small bites

Natasha's Tropical Garden

By Vanessa Caceres / Photography By Daniel Perales | October 12, 2017
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Natasha Kossintseva has lived in Alberta, Canada, and even in Siberia in the past, but she’s a tropical gal at heart. That’s why she’s the force behind Natasha’s Tropical Garden in Venice, which boasts 26 varieties of mangoes and other tropical fruits.

When she was younger, the Ukraine native always enjoyed reading about faraway areas—but what fascinated her the most was discovering the types of plants and flowers grown in far-flung tropical places.

Even when she lived in notoriously chilly Siberia, Kossintseva tried to grow Meyer lemons.

When the Soviet Union’s Iron Curtain was still in effect, Kossintseva could not travel. “I would read about the plants that grow fruits, and I would try to imagine how they look,” she says. When she saw pictures of mango plants, she thought their supreme beauty was akin to orchids.

Later in life, she was able to travel more and fell in love with the lushness of the tropics during a cruise in the 1980s to the Philippines. Her husband, Anatoli, a computer programmer, later got a job in Canada, which led the family to that pretty but cold locale.

Fast forward to more recent years, and her husband took a job in Sarasota. Even when they lived in an apartment, Kossintseva grew papaya on their balcony. When they bought a half-acre property in Venice, she was able to open Natasha’s Tropical Garden, which includes a nursery. It’s been important to Kossintseva to operate all organic, without the use of pesticides and herbicides.

And her fascination with mangoes has continued. Kossintseva has continued to read about mango varieties and traveled to Miami to see the different types available there. Although she has only 15 mango trees, she’s grafted some of them so they can grow additional varieties.

Natasha’s Tropical Garden also grows avocadoes, jackfruit, and “delicious” guava, passionfruit, and muscadine grapes, in addition to certain seasonal veggies. Kossintseva likes to experiment growing different items, including sweet potatoes and eggplants, among others. Growing tropicals and even the vegetables has its challenges—there are pests, and she’s in a small space—but Kossintseva taps into her scientific background and constant learning to help think and plan strategically.

You can find fruits from Natasha’s Tropical Garden at the Central Sarasota Farmers’ Market, which opens again for the season in October. Or you can visit the garden in person. Kossintseva sells fruit trees and is more than happy to guide you through the growing process.

Kossintseva believes what she grows helps provide clean food to our local area. She also believes it’s important to contribute to the local, organic market. “When you can grow your own food, it’s satisfying. It also gives some relief for your budget,” she says. “We’re so lucky to have an endless season of growing. We live in paradise.”

Natasha’s Tropical Garden: 941-445-5107

Article from Edible Sarasota at http://ediblesarasota.ediblecommunities.com/things-do/natashas-tropical-garden
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