by Thomas Miller – Food Blogger / Restaurant Critic for Vero Vine
I’m sure most of us have driven by Nature Farms, Inc. a 100 times, and never knew what lurked just a few hundred feet off of the road. I know, because I’m one of them! I’m so glad someone told me about this place, it’s truly a hidden gem on the treasure coast. My wife and I had the pleasure of getting a behind the scenes tour last weekend. Keep reading to learn a little bit more about this hidden gem and to find out when you can get your hands on some of the best pineapple I’ve ever tasted!
Nature Farms, Inc is located just off of US Hwy 1 in Sebastian, Florida, and is only a stone’s throw away from Hale Groves. By the time you see Hale Groves you may have passed it, so look for the sign on Saturday’s during season, which usually runs from July til about September. Mark Dellerman is the man in charge and the one who gave us the tour of his farm. Mark has been in the citrus industry for most of his life. His grandfather, Frank Bates was a citrus grower. They had over 900 acres of citrus groves in DeSoto & Indian River Counties. The property where they grow the pineapples has been in the family since the 1960’s and is approximately 25 acres in size, although he is only utilizing 10 of that for the pineapples. Each year he harvests on average 15,000 – 20,000 pineapples.
To prepare the land to grow the pineapples when he first got started around 2003, Mark had organic wood grindings from other farms in the area brought in to build up the soil, and prepare if for growing the pineapples. He added layer after layer of it until it was almost 4 feet thick, mowing over it to help compact and grind it to a finer consistency. The pineapples are planted on raised beds and fertilized with chicken manure and dolomite lime. The raised beds are then covered with plastic to help them hold their shape and keep the weeds under control. Below is a new bed Mark was preparing for more pineapples.
Once the soil was ready, in the beginning Mark would collect and recycle discarded pineapple crowns from Publix and simply plant them in rows. Once the plants flower (December – February), they take about 6 months to ripen. The pineapples are also grown without the use of insecticides or pesticides, which is very important to people these days. While he follows organic practices, he is not a certified organic grower, due to the extra cost and paperwork involved with getting the certification. This season, Mark told me that he is growing a new variety of pineapple he is calling the “Indian River Gold”. This new variety is larger and has incredible tropical flavor, and is a little bit sweeter than his normal variety.
One of the biggest problems Mark has on the farm are raccoons. Just like us, they love that sweet taste of the pineapple too! The easy thing to do would be to trap and kill them, but Mark does not believe in killing them. Once they have been caught in a live trap, he takes and releases them back into the wild away from the farm. Mark says they are getting smarter too, as he is trapping less of them lately. He uses sardines, peanut butter, and even has tried fresh diced up pineapple in the traps to get them, yet they seem to know and avoid the traps most of the time. Check out this pineapple below we found while on our tour that got eaten by a raccoon.
Mark is expanding his offerings as well. He has some avocado and mango trees and expects a small amount of avocado to be ready by the end of October. No word yet on when the Mango’s would be ready, so make sure you follow him on Facebook to know when they are available. The picture below is of his avocado trees.
Let’s dive right in and see how much better these are than your grocery store variety actually is.
We bought one from a local grocery store almost 2 weeks ago, and it is now just starting to ripen. We also got one from Mark this past weekend, 4 days ago. The picture above is of the two of them together. Can you tell which one is which?
The picture above is with the tops cut off.
The picture above is of the bottom with a 1/4 inch cut off. Wow, you can really see the difference in this picture!
Now both of them next to each other with the skin off.
The way I cut them from here is to quarter them from the top, using the core as the center point. I cut straight down, and turn 90 degrees, then cut again while still all together, once again using the core as the center line. Once cut into quarters, you can simply cut the core off of each spear, then slice and eat. The next picture below is 4 sections that I cut from both pineapples, for a side by side comparison, and as you can see, the one on the left is from Nature Farms, Inc and the one on the right is the one from the local grocery store.
WOW, what a difference it makes when you get them fresh from the farm! Mark’s pineapple is definitely sweeter, and I did notice a “hint” of coconut in them too. If you are new to his pineapples, or a regular customer, be sure to visit him on Saturday’s from 10:30am till 3:30pm or until he runs out for the day. This Saturday, June 25th is the Grand Opening for this season, so be sure to get there early, as I’m sure they will sell out quickly!
Thank you for reading our review of Nature Farms pineapple.
Nature Farms, Inc., Mark Dellerman, 9150 N US Highway One, Sebastian, FL 32958,
“Like” Nature Farms Inc. on Facebook for all the latest information and product availability