It’s lime time! Keys’ Lime Festival celebrates our signature fruit

Key lime pie is on almost every restaurant menu in the Keys.
Key lime pie is on almost every restaurant menu in the Keys.

The Florida Keys’ sweetest treat is to be in the “limelight” July 1 to 4 as fans of Key lime pie salute the island chain’s signature dessert and the tiny fruit that inspired it.

The fifth annual Key Lime Festival is to include a Key lime pie-eating contest, a cocktail stroll, culinary outings and samplings of Key lime pie and locally distilled rum flavored with the tangy lime. The event was conceived by Keys author and baker David Sloan, who penned “The Key West Key Lime Pie Cookbook.”

Believed to have originated in Key West in the late 1800s, Key lime pie was designated Florida’s official pie in 2006 by the state Legislature. Its primary ingredients are condensed milk, egg yolks and the juice of the yellow Key lime, with the filling typically nestled in a graham-cracker crust and topped with whipped cream or meringue.

Festival events scheduled July 1 are a wacky test of gravity’s effects on the creamy pie. The Key Lime Cocktail Sip & Stroll is set for 2 p.m., with participants sampling Key lime martinis, margaritas and other limey libations at local watering holes and voting for their favorites.

Among July 2’s temptations is the Key Lime Pie Hop, a leisurely “moveable feast” where lime lovers can stroll to multiple locations to savor variations on the dessert, including an Oreo-crusted version at the pie’s presumed birthplace.

People can spend noontime July 3 touring the Key West First Legal Rum Distillery, 105 Simonton St., and taste rum flavored with local limes. Those who prefer cuisine to cocktails can take a 6 p.m. Key lime cooking class from distillery owner and chef Paul Menta at Isle Cook Key West, 218 Whitehead St.

The festival’s undisputed annual highlight is the Mile-High Key Lime Pie Eatin’ Contest set for July 4, at the Ocean Key Resort at 0 Duval St. Contestants must attempt to devour an entire pie, topped with mounds of whipped cream, without using their hands while trying to outpace their rivals and beat the pie-eating record of 62 seconds. Doors open at 10 a.m. and the contest begins at 11.

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