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Drive up Route 1 North of Wabasso, keep your eyes peeled to the East side of the road and pay very close attention or you are likely to miss one of Vero Beach’s best kept and sweetest secrets. About 0.8 miles North of Route 510 (a hair South of Hales) you will discover groves of super sweet, “grown without insecticides or pesticides” tropical fruit with a “hint of coconut”. A rare variety of the Florida orange it is not. What you will discover in an old citrus grove just East of Route 1, extending all the way to the Indian River, are the absolute BEST, locally grown pineapples your taste buds will ever encounter! We can thank Mark Dellerman, a citrus farmer for 25 years who channeled his passion & knowledge (while weathering multiple destructive freezes and hurricanes) to reinvent himself as the ‘Pineapple Man’.
Citrus is a family affair and soil is in Mark’s soul. His grandfather, Frank Bates, was a citrus pioneer. The family owned 900 acres of citrus groves in DeSoto & Indian River Counties, operating as Frank Bates Groves, Incorporated. Family has also owned the ‘pineapple’ property off Route 1 since the 1960s. Mark’s wife, Cindy, is the step-daughter of Fred Peterson, another well known “citrus” family.
Mark can be found most days, in the groves tending to the 25,000 plants that yield a “super sweet variety” of pineapple allowed “to ripen on the plant”. In the beginning (around 2003), Mark would collect & recycle discarded pineapple crowns from Publix and simply plant them in rows. After the plants flower (December through February), they take about 6 months to ripen. Harvesting generally occurs from July to September and he has quite a following that “swarms the roadside stand on Saturdays during the summer”! Chefs at Chelsea’s on Cardinal, John’s Island, Orchid Island, Windsor, Quail Valley, Osceola Bistro, Ocean Grill and other fine food establishments compete for these pineapples and buy what they can, year round.
Pineapple has been savored and considered a symbol of hospitality since the days of the early American colonies. The fruit’s legacy in the U.S. began with the sea captains of New England, who sailed among the Caribbean Islands and returned to the colonies bearing their cargo of fruits, spices and rum. Sea captains would spear a pineapple on a fence post outside their homes to inform friends of their safe return from sea. The pineapple was an invitation for them to visit, share food and drink, and listen to tales of their latest adventures & voyages.
These fruits of Mark’s labors, are yet another example of the wonderful treasures found in and around our Treasure Coast. Whether you take a drive up Route 1 to find Pineapple Man’s “hidden” gem or savor the flavor at a local restaurant, DO take the time to sample these sweet treats. Once you do, pineapple from any other source shall never compare!
Nature Farms, Inc., Mark Dellerman, 9150 N US Highway One, Sebastian, FL 32958, 772.538.6066
“Like” Nature Farms Inc. on Facebook or find them @ http://www.localharvest.org/nature-farms-inc-M15622
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