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tammylc

Fruit & Spice Park, Robert is Here

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Anybody have any experience with either of these places? I'm thinking I might ditch my plans to bum around Miami for the day and instead go to visit the park, etc.

Any recommendations for a good Cuban lunch on the way to Florida City/ Homestead/ Redland area, or anything interesting for dinner?

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Anybody have any experience with either of these places?  I'm thinking I might ditch my plans to bum around Miami for the day and instead go to visit the park, etc. 

Any recommendations for a good Cuban lunch on the way to Florida City/ Homestead/ Redland area, or anything interesting for dinner?

Haven't been for quite a while - but I don't recall the Fruit & Spice Park as being worth a second trip (I lived in Miami for over 20 years). OTOH - Fairchild Tropical Garden is worth a second - and third - etc. If you like to bike - you can rent a bike (maybe in Coconut Grove?) - and take the bike path down south through Coral Gables to the Gardens. It's a lovely ride.

What is Robert Is Here? Robyn

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Anybody have any experience with either of these places?  I'm thinking I might ditch my plans to bum around Miami for the day and instead go to visit the park, etc. 

Any recommendations for a good Cuban lunch on the way to Florida City/ Homestead/ Redland area, or anything interesting for dinner?

Haven't been for quite a while - but I don't recall the Fruit & Spice Park as being worth a second trip (I lived in Miami for over 20 years). OTOH - Fairchild Tropical Garden is worth a second - and third - etc. If you like to bike - you can rent a bike (maybe in Coconut Grove?) - and take the bike path down south through Coral Gables to the Gardens. It's a lovely ride.

What is Robert Is Here? Robyn

Robert is Here is a fruit stand that sells all kinds of really unusual tropical fruits, in addition to other things:

http://www.redlandriot.com/RobertIsHere.html

http://www.robertishere.com/stand.htm

It, and the Fruit and Spice Park, were profiled in a recent issue of The Art of Eating, Edward Behr's periodical. When I realized that I was going to be in the same neighborhood, it seemed worth a look.

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I'm familiar with The Art of Eating. Perhaps the Fruit and Spice Park has gotten snazzier - but I tend to doubt it. I'd still vote for Fairchild Garden - which used to be a world class attraction - and has recovered substantially since Hurricane Andrew almost destroyed it. Perhaps other people who've been to both places can cast their votes :smile: .

On the way to Fairchild Garden from parts north - there is (or used to be) a really nice fruit stand on Red Road (a few miles south of South Miami). It isn't a tourist attraction - more a place where local people stop for fruits/veggies - a snack - whatever. There's a big ugly fruit tree in front. I haven't been there in a few years and maybe it's a gated community now. Perhaps someone who lives in Miami can provide an update.

Note that early December is kind of early for Florida citrus. We need some cold weather to sweeten up the fruit - and - even in north Florida - we usually don't get those "chill hours" until late December or early January. Tried my first Meyer lemon the other day - and it was still pretty sour.

One thing you should see in the area is Vizcaya (in Coconut Grove). Historic house. Attractive - and gives you a good idea of the area's history.

When you come right down to it - if you have a car - and plan your route - you can hit all these places in a day if you start early. The distances look like a lot - but you can take the expressway roads to get way south to the Fruit and Spice Park pretty quick during non-rush hour. That way - if you don't like it - or it's a 30 minute place (which was my impression) - you can spend some time there - and go to the next stop. The one local road down south I wouldn't miss is Old Cutler Road in the Gables (it's very pretty) - which you can take going north. Even if you're traveling during afternoon rush hour - you'll be counter-flow. Should be bougainvillea season by early December (maybe?) and that is quite spectacular.

Don't know if you're a zoo person - but Metrozoo (in southwest Dade) is a nice zoo. Not quite world class - but a zoo person would enjoy it.

As for restaurants for lunch - kind of depends where you'll be and when. What part of town will you be staying in (because that's where you'll probably want to eat dinner)? Robyn

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Anybody have any experience with either of these places?  I'm thinking I might ditch my plans to bum around Miami for the day and instead go to visit the park, etc. 

Any recommendations for a good Cuban lunch on the way to Florida City/ Homestead/ Redland area, or anything interesting for dinner?

Robert is here fruit stand is not much more than an open air farmers market in the middle of Homestead farmland. They often have an abundance of interesting tropical produce. They sell fresh fruit shakes, and maybe boiled peanuts and fudge too. I wouldn't go out of my way to visit it but if you will be in the area it's stopping in.

I have never been there so I cannot endorse it personally but I know from other sources that El Toro Taco is a Homestead favorite. We don't have an abundance of authentic Mexican food in South Florida, but this place has a big following.

Also, the name escapes me but if you are fond of bananas there is small banana farm in Homestead that grows like 50+ plus varieties of unique bananas. I think they offer tours to the public by appointment only.

Enjoy.

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How's this sound for a plan?

Land around noon, get my rental car, drive down towards Florida City. Hit the Fruit and Spice Park either before or after checking into my hotel, timing to depend on syncing up with one of the tours (1:30 and 3 pm). I know you weren't impressed, Robyn, but as a foodie I'd find it more specifically interesting than a regular botanical gardens. Hit Robert is Here after that, then maybe some of the other stops on the Redland Riot tour that I linked to previously, if I have time and they look interesting. Late afternoon, head up to Coral Gables to meet Fresser for dinner - from what you've said about traffic, it sounds like I'd be counter flow so it wouldn't be too horribly long a drive?

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Robert is here fruit stand is not much more than an open air farmers market in the middle of Homestead farmland. They often have an abundance of interesting tropical produce. They sell fresh fruit shakes, and maybe boiled peanuts and fudge too. I wouldn't go out of my way to visit it but if you will be in the area it's stopping in.

Interesting. The AoE piece really made it sound like Mecca for unusual tropical fruits, unique in all the USA.

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Robert is here fruit stand is not much more than an open air farmers market in the middle of Homestead farmland. They often have an abundance of interesting tropical produce. They sell fresh fruit shakes, and maybe boiled peanuts and fudge too. I wouldn't go out of my way to visit it but if you will be in the area it's stopping in.

Interesting. The AoE piece really made it sound like Mecca for unusual tropical fruits, unique in all the USA.

Just about any market in the US (and especially in Florida) which has a reasonable number of Hispanic customers has what a lot of people consider "unusual tropical fruits". That includes my local Publix in northeast Florida :smile: . Most of the items that are "unusual" in Florida are those that aren't grown on a (large) commercial basis. Things like Florida key limes (you can get bags grown in Mexico now - but local ones are hard to come by). Ditto with Meyer lemons. When I looked at the "Robert Is Here" website - there were a few things I don't normally see in my Publix - but not a whole lot (and I suspect you'd be able to find most of those things in a south Florida Publix). Robyn

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How's this sound for a plan?

Land around noon, get my rental car, drive down towards Florida City. Hit the Fruit and Spice Park either before or after checking into my hotel, timing to depend on syncing up with one of the tours (1:30 and 3 pm).  I know you weren't impressed, Robyn, but as a foodie I'd find it more specifically interesting than a regular botanical gardens. Hit Robert is Here after that, then maybe some of the other stops on the Redland Riot tour that I linked to previously, if I have time and they look interesting.  Late afternoon, head up to Coral Gables to meet Fresser for dinner - from what you've said about traffic, it sounds like I'd be counter flow so it wouldn't be too horribly long a drive?

Fairchild Garden has one of the largest - if not the largest - collection of palm trees in the world. It is also a center of palm research. I can't imagine many more important food plants on a worldwide basis than the palm. It also has a large collection of tropical fruit trees. Fairchild has a lot of well-heeled donors - which tends to make it a more attractive place than a county park. Look at the web sites and see what you think.

IMO - the most interesting thing about the Redlands these days is how long it has taken the area to "come back" after Hurricane Andrew (in 1992) - and a fair part of the recovery is because Miami/Dade has grown so much that people are now willing to commute from there. There is still some agriculture there - but if you want to see the guts of south Florida agriculture - it's more interesting to take a trip to the Lake Okeechobee area. Not necessarily pretty - because most of the people who live there are really poor - but interesting in terms of seeing where some of your food comes from. If I had to guess - judging from my last trip through the Homestead/Redlands area - the biggest single agricultural interest is probably the huge tree farms owned by a fellow whose name I forget (he is rather wealthy and politically connected). Reminded me of Bebe Rebozo's "tree farms" in earlier years (people who want to invest in real estate in Florida for the long term usually make some low cost agricultural use of their land - like tree farms - to keep their property taxes down). Robyn

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In the past the types of things you would see at Robert is Here (ROH) are now available at Publix, the dominant supermarket chain in FL. For example, I have recently seen both dragonfruit and rambutan sold at Publix on several occasions. ROH is more likely to have lychees, longans, loquats, and kumquats, etc. In the past fresh whole tamarind pods weren't so common but now every Asian market sells perfectly intact pods for under 5 bucks a box.

