‘Know thy food’

Fresh summer salads, information about eating healthy shared during potluck dinner

Published in Sanibel-Captiva Islander July 29, 2015 issue

Community members were treated to an assortment of healthy, fresh summer salads that were made step-by-step last week by the co-owner of The Sanibel Sprout during the monthly potluck dinners at the Community House.

In addition to teaching those in attendance how to prepare summer salads and homemade dressings, Nikki Rood provided some information about why it’s important to fuel the body with healthy foods.

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Rood, who owns the shop located near Bailey’s with her mom, moved to Sanibel from Miami three years ago when her mom was suffering from Leukemia. The two decided to work on her mom’s diet to see if that would help her health.

“I said do you want to try and tackle this and take this on and see what a plant based whole food, no chemical, diet might make a change in your condition,” she said. “She was completely game. For a month every single morning I cooked for her or prepared for her all plant based (foods.)”

In three months time, a visit to her mother’s oncologist confirmed that a plant based diet was beneficial.

“In three months she went to her oncologist and her numbers were fabulous. The guy wanted to know what she did and we just laughed all the way home,” Root said. “She has never turned back and it is now three or four years later.”

Rood, a firm believer that food is medicine, shared her philosophy with the crowd, “Let food by thy medicine . . know thy food.”

Before she took those in attendance through the preparations of chilled almond curried salad, arugula and fresh pear salad and island coconut quinoa confetti salad she shared some information about the role food has with health.

“Everyday there is new research coming out on how our food sources have been poisoned if you will,” Rood said. “This isn’t sensationalism. This is proven fact. The rash of the epidemic of chronic disease, like cancers and autoimmune disease, inflammatory diseases, it’s starting to look like the food source has been a large part of the problem. All of the problem, no. As a civilization there are many things going on. But I think if we move back towards the way we used to eat . . .good healthy nutritious organic food that isn’t sprayed and manipulated and processed and sitting on a shelf for five years before we even touch it.”

She told the crowd that there is vitality in fresh food that offers an aliveness, which translates to the body.

“When you eat it you can feel the difference between eating a fresh vibrant salad and fit and a McDonald’s burger,” Rood said. “You can feel the heaviness in your body or you can feel the light.”

The dialogue of fresh foods, she believes should continue, so people can take the power back from big farms and big agriculture entities.

“Everybody’s body is different and for me to sit up here and tell you, you should eat a certain way is disingenuous,” Rood said. “I am here to show you some healthy options and some fun ways to make some tasty foods that are really going to fuel your body instead of harm your body.”

Information about acid alkaline, and wheat and gluten were discussed while she prepared the various salads.

Lemons are a great source for acid that is good for the body. A glass of water with a slice of lemon, Root said is a great way to start the day.

She said more and more people are forming allergies to gluten and wheat because an individual’s digestive tract becomes compromised from a lifetime of ingesting various chemicals found in foods.

“You can get a heavy feeling or it can actually cause depression, inflammation,” Root said. “If you are feeling not well in many cases you may be eating an inflammatory diet without recognizing it and that will wreak havoc to your sleep cycles and your digestion.”

‘Recipes to CROW About’

‘Recipes to CROW About’

CROW set to launch first ever cookbook

Published in Sanibel-Captiva Islander July 29, 2015 issue

A unique fundraising effort that includes the public’s participation of an original idea created by one of CROW’s volunteers is in full swing.

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Cecilia Tweedy, head of the CROW cookbook committee and longtime volunteer, said the idea of creating a cookbook surfaced in February after brainstorming fundraising ideas. She said on a whim she created a proposal and shared it with the executive director of CROW, who told her to run with the cookbook idea.

The adventures of figuring out how to put a cookbook together began as she visited stores seeking information and ideas about what paper to use for the cookbook, as well as which printers to use.

“They were explaining things in a different language,” she said laughing. “I don’t understand bond and thickness, all of which I had samples of.”

