Posted September 25, 2013
By INGRID CASTILLO
HOMESTEAD, Fla.— Mouth-watering fruit, beautiful scenery and a sense of peace are all the sensations visitors can expect when visiting the Fruit and Spice Park.
The park is located within the heart of the Redland just north of Homestead in Southwest Miami-Dade County. Farmhouses and hitchhikers line the single-lane traffic road that leads to the park, which makes traveling to the park a scenic view.
The park is well known by nature enthusiasts and fruit fanatics. The 37-acre space holds one of the largest selections of mangoes and is home to one of the busiest orchid shows in the state of Florida. The park operates a restaurant called the Mango Café that serves healthy, organic food.
Upon arrival, the first thing guests encounter is the old school house that now serves as the park entrance and store. Inside the store, visitors can enjoy the free sampling table with the fruits that happen to be in season. Missy Malaney works at the park and serves as a jack of all trades for the staff-limited facility.
“I work at the store, in the restaurants and do tours,” said Malaney as she prepares to hand out the maps and instructions to the park. “You can stray off the path and eat whatever you find on the ground. Don’t pick the fruit and if you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it.”
Guests can enjoy a wide variety of fruit that exists at the park so long as that fruit is lying on the ground. The park does not allow food to be taken out of the park and any person they find trying to steal fruit will have the fruit confiscated.
There are few visitors at the park this time of year since school has just begun. The guests arriving on a weekday can expect to be left pretty much to their own devices at the park. Guests are not supervised and there isn’t a lot of staff walking around.
Visitors like Matthew Kinzie search the grounds for edible fruit. Kinzie tried to crack open a strange large fruit.
“I don’t know what it is but I need to open this and taste it,” he said.
The strange fruit is in fact one of the strongest attraction of the park. The fruit is called a jackfruit, popular amongst the Asian community. The fruit is in fact so popular that it had to be guarded when it first arrived at the park.
“We built a fence … it was brought down. At one point in the ’80s I had to hire uniformed men to protect it,” said park manager Chris Rollins.
Walking around and picking up fruits is not the only activity offered at the park. Visitors can enjoy stargazing events, moonlight tours, the Asian Festival, Mango Festival, the Orchid Show, bonfires with story tellers and the Special Heritage festival.
All of these events bring in hundreds and sometimes thousands of visitors to the park each year. In fact, the summer fruit festival can bring up to 3,000 to 4,000 visitors according to Rollins.
Getting out the message of these events is the key to their success. The popular discount website, Groupon, has helped the park receive numerous visitors.
“If we lose $4 of entrance fee by promoting on Groupon, it doesn’t matter because we regain that money back. Once visitors get here, they spend money at the store or at the restaurant,” said Rollins.
Walking around the park is easy. The park itself is set-up like a geographical map. All of the plants and trees are organized by continent of origin. This helps visitors that are seeking fruits and trees native to their homeland.
Visitors seeking to escape the hectic city life can visit the park and find a small friendly staff eager to teach and help. The main goal of the park is to get visitors to come back.
“I bought tickets for an event at this park off of Groupon about six months ago. I loved the park and being so close to nature,” said Anabell Bernot, a park visitor. “Today, I came here to taste the strange fruit I would never find at a supermarket. It’s great to be back here.”
If You Go
- 24801 Southwest 187th Ave. Homestead, Fla. 33031, 305-247-5727
- Mango Café is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day.
- Open seven days a week, Hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Except Christmas.
- Guided tours are conducted every day at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.
- Park admission: is $8 per adult, $2 per child 6-11, and children under 6 are free.
- Picnic facilities are available.
- Pets are not allowed.
- Call ahead for designated picnic areas.
- Sports are not permitted at the park
- Bring a small knife to cut open the fruit lying on the ground.
- Wear comfortable attire.