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UPCOMING EVENTS
Book Signings and Lectures
by Monica Brandies

 

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Pick Your Own Fruit


This sign sits by the gate on the east side of McIntosh road just south of Thonotosassa Road and 2 miles north of I4. Donna's Garden Nursery is right across the road.

People have been coming from as far away as Naples and Orlando to pick muscadine grapes at the Robert Lee farm two miles north of I4 on McIntosh Road. Some pick as many as 50 to 60 pounds. Most answer the question, "What are you going to do with them?" with the simple answer, "Just eat them."

People have been picking grapes since August 1 and the crop will continue until at least mid September. The place is open from 8 am until 7pm with a lunch break on weekdays from noon to 2:30pm, no lunch break on Saturdays and Sundays.

These grapes, some as big around as a quarter, are native to the southeastern states. There are 40 different kinds, some red, some dark maroon, some gold to bronze. Most have fairly tough skin and juicy insides with excellent flavor. They are not often seen in stores, but are good for eating out of hand, for jelly, juice, wine. You pick your own here for $.80 cents a pound.

Each returning customer grabs a bucket and heads for his or her favorite kind. New pickers can taste their way around. One lady liked Dixie best, with its small bronze berry. Some like to get a selection of many colors and sizes.

Cecil and Francis Harper and their daughter Cynthia Alicea came from Riverview and each picked a bucket of 8 pounds in about half an hour with no stooping and no thorns. "We have some planted at home, but ours aren't producing like this yet," said Cecil.

We wondered why birds and raccoons often get the most of a small home crop while this huge six acre planting seemed to have no problem. The owner pointed out a hawk that flies between the vines or sits in a nearby tree. He apparently scares other birds away.


Red grapes, bronze grapes, 40 varieties that you can taste as you pick to get the one you like the best. 50 rows and 40 different varieties of Muscadine grapes cover 6 acres of this fruit Paradise. Citrus and peaches will also be U-Pick and other fruits are for sale already picked.

This 20 acre fruit Paradise was planted by the late Al Ebanks and his wife and some people have been coming here to pick for a dozen years or more. The Korean customers are especially fond of the grapes because they are all varieties and flavors they know from their homeland, though they say the skins are softer there.

A row of loquat trees grows along road of the fruit farm. They will be ready in March. The grape picking sign is easy enough to see on the right hand side of McIntosh Road just north of Favorite Farms where many of us pick strawberries. That is unless you get distracted by Donna's Garden Nursery right across the road. I went past it at first and turned around on Thonotosassa Road which is just to the north. Put when I pulled in the gate, the rows of grapes, a veritable vineyard, were easy to see beyond the house.

Behind the loquats are yucca plants, then many kinds of citrus, pears, and several acres of peaches and nectarines. On the far side of the house are many persimmon trees including the popular non astringent Fuyu and several other of the astringent varieties. These you can eat like pudding with a spoon right out of the skin when they are soft and ripe.


The persimmon trees were also loaded with fruit. Several varieties are just beginning to ripen.

There are also several Chinese chestnut trees and much taller pecan trees, some pomegranates, star fruit, and avocados. This fruit lovers' Paradise is beautifully tended with a few flowering trees, rose bushes and other ornamental besides the fruit. When the citrus starts to ripen, November through May, that will be U-Pick also, and so will the peaches in May and June. Ask or check at the pay station to see what other kinds of fruit may also be available already picked. There were Brogdon avocados and star fruit the day I was there.

Mark and Deb Pecoraro of Zephyr Hills keep bee hives on the farm to pollinate the fruit. Their honey is available by the pint jar with some some comb in it. All honey is very healthful as well as delicious, and many people are using it in coffee these days. Local honey is especially good for anyone with allergies because the bit of pollen in it works as an inoculant for those pollens that are most likely to cause a person trouble. You can also get honey from them in Zephyrhills by calling 780-6084.

There is a chance that this 20 acre fruit farm with a fine house may be for sale if anyone is interested. For that or to check on picking times and fruit availability, you can call 813-335-1865.

 

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