With not fully grasping all the information that was shared, Tweedy decided to contact The Sanibel School and ask if she could meet with someone from the art department. The phone call put her in touch with Tylor Stewart and 10 fifth grade students.

Tweedy said Stewart and her students were writing an organic cookbook at the time because they have an organic garden at the school.

“I met with the children at the school and was honestly overwhelmed,” she said.

After arriving at the school, Tweedy was greeted by 10 kids with folders who introduced themselves through a handshake. She said after she explained her problem the kids opened their folders and one at a time asked three questions, some of which included what is your marketing plan and what size cookbook do you want to use.

“Throughout the whole process these 10 children, who have submitted 10 recipes, have been totally supportive of this book and of CROW,” Tweedy said. “They helped me choose the bond and the size of the cookbook. Incredible. Incredible.”

Since the children became supportive of CROW she asked how many had visited the facility, which resulted in about half of them raising their hand. On Feb. 19, the 10 children were led on a tour of the entire facility, which resulted in them becoming bigger ambassadors and supporters of CROW.

“Their power, plus the proposal got me going . . . got me on track and I knew where I had to go,” Tweedy said.

From there, she formed a committee of folks who volunteer at CROW who met on a weekly basis. On April 24, the committee felt they had a great handle on how the cookbook will look and what it will contain.

The philosophy of the cookbook is “healthy recipes written with clarity.”

“From the design of the cover to the separation of categories, to the dedication is just spectacular. It’s going to be a legacy for CROW, honestly,” Tweedy said. “It’s going to be really wonderful. We chose great colors and I think everybody is going to be really thrilled with it.”

The cookbook, which bares the name “Recipes to CROW About featuring Taste of the Island Restaurants,” will contain 250 recipes from such groups as the 27 restaurants who participate in Taste of the Islands, CROW volunteers and the general public.

The community can submit recipes by emailing them to crowrecipes@gmail.com. Tweedy said those interested should include the name of the recipe, ingredients and their name in the email. The committee is taste testing the recipes before they are formatted for the cookbook.

Those who wish to contribute are asked to send the recipes as soon as possible, so they can be formatted for the cookbook.

“I got 27 recipes from Facebook,” Tweedy said Thursday morning. “Most of which are from island people and volunteers.”

The cookbook is split into five categories – appetizers, main dishes, vegetarian dishes, soup and salad and dessert. Throughout the cookbook five inserts will be included providing helpful hints for cooking.

Tweedy said she hopes to launch the cookbook at Taste of the Islands.

“The profits will go towards CROW,” she said, adding “Not only are we going to produce a cookbook for $20, but it’s an eBook as well. You can take your cookbook anywhere you want.”

“Recipes to CROW About,” will also be available on Amazon.

“It will be a healthy contribution for CROW in terms of profit because we all have done the work,” Tweedy said.

‘Nature provides us with surprise’

‘Nature provides us with surprise’

Alexandra Cousteau shares her story during Float for Life event

Published in Sanibel-Captiva Islander July 22, 2015 issue

Alexandra Cousteau captivated a few audiences with her stories about the ocean and how exploration of the waters was discovered more than 40 years ago.

The guest speaker, who is the granddaughter of Jacques Cousteau, traveled from Berlin, Germany to speak at the Sunday, July 12, Float for Life event on Fort Myers Beach and later at the Sanibel Sea School.

Once the 75 participants of the 2nd annual Float for Life completed the first portion of the event, they gathered under a large white tent near Pink Shell Resort and Marina to listen to Alexandra share her story.

She took the audience on a journey, which involved many memories with her grandfather.

Alexandra Cousteau

Alexandra Cousteau

The voyage started in the 1950s when no one knew what was under the surface of the ocean. Although Jacques had been like James Bond as the French intelligence for the Navy, he found his true passion while on leave from the service.

“He actually encountered his passion like many of us do totally by accident,” Alexandra said. “He originally wanted to be a fighter pilot. He dreamt of flying and not diving.”

While driving on windy roads to a wedding in South France while on leave, Jacques had a really bad car accident that broke his back and took the use of both of his arms. Although the doctors wanted to amputate his arms, he refused, replying “calm down, I’m going to fix it.”

Alexandra said her grandfather worked for several months just to move his tiny pinky finger. A suggestion from a good friend of swimming in the warm waters of the Mediterranean to build his strength, furthered his recovery.

“As he looked down, he saw things that no longer exist in the Mediterranean,” she said. “He saw three to 400 pound groupers and all sorts of extraordinary marine life. He said wait ‘I want to go deeper. I want to stay longer. I want to be able to really understand what is down there.'”

When Jacques’ passion for the ocean developed, tools of exploration had not yet been created, which encouraged him to invent the aqua lung.

“He tested it and tested it and almost lost his life several times. It was an incredible thing,” Alexandra said. “When you look at exploration over the course of the past thousand years, more than anything else, it is exploration that has shaped our civilization. It’s the 1500’s when the Europeans set out from Europe and sailed around the world and conquered a few people and spread some disease. But, they began the process of globalization and finding out what is beyond their own shore.”

She said her grandfather’s tool, the aqua lung, shifted how individuals understand the world.

“He pulled back the curtain on 70 percent of this planet and showed us what was there . . . the sharks, the sea otters, the fish, the whales, the dolphins and then he helped us understand the connections that those creatures and those places have on us,” Alexandra said. “He inspired people from around the world to want to explore and discover the ocean.”

As a very tall and skinny 7 year old, she had the opportunity to go scuba diving for the first time with her grandfather. Alexandra admitted that she learned how to swim before she could walk so she was very comfortable in the water.

However, when she stood on the side of the boat looking at the black water, those feelings changed to being sacred.

“I didn’t exactly want to tell him I was scared,” Alexandra said. “So I looked up at him, he winked at me and he pushed me.”

A tentative breath was taken and then another breath, which gave her courage to swim down 20 feet. When Alexandra stopped and looked at the ocean’s surface she witnessed a school of small silver fish. With the help of a light shining through the water, she noticed the fish were swimming towards her.

“When I reached out they would move away and when I pulled my hand back they would move back in,” she explained. “It was sort of this incredible thing that I experienced and it shifted something inside of me and made me more courageous and made me more curious and made me want to go deeper and stay longer.”

Passion of learning more about the ocean and environment was instilled in Alexandra as a young girl, often times through adventures had with her grandfather.

“I like to go find what is there because in a highly regulated environment that we have created with our civilization, nature provides us with surprise. It provides us with an opportunity to not be able to suspect what is going to happen next,” she said. “I think that more than anything else, it makes us feel truly alive when we are in nature. When we are encountering the unknown and feeling amazed by it, even if it’s just a few thousand small fish, they have the ability to amaze us and become something to remember for the rest of our life.”

Although many of Alexandra’s favorite places as a young girl are no longer around, she still has hope for the ocean and land.

“Here in the United States and around the world are communities that come together and protect what they love because those places define them and those places are part of their legacy,” she said. “They come together to reclaim, restore and protect these places that they love. When enough people protect what they love at home then we can shift the moment. We can reclaim these places and pass them onto our children.”

Alexandra’s meet and greet at the Sanibel Sea School began by sharing similar stories of her grandfather and how he created the aqua lung. She then took questions from the audience, so they could direct where the conversation lead.

‘Something magical happens’

‘Something magical happens’

Float for Life event attracts larger crowd for second annual event
Published in Sanibel-Captiva Islander July 22, 2015 issue

Seventy-five individuals reunited with the ocean on Fort Myers Beach while floating on their backs in an effort for them to fall in love with the water, which in turn will encourage them to become stewards of the ocean.

Seventy-five people participated in the second annual Float for Life event on Fort Myers Beach.

Seventy-five people participated in the second annual Float for Life event on Fort Myers Beach.

“Two years ago Roy and I moved to Palm City on the east coast of Florida,” Shelley Lynch said. “The devastation of the waters and the death of marine life were so painful for us. We felt so powerless, so we decided we wanted to be apart of the solution. One day we said, ‘you know we float people for a living, let’s float them for our oceans.'”

That thought ignited the inaugural Float for Life event last year on Fort Myers Beach.

A quote from Mother Theresa, “If you ask me to march against something I won’t join you. If you ask me to march for something I will be there,” made the thought into reality. The first event attracted 55 people within six months of promoting the event last year.

“We are here to float for our waters, marine life, for our eco system that supports us and gives so much to us,” Lynch told the 75 participants this year through tearful eyes. “This topic is so emotional and passionate for me that I want to cry because it is so important.”

Lynch grew up on the Florida coast in a little town when kids were able to roam freely. She spent countless hours on the beach, in the Gulf of Mexico and in the intercostal waters that were lined with massive mangroves that were used to play make believe house.

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“It was really where I fell in love with the ocean,” Lynch said. “I feel like it was my third parent. It was my solace.”

Her husband, Roy Desjarlais grew up on the canals of Cape Coral where he spent countless hours finding ways to be in or near the water.

“The love of the water became ingrained very early,” he said. “So that is really the heart and passion for me when it comes to Float for Life. We are both therapist wanting to help people.”

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The participants separated into groups of three and headed for the ocean near Pink Shell Resort and Marina Sunday, July 12. Each member of the group floated for 10 minutes while the other two group members provided assistance with their head and legs.

“We want things to be on a really positive note when you connect with the water. When you are positive, when you have that connection, you tend to love things and care for things,” Desjarlais said.

Fort Myers resident Paula Reiss attended the event for the first time this year because Jacques Cousteau has had a major impact on her life. She said she met him many years ago, which resulted in scuba diving and being actively involved with water quality issues.

“It was a very interesting experience,” she said of floating. “You don’t feel like anything is going on around you until you go vertical.”

Once Reiss went from the horizontal to vertical position she said it resembled the “feeling you get when you wake from a good sleep.”

Other participants described their experience as feeling safe, incredibly peaceful and it allowed them to tune into how their body was feeling. Another participant said “the rough waves out there weren’t ideal, but it’s kind of representative of life in a way.”

Alexandra Cousteau and Roy Desjarlais.

Alexandra Cousteau and Roy Desjarlais.

Guest speaker Alexandra Cousteau, Jacques Cousteau’s granddaughter, said it was really exciting for her to see everyone floating and enjoying the ocean.

“I hope that we will take something away from this day and that will be some renewed conviction that everything you do matters and every single choice you make has a consequence . . . that it doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” she said.

In addition to participants, the Float for Life event also attracted many volunteers that assisted before, during and after the festivities.

Edie Gleason, a Sanibel resident, said she wanted to volunteer because she loves the ocean and believes in the importance and connection between the health of the water, environment and everyone’s actions.

“I encourage people to think and support government issues,” she said.

The event’s beneficiary this year was the Sanibel Sea School, which resulted in a presentation from Cofounder and Executive Director Bruce Neill. He shared with the crowd that the Sanibel Sea School’s mission is to improve the ocean’s future one person at a time through marine conservation and education.

Sanibel Sea School Cofounder and Executive Director Bruce Neill

Sanibel Sea School Cofounder and Executive Director Bruce Neill

“Very quickly we are all going to realize that conservation is the true economic way to do things. It is the most cost effective way to do things in the future,” Neill said. “Humans don’t change our behavior based on data. We don’t read numbers and say ‘oh geez, I shouldn’t be doing that.’ We change our behavior based on emotions. At the very root of conservation is an emotional attachment to that thing.”

He classified the work between Lynch, Desjarlais, guest speaker Alexandra Cousteau and the Sanibel Sea Schools as a perfect union.

“It is conservation that is hooked to an emotional content of how we feel about the environment that sustains us,” Neill said.

Float for Life is similar to the Sanibel Sea School’s soul floats, which also connects individuals with the ocean.