I've yet to see Meyer lemons sold in South FL.

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If you are going to eat in Homestead, there is a great taco truck on the north side of the road heading to Robert Is Here (she also makes great coffee). Homestead=Mexican food. This is an area where many Mexican immigrants have moved in the last decade or so, so you can't go wrong in any Mexican lunch spot. I last ate at Rosita's, also on the main road (SW 344 St). As far as RIH, they have some nice jams, jellies, chutneys, picaliliy and chow-chow, great boiled peanuts (very messy-grab a lot of napkins), fruit shakes, and some funky animals out back. The goats bite-but gently. Their fruit is great, varied, and fresh. They had many items that weren't on their website when I was there last month. I recommend it if you're planning on spending time in Homestead.

Homestead also has a cute 'downtown' with some old shops and older shopkeepers, where I bought a huge old traffic sign for my bar for $10.

Fairchild Gardens is great, but you better go early morning, or you will sweat a LOT. Never been to the Spice Park.

FYI-allow extra time for traffic-doesn't matter what time of day-just to be safe. There is random construction everywhere, esp. near the airport. Take the Turnpike!

And esp. if you are going to get on Route 1 to drive up to Coral Gables in the late afternoon. One fender-bender will ruin your whole day.

Personally, I would save Homestead for the next day instead of driving back and forth, but I'm sure you'll be fine.


Edited by Miami Danny (log)

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In the past the types of things you would see at Robert is Here (ROH) are now available at Publix, the dominant supermarket chain in FL. For example, I have recently seen both dragonfruit and rambutan sold at Publix on several occasions. ROH is more likely to have lychees, longans, loquats, and kumquats, etc. In the past fresh whole tamarind pods weren't so common but now every Asian market sells perfectly intact pods for under 5 bucks a box.

I've yet to see Meyer lemons sold in South FL.

I think Meyer lemons are more or less a central to north Florida fruit. But I'm not sure. My Meyer lemon is grafted - the rootstock is flying dragon - a relatively hardy citrus rootstock native to Japan. Anyway - the trees are very iffy. Last year - we had a northeaster a couple of weeks after the fruit set. All those little tiny beginnings of lemons except for a few were blown off the tree. This year - I've been lucky - a bumper crop. But I can see why citrus producers aren't keen to grow this stuff commercially (apart from weather problems - my little tree requires tons of fertilizer and spraying throughout the growing season from early spring until almost the end of the year - and I have to net it all summer to keep birds/animals from picking at the fruit). Robyn

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I love the Fruit and Spice Park. Make sure you go for a tour, as you said. They pick fresh fruit and you get to taste it right off the tree, which is, in my opinion as a foodie, a fantastic experience. I have had tons of fruits there that I can't get anywhere else. Unfortunately, I always seem to go in the spring and have never made it during another season to try different fruits (when family usually visits, I guess). Visiting the Fruit and Spice Park is probably one of my favorite activities in South Florida. I've even been to one of their cooking classes, which was also quite fun.

Robert is Here is neat, if you're down there anyways. They do have fruits that my Miami Publix doesn't sell, like mamey and custard apples. And their shakes are very good.

Hope you have a great time!

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I had a blast at the Fruit and Spice Park. Not a lot of fruits were in season right now, but I got to try a bunch of really interesting things. I'll definitely plan to go again if I'm here in another season. Definitely important to get the tour - things are not well marked, so I think it wouldn't be very fun to do it on your own.

After the park, I stopped at Schnebly Redland's Winery. They make wines out of tropical fruits - carambola, mango, lytchee, passionfruit, guava. Interesting. The guava and mango were my favorites, but none of them were worth the $14-$18 to take a bottle home.

Then on to Robert is Here. Robert helped me pick out some unusual fruits that I'll be taking home to Michigan with me for a little tropical fruit tasting party I'm hosting on Thursday. The most unusual things I got were dragonfruit, black sapote, and a couple tiny atemoya - their the last of the season. I got a canestel, but it's very not ripe and so it won't be part of the tasting on Thursday.

I took lots of pictures and notes to write up something for my blog. I'll come back and at least post a pointer here or even crosspost it if I'm feeling willing to double upload all my pictures...

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I am glad you enjoyed the Fruit and Spice Park, I did too. Ate my way around it. And I think those who actively enjoy get offered more samples. My friend and I ate an entire pomelo in between other treats.

