I went on my first vacation in five years last week. It was much needed and I especially enjoyed it because I did a lot of things I haven’t been able to do in a long time, like consuming my body weight in rum punch and key lime pie hitting up a flea market that happened to have a couple vendors selling fresh fruit and veggies.
The Big Pine Key Flea Market is a family-owned open market that’s been in business for over 25 years. It’s located at 30250 US HWY 1 in Big Pine Key, FL and is open from 8am to 2pm every Saturday and Sunday from October through July. They are open on Saturdays until 3pm in January, February, and March, though a few of the sellers seemed to be packing up a bit early when I visited. The market is closed to the public August through September.
For the most part, BPKFM appears to sells clothing, accessories, household goods, and souvenirs. There may be more tables with food during different parts of the year, but there were only three tents with fruit and vegetables, the fish fry shack, a couple of people selling homemade sauces, and a donut maker when I was there.
The produce sellers seemed to pretty much carry the same stuff: onions, cloves of garlic, mushrooms, corn, cucumbers, a few varieties of tomatoes, avocados, Key bananas, Key limes, mangoes, strawberries, and a number of colorful peppers.
We ended up pairing the peppers we picked out with hummus we made back at the house. It was quite good.
I was curious as to where the food originated from but the people working those booths didn’t interact with us much besides handing us bags to put items in and collecting our money. My friend believes a lot of it comes from mainland Florida and is what’s rejected by grocery stores (simply because there is a surplus or they don’t meet the standards) and then distributed throughout markets in the Keys. As far as I could tell, everything was ripe and ready to eat after a quick rinse. Prices are fair and actually quite a bit cheaper than purchasing from the chain grocers in the area.
My father always had a knack for purchasing mangoes when they were on sale but far from edible. He’d forget about them and they’d go bad by the time we remembered to check on them. That wasn’t the case here. The mangoes were just on the verge of turning and I bought 3 of them for $6. I ate one and left the others for my friend to make smoothies. The one I ate was the most substantial and flavorful mango I’ve ever had in my life. It was easy to peel and the fruit practically slid off the pit. Sadly, the Key bananas were not as impressive as the mangoes.
I had the fortune of checking out an antique shop in Key West where the owner grew her own bananas in her backyard. She offered me one and it was surprisingly citrusy. I don’t normally like bananas without a bit of green, but that one had caught me off guard in a good way. Unfortunately, the bananas at this market did not possess that same quality. Though, I will say that they were still better than any regular ripe banana.
If you’re looking for a ton of variety, this might not be the place to go; however, it’s worth a stop if you’re looking to do some serious shopping and pick up some food, too. You won’t save much money if you come just for the produce, but it’s definitely worth a stop if you make a day of it.