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Gardens of Earthly Delight: Fruit & Spice Park

By Pamela Robin Brandt

Munch your way through a 32-acre tropical paradise at the Fruit and Spice Park, a unique almost-all-edible botanical garden located 35 miles south of Miami in the rural Redlands agricultural district of Homestead, Florida.


Established in 1944, the park features over 500 varieties of exotic edibles -- fruits, herbs, spices, and nuts -- from tropical and sub-tropical regions all over the world.

Many are familiar; there are 80 varieties of banana, for example, and 40 of grape. But many fruits are almost unknown, like candlestick fruit, a fantastic crunchy substitute for bamboo shoots in stir-fries, and canistel ('egg fruit'), which tastes like sweet potato custard and makes a lovely presentation for dessert when served in a soft-boiled egg cup.

With advance notice, visitors can arrange with the management to obtain a collection of seeds and cuttings suitable for planting.

Devastating damage from Hurricane Andrew in 1992 proved a blessing in disguise to the Fruit and Spice Park, thanks to an ambitious redevelopment plan supplemented by South Florida's rapid-grow climate.

The ongoing project calls for ethnic/geographically arranged collections (Tropical America, Tropical Asia, Tropical Africa, Australia, the Pacific, and the Mediterranean) as well as theme areas, including citrus and custard apple collections, a fibre/dyes section, and a poisonous plant area (enabling edible plant enthusiasts to determine the difference between edibles and their often appealing-looking but toxic cousins).

A refreshing change from typical 'look-but-don't-touch' gardens, the Fruit and Spice Park not only allows but encourages visitors to sample fallen produce -- except in the poisonous plant area!

Best time to visit is November through May, before South Florida's summer hurricane threats and sweltering heat make the prospect of picnicking under the palms a bit sticky.

Information:

Where:

The Fruit and Spice Park
24801 S.W. 187th Avenue
Homestead, FL, 33031
USA

Hours:

Open all year, every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Getting There:

By car (the only reasonable way to go) from Miami, take highway U.S. 1 South to 248th Street (Coconut Palm Drive), in the town of Homestead. Turn right, heading west. Continue driving west on 248th Street to 187th Avenue (Redlands Road). Turn left. The Fruit and Spice Park is immediately on your left. Informal parking -- on the grass strip on the left side of the road outside the park's fence -- is free.

Further Info:

1 305 247 5727 - phone
1 305 245 3369 - fax
Website: www.metro-dade.com/parks/fruitandspice.htm

For Flights and Airfares to the U.S - click here for the Travel Homepage.

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