When Rogelio Blanco is not learning how to build energy-efficient construction machinery, he is teaching visitors to South Miami-Dade’s Fruit and Spice Park about 500 varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs.
“This is not your typical park,” said Blanco, 22, who is a mechanical engineering student at Miami Dade College and part-time tour guide. “As you walk, you can actually taste the fruits that are on the ground.”
Owned and operated by the Miami-Dade County parks department, Fruit and Spice Park in Redland has more than 150 varieties of mango, 75 different types of banana trees and 70 different species of bamboos.
The park holds several events throughout the year including the Asian Culture Festival, the Festival Sabor Latino and the Redland Summer Fruit Festival.
This year’s Redland Heritage Festival is set for Jan. 11-12 at the 37-acre park. The 39th annual event will feature local arts and crafts, historical exhibits, a large selection of tropical plants and food. The event will start at 10 a.m. both days, and cooking demos by local chefs will showcase throughout the day.
There also will be children’s activities including a petting zoo, pony rides, a magician show and an Everglades animal exhibit.
“This is a staple event that will showcase and celebrate the Redland’s heritage,” said Brian Cullen, the park’s manager, who expects to see people who have been coming to the event since they were little.
Jared Christian, 25, drove one hour from Miami Beach on a recent Saturday afternoon to visit the park for the first time. He said he enjoyed walking with his wife through the fields of trees, including the Jackfruit from Southeast Asia, the Kigelia from Africa and the Canistel from Central and South America.
“It’s a nice getaway from the city, where you get to experience what the tropical part of Florida has to offer,” said Christian, adding that he received free passes to the park by becoming a member of one of the county’s libraries.
Blanco, who owns a seven-acre avocado grove, agrees.
“There are exotic fruits here that you cannot find anywhere else, including varieties of fruit from Costa Rica, Cuba, the Islands and Asia.”