A garden sanctuary: For an out of this world experience, check out what the monks are growing

The Wat Mongkolratanaram or Buddhist Temple Monk

The Head Monk teaching about The Buddha at The Wat Mongkolratanaram or Buddhist Temple in Fort Walton Beach.

Laura Hall | The Log
Published: Friday, November 9, 2012 at 06:01 PM.

I hardly know where to begin to explain the marvelous experience I had in Fort Walton Beach at The Wat Mongkolratanaram or Buddhist Temple in Florida.

Here in a quiet neighborhood of shaded trees, you will find a bustling Sunday market overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables that you have to see to believe.

One of the vendors, Ann, had a large market stand that held small berry like things she said were eggplant and Thai watercress that looked like something the alligators would like to hide in.

I was captivated with a box of dark wine, scary looking fruit, covered with soft spiny tendrils that made me reluctant to pull out a handful of them for closer inspection. This fruit, about the size of a plum, looked like fiery, angry balls of lava just spit out of a volcano. Ann assured me that I had completely misinformed myself as to its splendiness (when needed I make up these good words); so; she placed her thumbs on this fruit, dug in and popped out the most glorious, shimmering white fruit that was luscious to the palate.

I bought an entire pound and what I don’t eat, I will use in a floral arrangement for Halloween. This market and eat-a-thon goes on every Sunday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at 741 Mayflower Avenue in Fort Walton, and everyone is given a warm welcome to come in and explore the food markets, enjoy the grounds and peek into the Buddhist temple. If you are lucky you might catch a glimpse of the monks from the temple dressed in their bright orange attire.

You can pick and choose from an array of wondrous food cooked right in front of you. All of the food is reasonably priced, fresh, and unusual to many there, including myself, but everyday life cuisine to others. It is a great way to take the entire family out for a unique dining experience under the cool shade trees where you will find many inviting picnic tables that are available for seating on a first come, first serve basis.

There is a small garden in the back that contains some of the longest beans I have ever seen, some pepper plants along the fence and guava trees providing salad makings. Within the courtyard you will find persimmon, loquat and grapefruit trees. When you get ready to eat, first of all you exchange your money for tokens which you use to buy food from the many vendors.

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