“We like to cover our chests and we tend to not open our chest because it tends to leave us vulnerable,” Neill said. “So when we lie on the ocean and open our arms to allow us to float . . . when we open our arms and we open our chest something magical happens. We become reunited with the ocean and not only do we heal ourselves, we reinvigorate the love for the ocean.”

One of the main messages participants took away from the event was how to become better stewards of the water.

“To me what that means is take personal responsibility for our immediate environment,” Desjarlais said. “Embrace personal stewardship and create a new habit or embrace the old one and let that ripple out.”

‘There is nothing more American’

‘There is nothing more American’

Bring your dogs to the next Miracle game

Published in Sanibel Captiva Islander July 22, 2015 issue

Baseball fans and their four-legged friends are invited to attend the next Miracle baseball game this Friday at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.

Illy and Lucy.

Illy and Lucy

“There is nothing more American than baseball and bringing your dog out to the game,” Bill Levy, director of ticket operations and sales advisor for Fort Myers Miracle, said.

This Friday’s game, July 24, at 7:05 p.m. against the Tampa Yankees, marks the fourth “Dog Daze of Summer” program offered at the stadium. The final and fifth program offered this summer will be held on Friday, Aug. 14.

The program is a promotion Fort Myers Miracle began that has really taken off over the years. Levy said they are averaging anywhere from 150 to 200 dogs ranging from small to large each game. He said some people bring two or three dogs with them.

Illy and Lucy

Illy and Lucy

“This year we have seen a jump of (fans) taking their dogs to the game. It has seen growth every year the team has done it,” he said. “It’s probably one of our most anticipated programs. It has become a staple here. People look forward to it.”

Although there are no restrictions for the fan’s dogs, Levy said they ask that all dogs are kept on a leash, are well-behaved and not aggressive towards other dogs and fans. He said they want the dogs to complement the family-friendly atmosphere that Fort Myers Miracle offers.

The July 24 game will feature the Lee County Domestic Animal Service and its food drive. Attendees are asked to bring donations of dry and canned dog food, cat littler, wipes, tissues and paper towels. Levy said anyone that brings a donation will receive $2 off general admission tickets the day of the game.

Pet friendly vendors also will be present during the Friday game. Levy said Glamour Paws, Pet Supermarket and Invisible Fence are among some of the businesses that will be in attendance.

Illy

Illy

All American Pet Resort will have its mascot at the game and kiddie pools will be set up around Hammond Stadium for the dogs to splash in and cool off.

Andrea Miller with the Sanibel Recreation Center said they always try to pull together at least one activity a month for the community to enjoy. For the month of July they decided to provide tickets at the center for the “Dog Daze of Summer” Miracle Game this Friday.

“They give us a group discount rate,” she said, adding that residents and tourists can “come here and pick them up.”

Tickets, which are $9.75 for adults and children, are available at the Sanibel Recreation Center through Wednesday, July 22, or while supplies last.

The Sanibel Recreation Center is located at 3880 Sanibel-Captiva Road. For more information, call (239) 472-0345.

Lucy

Lucy

Levy encourages everyone, whether they enjoy baseball or not, to attend the game.

“This is just a fun event for everyone,” he said. “People seem to be more in a good mood when they are around dogs and animals. They have an extra step to them when people are around animals. (Animals) tend to bring out the best in people.”

Levy said the baseball players also get involved in the festivities while taking pictures with their fan’s dogs.

Tickets purchased at the stadium the night of the game are $8 for general admission and $10 for box seats.

‘Good food makes people happy’

‘Good food makes people happy’

Sanibel Secrets

Sanibel chef opens his home to a variety of animals

Published in the Sanibel-Captiva Islander July 8, 2015 issue

The backyard of Dave Krajnak’s home, which began as a sanctuary for many animals recovering from an injury, has become a forever home for many varieties of birds, turtles and iguanas over the years.   

