Welcome to the Garden of Eden, my friends. Or what we assume a paradisaical version of one would look like if it were a taste wonderland and located in the heart of Homestead.
The 37-acre Fruit & Spice Park is truly a hidden treasure trove waiting to electrify your taste buds with more than 500 varieties of fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs, and nuts. Admission is a reasonable $8 for adults, $2 for kids 6 to 11, and free for children 5 and under.
The park's expansive list of fruits and spices is enough to make any foodie's mind go dizzy.
Walking through the gift shop entrance, we were met with high ceilings and wall-to-wall shelves full of unique jarred goods, spices, cookbooks, and tons of enchanting knickknacks and treats that could keep one busy for hours.
At 1:30 p.m. sharp, we met our tour guide, Curtis. Originally a military man turned naturalist, he has led many guests on a taste adventure during his 38 years working for the park. Before heading out, Curtis informed us: "All of our produce is kept within the park exclusively for educational
purposes," and explained tastings were all part of the learning process here. A note to future visitors: Bring a hat and water bottle because it's a scorcher outside.
As we were led through the grounds, our tour guide scientifically named each gargantuan tree and minuscule plant. We got to smell the heady scents of ylang ylang, curry, citronella, and bay rum (all of which are likely used in the perfumes/colognes you're wearing), and sampled miracle fruit, a tiny berry that alters your taste buds to make everything you eat for the next 35 minutes taste sweet.
We tried so many types of fruit, and rubbed and crushed countless samples from trees to smell and taste, we felt like pioneers, blazing a trail with our new-found skills.
A huge tree, with delicate vines hanging low and three-foot-long, sausage-like fruit hanging at eye level, caught our attention.
"Ever seen an African sausage?" Curtis asked. "These fruit are mostly eaten by baboons in Africa and taste like you're biting into a leather shoe."
We wish we could say that was the only tree with a funny-sounding name, but we happened upon a fried egg tree, whose flowers aptly reflected its name, as well as a toothache tree. Curtis grabbed a few leaves and plunked them into his mouth to chew, explaining the leaves' properties resemble those of Novocain and that he'd been meaning to visit the plant all day for a sore tooth. We were in the presence of a medicine man!
Near the end of our trek, we came across an anona orchard. The fruits resemble something out of a Harry Potter book but with a custard-apple flavor.
After our tasty adventure, we stepped into the park's refreshing, air-conditioned restaurant, the Mango Café. We took our seats and were presented with a gorgeously vivid fruit sampler ($4.95) with a dazzling array of tropical fruit, including dragonfruit, mamey, jackfruit, and starfruit. We also got to try its famous Florida lobster roll ($9.95) a soft, warm roll filled with Florida-caught lobster, covered in celery and a lemony Old Bay dressing and accompanied with a side of hot kettle chips.
The Fruit & Spice Park is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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September 10 and 17: Organic Vegetable Gardening Class ($25), 9 a.m. to noon.
October 28: Hunters Moon Event (free), a barbecue with stargazing through telescopes (Southern Cross Astronomical Society), storytelling by the campfire, as well as a visit from an Everglades National Park ranger, who will bring a live panther for kids (and adults) to see. Open 6 to 11 p.m.