Monday, October 25, 2021

The Start of Marco’s Food Forest at Calusa Park

Marco Island celebrated Earth Day and Arbor Day recently by planting a sweet tamarind tree in Calusa Park. To mark this special event, Marco Island City Councilor Victor Rios read the Arbor Day Proclamation, which commemorated the 147th anniversary of Arbor Day.

In 1872, J. Sterling Morton proposed to the Nebraska Board of Agriculture that a special day be set aside for the planting of trees. This holiday was called Arbor Day and was first observed with the planting of more than a million trees in Nebraska and is now observed throughout the country and the world.

This annual event is hosted by the Beautification Advisory Committee (BAC). BAC Chair Becky Irwin advised everyone in attendance that “Every year, the City of Marco Island plant many trees, but today, is our ceremonial tree planting day, as we are designated a ‘Tree City USA’ by the National Arbor Day Foundation. Urban forests, trees, and green spaces, have numerous benefits and directly correlate to greater connection to neighbors.”

This is also 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 Recreation Committee, Al Benarroch, owner of Affordable Landscape Service, and Elsa Grifoni, a community volunteer, planned the event and will continue to work toward what will eventually be an edible oasis open to the public to be enjoyed by all.

Furthermore, Irwin stated that, “Our food forest will essentially be a botanical garden which will highlight tropical and sub-tropical 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. A food forest is a unique way to enhance Calusa Park with practical, fun and educational attraction for our community.”

The BAC selected the sweet tamarind (tamarindus indica) as the first fruit tree to be planted growing 80-100 feet tall; heat and sun loving; very drought resistant; salt resistant and wind resistant. The sweet tamarind will ultimately become a fairly large tree forming a beautiful spreading crown that will provide light shade. The fruits are encased in a long pod and are widely used in Indian and Caribbean cuisines.

The Jazzy Eagles, from Marco Island Charter Middle School, added music and festivities to the special event. Sloan Wheeler, a 6th grader, sang a moving rendition of the National Anthem.

A special thanks to Affordable Landscape Service for donating the sweet tamarind tree.

Fun Facts about Tamarind:

  • Did you know that tamarind extract is one of the secret ingredients of Worcestershire sauce?
  • Tamarind’s acidity makes it a great marinade for meat as it can break down and tenderize tougher cuts.
  • Tamarind makes a great base for chutneys, sauces, marinades and stews.


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