I took a funky little tour of Key West last week that included some new tropical fruit taste sensations. I was enjoying a croissant and fresh squeezed orange juice at my favorite breakfast spot, Croissants de France, when I struck up a conversation with a man at the next table. Turns out he was Lloyd Mager, owner of Lloyd’s Tropical Bike Tour. Before breakfast was over my husband and I had signed on to follow Lloyd on his tour to lesser known corners of Key West with frequent stops to taste local tropical fruit specialties.
My absolute favorite was the “Spiked avocado”. First Lloyd cut an avocado into wedges and handed us each one. Next he cut a lime and squeezed liberal amounts of lime juice on our avocado slice. Last he topped each slice with a generous sprinkle of, Spike an herb, spice and vegetable seasoning. We ate this concoction right out of the peel, no utensils needed, and added more lime juice and Spike as we went along. Can’t wait to make this one for Super Bowl Sunday!
As we biked through the back streets of Old Town and headed toward the beach area, Lloyd made stops to let us sample various lesser known tropical fruits right from the plants! We tried the Barbados cherry, also known as acerola cherry, which is one of the most concentrated sources of Vitamin C. We sampled the juice of the Carissa plum, which was delightful. This fruit is best used for jelly or sauce. Lloyd surreptitiously swiped a little pomegranate from a tree in someone’s yard. This pomegranate was smaller than the ones we usually see in the stores and the arils (kernels) had a bigger pit. It boasted the same wonderful flavor however, and after a few tries I ate the kernels pit and all. Pomegranates are loaded with anti-oxidants and are a great snack.
The dramatic highlight of the trip, however, was watching Lloyd prepare a coconut for us to share. First he used his machete to whack off the green outer husk. Then he created an opening into the coconut itself. Into this he squeezed the juice from a sour orange. We took turns drinking this wonderful concoction right from the coconut! You can watch Lloyd “put the lime in the coconut” in a video on his website. After we finished drinking the coconut water, Lloyd opened the coconut all the way and we ate chunks of the fresh coconut meat. Delicious!! (and high fiber too!)
According to his website, one of Lloyd’s favorite tropical fruits is the mango. Unfortunately, we were not visiting in the right season for mangoes from the tree. But mangoes are heavily featured in Key West cuisine, and I especially enjoyed a salad of grilled chicken with thin slices of mango, pineapple, apple, orange, and strawberries at Willie T’s. At Blue Heaven there was a great mango salsa with the grilled mahi-mahi I had for lunch…I wanted a bigger portion though! Another tropical treat was Croissants de France’s banana toffee pancakes…no syrup needed for these fabulous cakes! Of course, Key West’s most famous tropical treat is their renowned key lime pie, the official pie of the state of Florida. This pie is made with the juice of key limes, a small, tart variety of lime.
So if you are suffering from winter blues and cabin fever and having trouble keeping half your plate fruits and vegetables, take a stroll through the produce department. Fresh citrus is in season now, and yesterday our market had avocados, mangoes, pineapples, and of course bananas. Perk up your menu while you feast on abundant Vitamin C and anti-oxidants!
© 2011 Kathleen Searles