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HOMESTEAD FRUIT STAND "ROBERT IS HERE"
HAS BEST MILKSHAKES IN FLORIDA

Story and photos by

Just past Homestead, near the main entrance to Everglades National Park, huge white letters spell out: "Robert is Here" on the roof of a fruit stand.

Robert Moehling sells fresh Florida produce.
Robert Moehling sells fresh Florida produce.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Curious, we stopped to explore the open-fronted building. Mounds of crayon-colored grapefruits, tomatoes, avocados, grapes and oranges encircled the counter inside. Signs publicized passion fruit milkshakes, sea grape jelly and homemade key lime pies.

Key lime milkshakes

Robert Moehling was there, we discovered. The first thing he did was offer us juicy chunks of melt-in-your-mouth papaya. We perused the list of two dozen milkshakes and ordered the key lime flavor. "Key lime and guanabana (soursop) shakes are my favorites," said Robert, after we made our selection.

As we sipped on the creamy, sweet and tangy shakes, we asked him about the origins of the 'Robert is Here' sign. "My father used to grow vegetables and sell them at the market in town," he explained. "One day, in 1960, when I was seven years old, my Dad came home, saying he couldn't sell his cucumbers because the market was flooded with them. Rather than dump the cucumbers, he stationed me by the street so I could sell them to passers-by. I sat there all day Saturday and no one stopped."

Oranges
Oranges
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Robert paused to sell a customer some wine-colored globe grapes, each the size of a golf ball, then continued his story. "My father figured that people didn't stop because they couldn't see me," he said. "So, he took two hurricane shutters off the house windows, painted 'Robert is Here' on them, and put one on each side of me. I sold all the cucumbers that Sunday. From then on, I sold fruit and vegetables on weekends and after school."

Preserves, jams, jellies and relishes

Eventually, Robert's mother opened a small fruit stand. "When I was in class, she put out a cup, so people could deposit money inside for the produce they took," recalled Robert. Before long, his mother started selling mango and papaya preserves and other homemade jellies and relishes.

Robert's mother has since passed away, but a local company continues to make the preserves with her recipes. Robert has added additional specialties like key lime mangrove honey dressing, Florida avocado seafood sauce, mango chutney, guava butter, toasted coconut spread and spiced kumquats. There are more than 80 products, in addition to the fruits, vegetables, juices and shakes.

Bananas
Bananas
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Exotic fruit

Many of the fruits are truly exotic. Robert showed us the green pine cone-like monstera deliciosa. "As the fruit ripens and the kernels fall off, you slice off a little and eat it each day," he explained. "It tastes like a combination of apple, pear, banana and pineapple."

Robert grows most of the unusual fruits himself on his 10-acre farm. Fuyu persimmons. Grapefruit-like pomelo, the size of basketballs. Watermelon-shaped green jackfruit with a tangerine-colored flesh that tastes like banana, mango and peach. Pretty yellow star fruit (carambolas). Soursop (guanabana) fruit, with a flavor that mimics ripe pears and bananas.

But not everything has been peaches and cream for Robert and his family. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew struck, destroying everything. "We had to start from scratch again," said Robert.

Rather than take a low-interest loan from the government, he sold 2.5 acres of land to provide the cash for replanting groves and fields. "I don't have as big a farm now," he added, "but it is debt-free. Humans are a tough species. When pushed to the limit, they can bounce back."

Orange blossom honey

Nowadays, the fruit stand is filled with a cornucopia of colorful produce. A table offers samples of some of the honeys that Robert sells: wildberry, orange blossom, avocado, palmetto and wildflower.

Pineapples
Pineapples
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Behind the building, in a mini-zoo, a giant tortoise chows down on a watermelon. A transparent chimney allows honey bees to come and go. Their glass-enclosed honeycomb is a constant source of delight for children, as well as adults.

Mail order Florida fruit products

Visitors, who long for the preserves after they return home, can buy them by mail order. Unfortunately, Robert can't ship his key lime milkshakes. We resolved to return for more shakes, whenever we visit the Everglades.

Robert and his wife have four children, two girls and two boys, who worked at the fruit stand as they grew up. Robert's second son is also named Robert.

Driving directions to Robert is Here

From Miami, you can drive to Homestead on Hwy 1. Driving time is about one hour. Robert is Here is on the road to the main southern entrance to Everglades National Park, just past Florida City, on the corner of 192nd Avenue and SW 344th Street.

You can also drive the Florida Turnpike South to the corner of Hwy 1 and SW 344th street, where you turn right. Robert is Here is less than two miles west.

The fruit stand is open from 8 am to 7 pm every day, including holidays. It closes during September and October. Parking is free. Visitors can enjoy the fruit, key lime pie and milkshakes at picnic tables.

Strawberries
Strawberries
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Redland Tropical Trail

Robert is Here is a highlight of the Historic Redland Tropical Trail. Driving US Hwy #1 between Miami and Everglades National Park, visitors can take side trips to see the R.F. Orchids nursery, Schnebly Redland's tropical fruit winery, Bonsai Garden, the Coral Castle, Everglades Alligator Farm and Monkey Jungle.

After all that sightseeing, the refreshing fruit milkshakes at Robert is Here are a welcome treat.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

Robert Is Here: www.robertishere.com

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Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Miami Tours

Little Havana Miami - Cigars, Dominoes and Carnival

Miami Luxury Hotels

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