When my husband and I moved from New England back to Florida, I was unaware that Vero Beach was called “The Gateway To The Tropics” until after we had settled into this charming little seaside resort town. Now that we are spending our first summer in this section of Florida, I would have to agree with the experts. The hottest month of the year is July when the average high is 90 degrees and very humid but thankfully we are saved most days by breezes coming off the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Lagoon.
Frequent summer rainstorms provide the needed moisture to create a jumble of lush green vegetation which is an unusual mixture of massive oak trees with palm trees rising through the oak’s fern and moss laden branches. Drive out west and you discover tall pine and oak forests growing next to acre upon acre of citrus groves and plant nurseries specializing in palms, orchids and bromeliads.
Winters are generally mild to cool here in Vero Beach. The coldest month of the year is January with an average low temperature of 52. The town doesn’t usually doesn’t get a hard freeze so colorful plants typical of the tropics grow in everyone’s front yards. where as just a little further north they would not thrive. Cordyline Red Sister, Gardenia and Xanadu Philodendron grow together in my garden.
At anytime of the year, you will find farmer’s markets and roadside fruit and vegetable stands where farmers are selling just picked crops. On a recent Saturday outing, we made a quick U-Turn after seeing signs for fresh picked pineapples. Pineapples are certainly a tropical fruit but one I’ve thought of as being imported from Hawaii. How nice to discover Nature Farms, seven miles away from our home, which grows pesticide free pineapples, picked at the peak of ripeness, and sells them in front of their home and farm.
As you can see from the photos below, there is a huge difference between a pineapple picked green and shipped from Hawaii, South America, Africa or Southeast Asia to the local grocery store and a locally grown one picked when it turns a bright yellow-orange color. Standing in the middle a grass field sampling a just sliced piece of pineapple was a taste treat beyond description. After the first bite, I knew I was taking a pineapple home. Actually, my husband and I bought seven small pineapples, they were irresistible.
Typical grocery store pineapple on the left and ripe field picked pineapple on the right.
After twenty wonderful years living in beautiful New England with homes in both New Hampshire and Maine, I didn’t believe that I would ever be saying this, but I really love Vero Beach. I’m now living in a tropical paradise although I do wish there was a little less heat and humidity. Since there is nothing I can do about the climate in my little part of Florida, I can at least head to the beach and enjoy its cool breezes.
After a day of sun and fun, I can then go home and enjoy the tropical fruits that we are lucky enough to be able to buy from our local farmers. Now you might wonder what I had planned for seven pineapples? I used one of the pineapples for one of my favorite salsas that I make with mangoes and pineapples.
The beautifully ripe pineapples and mangoes, both the color of sunshine, are mixed with jalapeño, sweet chili sauce and a splash of rum to create a sweet and slightly spicy salsa. I served the salsa with slices of tender spice rubbed pork tenderloin with a rum glaze, you can find the recipe here. One bite of this meal makes you feel like you are in the tropics…oh wait a moment, I am.