He said he developed a love for animals as a young boy growing up in Wisconsin due to the proximity of farms surrounding his folks home. Krajnak said his wife Blanche’s, love of animals is partially why many of the animals were adopted, because she fell in love with each one as they took care of them.

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The couple worked with CROW for many years helping rescue animals – and on occasion provided a foster home for them. A number of their African sulcata turtle’s, the third largest tortoises in the world, came from CROW.

Krajnak said they purchased their first sulcata from a reptile fair in 2002 before additional tortoises joined the family as rescues. Two of them were found after hurricanes, and one was found walking on the island.

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The backyard has been turned into a sanctuary for the tortoises, providing ample opportunities to walk into huts Krajnak built to provide shelter. The yard, which is now sand, also gives the tortoises the opportunity to dig when they are feeling dehydrated.

He said after it rains, the tortoises flip mud onto their backs from the water that forms into puddles to stay cool. The tortoises also fling dry sand onto their backs, again to stay cool.

The tortoises eat eight or nine cases of romaine lettuce a week, which is a good water source for them. They also eat vegetables like zucchini and squash, as well as prickly pear.

Toby is the couple’s biggest sulcata tortoise, weighing in around 275 pounds.

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Others that share a smaller portion of the the backyard include the red foot and yellow-foot tortoises.

Cuban, blue rhino (otherwise known as a blue iguana), and regular iguanas can be found in large cages right off the back porch of his home, all ranging in size from small to large, and have many levels to enjoy in their habitat.

Krajnak said after you work and spend time with the iguanas, they become tame, which affords him with the opportunity to hold them when wearing gloves.

In addition to the reptiles, many songs can be heard while visiting Krajnak’s home from the cockatiel’s, a ring-neck parakeet that was found at Jerry’s Food’s, finches, and an African gray parrot. Two conure also call the Krajnak’s their home.

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He said when they took in Ricky, one of the two conures, he had no feathers and his skin was completely irritated. After drinking fresh water, the feathers started to grow back.

“When you get to know their attitude and activities it creates trust and it helps,” Krajnak said of the birds.

When Krajnak is not taking care of the animals, he is spending time at The Lighthouse Cafe, where he became the chef almost 26 years ago in 1989.

“I love playing with food,” he said. “Good food makes people happy.”

As the chef, Krajnak takes on the task of creating five or six specials a day for the “board” at the cafe. For dinner he creates a chef menu, often including a variety of available seasonal fish.

In addition to creating menu items at the restaurant, Krajnak also spends time preparing food for catering jobs, many of which are done through the restaurant. Often Blanche, who works at the bakery at Jerry’s Foods, helps with catering by baking desserts for the party.

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One of his longest catering gigs happened in 2004 when Hurricane Charley impacted the area. He cooked and prepared food alongside his wife for 11 straight days. What started off as serving 40 people ended with more than 100 by the end of the 11 days.

The idea sprang after the restaurants on the island were having a hard time keeping the food fresh without electricity. When that food started going bad, Sysco Foods began dropping off food to use.

The couple cooked food for such entities as law enforcement, Florida Wildlife and marine patrol during the cleanup effort.

A tent was erected and a table was set up, so the food could be served buffet style.

The menu included such meals as steaks, potatoes and corn to barbecue pork, beans corn on the cob and corn bread and sloppy joe’s, coleslaw and German potato salad.

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Many times Krajnak was escorted in by Scott Ashby of the Sanibel Police Department because of the standstill traffic on the island. He said the sirens were turned on and as he drove onto the causeway everyone began clapping and boats started to come in knowing there was good food to be enjoyed.

Mangos topic of Community House potluck dinner

Mangos topic of Community House potluck dinner

Mangos topic of Community House potluck dinner 

Published in Sanibel-Captiva Islander July 1, 2015 issue

The Community House came alive Wednesday night as individuals drifted into the facility with dishes in hand to share with others during the Wednesday potluck dinner and presentation by FruitScapes Owner Steve Cucura.