What did you think of the gloriously large spiders?

I wish I'd seen thread in time to recommend getting a Key Lime Milkshake at Robert is Here. I never went that far west just for a shake, but it was a 'must stop' on the way to and from the Keys.

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I didn't see any gloriously large spiders. Too bad!

I definitely got more treats because I was interested. There weren't a lot of things available to try, but we got most of them.

I should have gotten a shake at Robert's but wasn't feeling like it at the moment. My dinner got delayed, though, so it would have been a much nicer tide-me-over than the peanut butter crackers from the vending machine...

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On the way to Fairchild Garden from parts north - there is (or used to be) a really nice fruit stand on Red Road (a few miles south of South Miami).  It isn't a tourist attraction - more a place where local people stop for fruits/veggies - a snack - whatever.  There's a big ugly fruit tree in front.  I haven't been there in a few years and maybe it's a gated community now.  Perhaps someone who lives in Miami can provide an update.

i assume you're talking about wayside market. it's still there. i get an elvis (peanut butter and banana shake with lowfat yogurt) and a low fat chocolate muffin every week. the elvis is great.

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My blog post about the Fruit and Spice Park is up now. There's a link from there with more pictures and commentary in a Picasa web album.

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On the way to Fairchild Garden from parts north - there is (or used to be) a really nice fruit stand on Red Road (a few miles south of South Miami).  It isn't a tourist attraction - more a place where local people stop for fruits/veggies - a snack - whatever.  There's a big ugly fruit tree in front.  I haven't been there in a few years and maybe it's a gated community now.  Perhaps someone who lives in Miami can provide an update.

i assume you're talking about wayside market. it's still there. i get an elvis (peanut butter and banana shake with lowfat yogurt) and a low fat chocolate muffin every week. the elvis is great.

Don't remember the name - but it sounds like the place. Glad it's still there. Robyn

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Here's the text of my blog post about Robert is Here. You can go there if you want to see the pictures.

I first read about this farm stand in Issue 70 of The Art of Eating. When I found out I was going to be in Homestead, FL for work, I had this vague inkling of having heard of that area before. Eventually I discovered the Fruit and Spice Park, which had been featured in the same article as Robert is Here, and slowly but surely I started to remember why all of this seemed so familiar.

Once I put all the pieces together, it was an easy decision to scrap my plans to hit South Beach and check out art-deco hotels, and instead take myself on a culinary tour of this south Florida farming community.

Robert is Here is certainly a strange name for a farm stand. Here's the story, according to the Art of Eating article:

(Robert's) father was a farmer who used brokers to sell his produce.  One day a broker said he'd been unable to find a buyer for a large supply of cucumbers.  Robert's father asked for them back, so he'd at least be able to reuse the crates.  But what to do with the cucumbers?  He decided to put his six-year-old son to work.

He dropped the boy off at a nearby crossroads on a Saturday morning, along with a table, the cucumbers and some change in a coffee can.  Robert sat all day.  When he was picked up at dusk, he hadn't sold a single cucumber.  No one had even stopped.

That can't be, thought the father.  Perhaps people hadn't even noticed the small boy?  He retrieved two hurricane shutters from the barn, spray-pained "Robert is Here" on each, and sent the boy back out on Saturday morning.

Okay, today this story would end up in child neglect charges, but this was 1961. Robert sold all the cucumbers, and a business was born. He started taking donations of extra produce from neighboring farmers, although when they found out how much money he was making, he had to start paying them. During the school year, he'd set up his stand with a can labeled "honor system" during the day, and get dropped off by the school bus to work the afternoon shift. By the time he was age 8, things were too busy during the day to leave the stand alone, so Robert hired his first employee.

Robert is Here continues to be a family affair. When Robert was helping me pick out fruit for my Taste of the Tropics party, he pointed out all of his kids to me, working at various tasks around the stand. It's a friendly, family kind of place, just like you'd expect. Robert himself was a great host, cutting a perfectly ripe passionfruit in half for us to share, and helping me select guavas and papayas that would be perfectly ripe in exactly 2 days time (and they were).

I didn't try one of his famous Key Lime milkshakes - something I sorely regretted when my dinner plans got pushed back a couple of hours. In addition to fruits and vegetables, both ordinary and exotic, the stand also features a huge variety of sauces, jams, jellies and honeys, most of which are available on their website. They also ship citrus, and perhaps other fruit as well.

Robert is Here

19200 SW 344th St (aka Palm Dr)

Homestead, FL

305-246-1592

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