Thursday, December 26, 2013

An Urban Foraging Oasis (Some Instruction Included)

I discovered, whilst on vacation, a wondrous place that deserves a mention in this blog even though it is not in the proximity of anything remotely resembling a "foothill" (or any other hill except for perhaps a hill of the fire ant variety). It is a place where the nascent forager can take their first hesitant steps towards relishing food stuffs that do not come pre-washed and pre-packaged but are instead literally lying at one's feet. "Where is this amazing place?", you ask and "How much is the price of admission?", you wonder. In the order of your inquiries: Redland, Florida and $8.

The place is Fruit and Spice Park; a public 37-acre tropical botanical paradise owned and operated by the Miami-Dade County Parks and Recreation Department. The garden hosts over 500 varieties of fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs and nuts. But this is not your typical "look-but-don't-touch" botanical garden and, depending on the season, you can sample all that grows here.

There is, however, one important directive - You are prevented from picking any produce from the plants. You are allowed only to eat what has already fallen. While this may sound less than ideal, the fare is most plentiful as there are numerous trees of each fruit variety and typically only the ripest fruit actually falls to the ground.

On the late December afternoon that we arrived, the staff greeted us with a graciously prepared sampling table of about a dozen fruits that were not fully in season but were available in limited supply for "special" guests from the foothills (as long as you pay the $8 admission, I am sure that you too will be awarded this premium privilege). After consuming this copious snackage, we gorged ourselves on carambola, coconut, egg fruit, finger limes, gamboge and other succulent sustenance despite Syd's supposition (correct, of course) that a large meal made up entirely of fruit would lead to later "issues" of the digestive system that would inevitably make our camping trip to the Everglades somewhat more eventful than desired...