The large round tables filled with smiling faces as individuals caught up with friends and introduced themselves to some of the new faces that graced the center.

As attendees filled plates high with a variety of appetizers, entrees and desserts, they also had the opportunity to taste four different kinds of mangos that were at each table – Tommy Adkins, cogshall, nam doc mai and kent.

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FruitScapes owner Steve Cucura began his presentation by giving an overview of the history of mangos, which are indigenous to India. He said mangos do not have a big production in the United States and they are hard to import because of the time it takes to ship them into the states.

“I’m from Virginia originally and I grew up tasting mangos in the grocery store and hated them,” he said. “I tried them one time and I never ate a mango again when I was living up there. I thought that was just how mangos were. Mangos are not an American produce. They only grow it in Florida and very restricted areas in California.”

In the late 1980’s Cucura was introduced to the mango again after visiting with a friend in Sarasota, who had a mango tree that grew a variety of 15 different kinds on one tree.

“I thought it was pretty extravagant having so many different varieties on there,” he said.

After Cucura tried a mango fresh from a tree he became hooked and traveled to India where he was introduced to more varieties.

“They have selected and kind of human engineered better varieties,” Cucura said of mangos that started in India thousands of years ago.

From India, the mangos traveled throughout the tropics before being introduced to Miami in 1880. Mangos do well in Florida because the weather is similar to that of India. Cucura said in India they have a drought for eight or nine months and a monsoon season for two or there months, which is very similar to Florida.

“Our climate mimics the India climate very well,” he said making the mango tree the easiest fruit tree to grow in Florida.

The mango eventually made its way to Pine Island when groves were established in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The mango is significant to Pine Island because the land is cheap and there are not too many tourists because there are no beaches, he said

Cucura said the north end of Pine Island is the best place to grow mangos because it is south of Charlotte Harbor, which holds all the heat during the winter time.

Mangos only ripen during the summer because once the temperatures drop below 70 degrees they no longer go through photosynthesis. He said mangos need both heat and moisture to produce a fruit.

The peak mango season falls between the beginning of June to the end of August. Cucura said they have about 80 varieties of mangos that will ripen one week after another with July 4 being when the ripe mangos overlap the most.

Cucura also shared information on how the mango tree was initially grown, compared to how it is grown today at his nursery in Bokeelia. He said when producing fruit an individual has to take all the seeds from the tree and grow them, which usually amounts to 1,000 trees.

“Some of them will survive and some of them will not. Some of them will wind up making a lot of fruit and some of them will not,” Cucura said. “Some of them will be a sweet fruit and some of them will not. You go through and select and narrow it down to one out of the thousand seeds that you planted.”

The mango that bares the best smelling leaf typically is among the chosen plant because it means the fruit will have the most flavor.

“Any mango that doesn’t have a stronger smell in the leaf is eliminated almost at birth,” he said.

Mango trees typically grow between five to eight years before they bare fruit because of the juvenile period they go through.

However, mango trees at Cucura’s nursery are grown under different circumstances. Although he grows mango trees by seed, he cuts the top of the tree off when the seedling becomes about a foot in height. Once the top is cut off, Cucura then takes a branch from the mother plant and grafts it onto the seedling.

The process is similar to surgery due to the tree being wrapped up and bagged before being placed in the greenhouse for a couple of months, so it grows and recovers and becomes a clone.

“The root stock is still the seedling, but the top that gives you fruit is a clone of the nam doc mai and it will give you fruit even if its only this tall,” Cucura said showing his hand mid waist. “A grafted tree will give you fruit right away even if it’s small.”

The tree, which is one of the most salt tolerant fruit trees, does not take much care to keep alive. On average it grows two to three feet a year. He said the best way to take care of a mango tree is by placing mulch around the trunk to replace some of the nutrients that are depleted during the fruit baring process.

The next potluck at the Community House will be held on Wednesday, July 22 featuring nutritious summer salads from Executive Chef and The Sanibel Sprout Co-Owner Nikki Rood.