On Friday, April 26, 2019, Marco Island will celebrate Earth Day and Arbor Day by planting a sweet tamarind tree at 11 AM in Calusa Park (1500 block of Winterberry Drive between Pheasant Court and Persian Court).
This annual event, presented by the Beautification Committee and chaired this year by Becky Irwin, marks the first planting of what will become Marco Island’s own “food forest” and community garden in Calusa Park.
Along with Becky Irwin, Allyson Richards of the Parks and Rec Committee, Al Benarroch owner of Affordable Landscape, and Elsa Grifoni, community volunteer, planned the event and continue to work toward what will eventually be an edible oasis open to the public to be enjoyed by all.
Says Irwin, “Our food forest will essentially be a botanical garden which highlights tropical and subtropical edible species that grow well in Southwest Florida. The purpose of this garden is to be educational, aesthetically pleasing and practical, with the public enjoying the overall experience as well as tasting the seasonal fruits. There are already so many edible fruits that grow in our landscapes, from cocoplums to sea grapes to Surinam cherries to ginger just to name a few. Most people have no idea how bountiful our island is! A food forest is such a unique way to enhance this large beautiful park with a practical, fun and educational attraction for our community. We look forward to showcasing a diverse variety of edible plants in the coming years.”
More fruit trees, shrubs and plants are already being planned for the park. The first tree selected for Friday’s planting is a sweet tamarind (tamarindus indica), perfect for this location. Growing 80 to 100 feet tall, it loves heat and sun and is very drought and salt tolerant as well as wind resistant. The sweet fruits are encased in long pods and are widely used in Indian and Caribbean cuisines.
The public is invited to attend Friday’s ceremony and stay involved as the food forest grows over the next few years. City Council will read a proclamation, Marco Island Charter Middle School Jazz Band will play, and refreshments will be served. The tree is donated by Affordable Landscape.