Tis the season as they say. The holidays loom large in the minds of young and old alike. For me, the end of our calendar year has appeared seemingly out of nowhere, with the words “Is it really December already”? Without a doubt, it is here, and forge ahead we must! So instead of a profile of the creature Scroogius Grinchii, which my wife says I resemble, this month we focus our spotlight on a very useful plant, and a very enjoyable event.

A fascinating specimen that you may see in its blooming glory this month is Pandanus utilis, commonly called Pandanus or Screw Pine. This species utilis is one of about 750 in the genus Pandanus, making it perhaps the largest known genus. As you might guess from the specific epithet utilis, every part of this plant has been used by cultures across the old world tropics, especially the South Pacific, for millennia. Spreading outward from its native Madagascar via fruit that can float, it colonizes islands and coastlines without human or animal help. It serves much the same purpose as the Mangroves that we are familiar with here in Florida, sending out prop roots that help stabilize coastlines and riverbanks. The plants are either male or female, with the male producing striking flowering bodies that can stretch up to two feet long. The female flowers are less conspicuous, but the fruit produced is beautiful, with a very distinct bumpy or spiky look. The bumps actually contain the seeds, surrounding a starchy core that is edible once cooked.

Also “in season” is one of our signature annual events, the Redland Heritage and Craft Fair, on December 14-15, 2019 right here at the Fruit and Spice Park. Our pioneer agricultural heritage is very important to us, and we take this occasion to showcase some of the many fascinating things that make our Redland agricultural area unique. We will have unique crafts and demonstrations, fantastic food, and an expanded music line up including The Wynwoods, Ricky Valido, and AJ Gaytan and Southern Stampede. More information can be found by visiting our website. We do have some vendor spots available, so if you have interesting antiques, crafts, or artwork, please contact our office at 305-247-5727, or fruit.spice@miami.gov.

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