Locally grown tropical fruits and vegetables will take center stage at one weekend event.
The annual Taste of Lee is set for Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the First Baptist Church of Fort Myers. A collaboration between UF/IFAS Lee County Extension and the Caloosa Rare Fruit Exchange, the event places an emphasis on dozens of unusual fruits that many people have not seen nor tasted.
"The extension service wanted to make sure the citizens of Southwest Florida are familiar with tropical and subtropical fruits that they can grow in their own yards," event chair Rachel Singletary said.
"There are so many unusual ones," she added.
Some examples are atemoya, eggfruit, soursop, mamey, sapodilla, sapote and tamarind.
"We've got mounds and mounds of displayed fruits," Singletary said.
If You Go:
What: Taste of Lee
When: Saturday, June 28,
from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: First Baptist Church of Fort Myers, 1735 Jackson St., Fort Myers
Cost: Admission is $2
for ages 12 and older
A minimum of 35 types will also be cut up into bite-sized pieces for people to taste.
"All the sample are free. There's absolutely no charge," she said.
"The whole point of Taste of Lee is to give people a taste of these products," Singletary added.
There will be six flavors of ice cream made from the fruits, as well as homemade baked goods. Also made from the products available on site will be punches, salsas and drinks, among other items.
Ten vendors and four, non-profit community gardens from Lee County will be present.
"Local farmers bring their products, like wheatgrass and micro-greens," she said.
Some hail from Pine Island, while others are based out of Cape Coral and Fort Myers.
"Every vendor has to provide a free sample to attend," Singletary said.
Some of the products include cheese, honey, herbs, fruits, vegetables and seafood.
A Bokeelia nursery, FruitScapes, will have trees on hand for sale.
"If people want to buy a certain type of mango, he'll have trees," she said, noting that the nursery will also offer guidance. "He actually provides most of the tropical fruit trees for sale in this area."
The UF/IFAS Lee County Extension will provide advice on growing and landscaping.
"So, it's not just tasting. It's, 'How do I grow this, can I grow it and where do I put it in my yard?'" Singletary said.
Raffles will be held every hour, with the prizes donated by the participating vendors.
"You do not need to be present to win," she said.
Free classes will be held throughout the day with local experts, including:
* 10:15 a.m.: Square foot gardening
* 11:15 a.m.: Unusual tropical fruits and vegetables with ECHO
* 12:15 a.m.: Making teas and punches from herbs and edibles
* 1 p.m. Edible landscaping and trees with extension agents
Preregistration is not required to attend the classes.
"It's included in your admission," Singletary said.
Admission is $2 for ages 12 and older; the funds cover the cost of putting on the event.
"It truly is a non-profit event," she said.
The Taste of Lee was initiated in 2008, with a few hundred in attendance.
"Now, it's up to a few thousand," Singletary said.
Nearly 2,000 people, including children, turned up for last year's event.
"Come in, look at it, take what you want," she said.
For more information, call (239) 533-7505 or visit: lee.ifas.ufl.edu or www.leeparks.org.
The First Baptist Church of Fort Myers is at 1735 Jackson St. in Fort Myers.