Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Redland Fruit and Spice Park: Part 1

Since childhood, I've bemoaned the fact that the edible room in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory does not actually exist. Recently, I discovered that it does.

The Redland Fruit and Spice Park in South Florida is a wonderland of strange and delicious treats no less bizarre than a chocolate river or life sized candy canes. Don't believe me? Then you've never seen a miracle berry, which, once eaten, makes lemons and vinegar taste sweet.

Park rules dictate that you may only eat fruit that has fallen, but there is always a bountiful sample table in the gift shop, and you're allowed tastings of most everything in season if you take the informative and tasty tour. Also, after the tour, employees will sometimes permit you to graze freely with a wink and a nudge. The sheer quantity of rare and exotic fruits within your reach is nothing short of intoxicating. Each time I've visited the park, I've left dazed from the hot sun and buzzing on fructose in shapes and flavors that stretch the limits of the imagination. For six bucks, you can basically re-enter Eden.

This is stevia, which tastes exactly like children's chewable Tylenol. One bite of this confoundingly sweet herb and you know that only a powerful sugar lobby could keep it confined to wacko diabetic cookies.

You might think that you don't want to eat this, but you do. It's the black sapote, also known as chocolate pudding fruit. The pulp is goopy and as dark as coal, but the flavor is mild, sweet, and not unlike actual chocolate pudding. Current trends indicate that darker pigmentation in fruits and veggies indicates higher health benefits. If so, the inky meat of the black sapote must render you immortal.

Reptilian in appearance, sweet in flavor, and with a mouth feel like slimy poppy seeds, cecropia is the kind of fruit I would expect to eat at an alien's house.

I grew up eating Chinese Cherries, or "Surinam Cherries," as a kid in South Florida. No other taste takes me back to my youth as much as the flavor of this bright, potent, pumpkin shaped orb. My dad always said that they're ripe when they more or less fall into your hand. He also once cut his finger open trying to pick me one from the driver seat of his moving Lincoln Continental.

These are the dried seeds of the African oil palm. Not edible, though very cute.

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Karen B said...

I've been telling Dave for months that the richer the colour, the healthier the fruit or veggie--maybe now he'll believe me!

Tom said...

Are those really African oil palm seeds? They look similar to starnut palm seeds that wash ashore in Florida weathered from their time at sea. I'm trying to sort this out.

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