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Branch out for new fruits — and Key lime pie

What’s Cooking in Illinois: The Robert Is Here fruit stand in South Florida specializes in rare and exotic fruits, and credits its start to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Here’s why, plus their favorite Key lime pie recipe.

Charlyn Fargo Ware

May 13, 2024

3 Min Read
A close up of a pile of limes
LIMES: You need a pound of these Key limes to make a Robert Is Here Easy Key Lime Pie.Charlyn Fargo Ware

Many of us love to meander through a farmers market or stop at a roadside farm stand on a Saturday morning. This time of year, they’re up and running with a few first offerings of spring: lettuce, spinach, peas, garlic shoots.

However, a recent trip to southern Florida showed me most Midwestern farm stands only scratch the surface of what we could be finding.

There’s a famous market called Robert Is Here in Florida City, near Miami, that specializes in rare and tropical fruits.

The Robert is Here market dates to 1959, offering produce most of us have never tasted. Founded by Robert and Tracey Moehling and their family, it’s famous for fresh fruit milkshakes and homemade Key lime pie — plus a petting zoo and menagerie of birds.

What sets this place apart is the incredible customer service. Just ask and they will peel a pineapple or cut a mango or two for you. The farm stand is a destination for schoolchildren, travelers and the locals.

In addition to Key limes (buy a pound to make a pie), you can find:

  • jackfruit, the largest tropical fruit, with a sweet pineapple-vanilla flavor

  • Haden mangoes

  • pomelo grapefruit, which are bigger than softballs

  • Carla avocados

  • tropical caimito, or star apple

  • red alama, which tastes like raspberry yogurt

  • guanabana or soursop, which tastes like pineapple cotton candy

  • water coconuts

  • tamarind, which tastes like SweeTarts

  • mamey sapote, which tastes like a strawberry pumpkin cheesecake

Robert Moehling got his start back in Illinois, oddly enough, thanks to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. His parents farmed nearby, and when the airport expanded, they sold the land and moved south to Dade County, Fla. They bought land to grow mangoes and much more and started the farm stand.

Robert was 6 years old when the family moved — just old enough to sell some of his father’s cucumber crop. His father placed a sign on each side of the table piled with cucumbers, proclaiming in big red letters “Robert Is Here.” The following weekend, a neighboring farmer added tomatoes to Robert’s display, and the farm stand was born. By the time Robert was 9 years old, he hired a neighbor lady to work for him while he was in school. He brought his first 10-acre piece of property when he was 14 years old, planted an avocado grove on it and rented out the house.

Today the market specializes in rare and exotic fruits, and the family has 22 to 23 acres devoted to the super-sweet Haden mangoes, harvested from early May through July. They aim to have something for everyone, including beefsteak tomatoes, sweet corn, asparagus and, of course, cucumbers. What they don’t grow themselves, neighboring farmers supply. A retired firefighter grows 10 acres of jackfruit for the stand.

“Haden mangoes are the sweetest mangoes you’ll ever taste,” says Robert’s son Brandon. “You don’t get those in Illinois, nor any avocado except Hess. But there’s a whole lot more out there than what you get in your grocery store.”

Brandon is as passionate about the farm stand as his father. The business ships throughout the U.S. And if you ask, he’ll even give out the simple family recipe for Key lime pie.

Robert is Here Easy Key Lime Pie

4 egg yolks
1 can sweetened condensed milk
5 ounces Key lime juice
8-inch graham cracker crust
Meringue or whipped cream

Combine egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk, and mix well. Add lime juice a little at a time. Pour into an 8-inch graham cracker crust. Top with meringue and bake until brown, or top with whipped cream. Chill and serve.

About the Author(s)

Charlyn Fargo Ware

Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with Southern Illinois University Medical School in Springfield, Ill. Email recipe ideas to her at [email protected].

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