There’s nothing like sharing good fruit with friends.
The Tampa Bay Fruitluck is an event that happens every month in the area of Tampa and Saint Petersburg, Florida. The idea is simple: bring fruit, and share a meal of good fruit and enjoy good conversation with other people who like fruit.
Organized by Veronica Slep and her brother Alex Curtis-Slep, the event has been happening since 2014. Held in a variety of locations in and around Tampa and neighboring Saint Petersburg, including at public parks and sometimes even at the beach, the fruitluck is a highlight of the month for many local fruit enthusiasts.
I got to participate in this event for the first time on Saturday, February 24. I had a fantastic time.
My friend Ben and I traveled from the Gainesville area to meet up early in the morning with Veronika and Alex, who at that point we’d known only from Instagram. We met before the fruitluck at a giant outdoor market in Saint Petersburg to get stocked up with provisions. Called Mustang Market, this huge assembly of vendors is one of the best places around to buy produce, especially tropical fruit.
I’d been hearing for several years about this market, and it was great to finally experience it. As soon as Ben and I walked in, we were greeted on one side by a vendor with a trailer packed full of green coconuts that he was chopping open with a machete, and across the way another vendor had a table piled high with jackfruits, filling the air with that heavenly jackfruit aroma. The market abundance just got better from there: vendors had tables crowded with multicolored dragon fruits, sapodillas, guavas, papayas, and various tropical vegetables, some of which I knew, and some were mysterious to me.
But there wasn’t time to inquire about the mystery vegetables – that’ll have to happen on a future visit. Today we were on a mission to get fruit. We got jackfruit, freshly pressed sugarcane juice, jujubes, coconuts, avocado, Thai bananas, and rambutan, and then we all headed to the park to get ready for the event.
This month the fruitluck was at Saint Petersburg’s Broderick Park. We chose a pavilion at the park with a roof over its picnic tables, and started laying out the bounty, cutting up fruit and setting it out on trays. A steady flow of people arrived, bringing a steady flow of fruity contributions, and the multicolored pile on the table grew ever larger and more bountiful.
After taking some group photos with the fruit, it was time to dig in. The jackfruits attracted the most attention, especially for newcomers to this tropical fruit, learning how to pull the fruity bulbs of flesh out. This was really good jackfruit, very sweet and flavorful, and it had me floating on a tropical fruit high.
There were a couple of durians, always a fun creamy treat. This was the first time a number of people got to experience rambutan, and we showed them how to pop open the furry rind to reveal the sweet-tart treat within. I had brought the last of my crop of ‘Sunburst’ tangerines, carambolas from my greenhouse tree, and pummelos contributed by my neighbor. Mangoes, blueberries, melons, blueberries, peaches, kiwi fruit, and prickly pear cactus fruit rounded out the bounty.
An especially fun part of the event was the attendance of a couple, Matt and Laura (I think that was her name), who were on vacation from Vermont, where they have an apple orchard. They were in Florida to take a break from the northern winter, and they brought some of their ‘Honeycrisp’ apples, grown on trees that Mat grafted himself.
A total of about twenty people attended the event this month. I got to meet many new friends. One of the fun things was great variety of experience levels with tropical fruits people had: from people who had traveled widely through equatorial regions, sampling the tropical bounty, to people who were trying many of these fruits for the first time. There was much learning and sharing and laughing.
I had never been to a real fruitluck like this before, and I was impressed at what a fun, community-building event it was.
I plan to attend this event in the future, and maybe even start something like this in my area.
If you live outside the Tampa Bay area, I recommend you look to see if there’s already a fruitluck happening in your own area – if there isn’t, you oughta consider starting one.
If you live in the Central Florida area, we want you to attend this one. You can get notifications about future fruitlucks by requesting to be put on the list at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also get notifications by joining the Facebook group: “Tampa Bay Fruitlucks and Vegan Meetups”.