Caption: Monroe County Mosquito Control checks for standing water. ‘The main goal of the fiesta is raise money to get the cisterns on the property back up and running,’ Garvey said.
The mango’s appearance, hanging heavy in the tree tops, signals the beginning of summer throughout the Keys. It’s also the star of Grimal Grove’s Tropical Fruit Fiesta taking place Saturday, June 27 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Big Pine Key. In the Grove, a non-profit 501c3, five different species of mango thrive, along with numerous other fruits and nuts.
“In the ’60s, Grimal searched for the best mango and found this hybrid, grafted it, and brought it back,” said Grove Director Patrick Garvey, speaking of the property’s founder’s spin on the common backyard mango, which boasts six-to-seven-pound fruit. “Fairchild Gardens grafted this one, which is the highlight of the Mango Festival in Miami. It all started here.”
The Tropical Fruit Fiesta activities start with a lecture at 9:30 a.m. from Garvey on Grimal Grove, the southernmost tropical fruit park. There will also be tours of the property. Other lectures include a chat about diseases and management of mangos, avocados and local citrus at 10:30 a.m., and at 11:30 a.m. about insects that affect the plants.
“There is a lot more to this property we are finding out while researching it,” he said while hand-pollinating the cacao tree, which may be one of the most exciting trees on the property — one pod is almost ripe.
Starting at 10 a.m., children’s activities include planting pineapples to take home at 11 a.m. and at noon making mango ice cream from scratch. Pine Island Nursery will be selling container-grown fruit trees available for reasonable prices throughout the day, as well as a tropical fruit auction until 2 p.m.
Mangos aren’t the only fruit being showcased at the event, the property is filled with other special and little-known fruit trees in Florida, like the Nauga Sapote. Garvey said an expert told him it is the only one of its kind in the U.S.
Grape vines along the property’s perimeter are fruiting, along with the Wax Jambu, a cinnamon apple. The Malay apple is also fruiting again, and is considered to be the forbidden fruit that was eaten in the Garden of Eden.
“The long-term goal of the Grove is to create a social enterprise, with jobs in micro-industries like chocolate, wine and honey with ongoing educational efforts,” he said. Pointing to a macadamia tree laden with nuts, he added “We will even be having macadamia nut cookies at the event. They are very hard to harvest because they are so hard to crack.”
Also on property is a velvet apple, which works best in cocktails (try it at the Square Grouper restaurant on Cudjoe Key), and a Telisia lime, a superior Spanish lime that just fruited for the first time in three years.
The plants are blooming again because of the extensive site-clearing of the invasive species, which at one point took over the property after it was left uncared for and untouched for years after Hurricane Georges in 1995.
The fiesta will take place at Grimal Grove which is located on the left side at the end of Cunningham Lane on Big Pine Key.