Key West Celebrates Key Limes

Jul 6, 2015

Tony Mantia, left, has his face buried in Key lime pie during the Mile High Key Lime Pie Eatin' Contest Saturday, July 4, 2015, in Key West, Fla. The winner was the person who consumed the 9-inch-in-diameter pastry the fastest without using hands.
Credit Rob O'Neal / Florida Keys News Service

While Americans all over the country were celebrating the Fourth of July with pies, and apple pie is considered a national emblem, Key Westers were devoting themselves to the island chain's signature fruit — the Key lime.

The annual Key Lime Festival celebrates the small, yellow limes with the distinctive flavor. The event includes a bar stroll, book signing, talent show, and of course pies. There was a pie-eating contest, Key West's answer to the Coney Island hot dog ritual, and a pie-making competition, which provided the opportunity for lots of pie tastings.

"Key lime pie is kind of magical," said David Sloan, one of the festival organizers and author of "The Key Lime Pie Cookbook." "As silly as that sounds, it has the tartness and it has the sweetness. And it really is like magic when it dances around on your tongue. You get both flavors back and forth. It just really rounds things out and you're like, 'Ah. That's what heaven's like.'"

Festival attendees were enjoying the tart flavor of the Key lime and the different crusts from the competition pies.

David Sloan is the author of the Key Lime Pie Cookbook and an organizer of the Key Lime Festival.
Credit Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Key West Mayor Craig Cates, a native of the island, said that when he was a kid and candy was scarce, they would make do with Key limes.

"We used to take the Key limes and peel them and dip them in sugar," he said. "That was like our little dessert."

In the audio clip below, Key West locals profess their love for the island's fruit. Take a listen: