estates in North Fort Myers, which brought herbs grown from its garden at the community center that numerous volunteers helped in the growth of.

"People are finding out they can grow herbs in Florida all year round, not just in the winter," said Bobbie Robertson, director of the Suncoast garden.

Suncoast had a variety of herbs such as celantro, dill, rosemary, peppermint, oregano, thyme, basil and much more, Robertson said.

They also brought small peppers which are grown on a bush in Brazil. East Fort Myers resident Karen Bell hesitated to try one, thinking they would be hot.

Volunteer Bridgette Robbins convinced her to try and was impressed by what she tasted.

"It's not hot. It's very sweet," Bell said. "This whole thing is wonderful. I love what they do."

Farmers and fishers brought their edibles for sale including cheese, honey, herbs, fruits, vegetables and seafood. Free classes were also offered by experts in herbs, making teas, growing tropical fruits, food preservation, growing tropical fruit trees, edible natives and more.

The event featured hourly raffles and a Carmen Miranda look-alike contest, won by Debbie Parramore who wore her headpiece of fruit like a crown, extolling the virtues of this event.

"I was here last year and I enjoyed it so much I decided to enter the contest. I really liked the avocado and mango ice cream," Parramore said. "I had no idea this could be grown locally and native to Florida. I bought seeds and look forward to using them."



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