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Because it’s strange and beautiful and hot, people from everywhere converge on Florida and they bring their cuisine and their traditions with them. The Zest celebrates the intersection of food and communities in the Sunshine State.

It’s Easy Being Green At Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe

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It’s the quintessential Florida dessert: key lime pie. Pucker up for a conversation with the owner of Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe.

THE ZEST PODCAST: Listen to the episode

There’s no shortage of key lime pie joints in Key West—but we’re pretty sure only Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe has been name-checked on Jeopardy!.

Since the early 1990s, Kermit Carpenter has been peddling pies on the corner of Elizabeth and Greene streets.

“The corner became available where the story is located,” recalls Kermit—and yes, that’s his real name. “My sister said, ‘You have to do a theme. What do people come to Key West for?” And I said, ‘Key lime pie.’”

As a boy, the West Virginia native had learned to bake key lime pies from his snowbird grandmother, who wintered in Key West.

“It was all home training,” Kermit says. His humble beginnings paid off. Kermit sells hundreds of pies a day in his brick-and-mortar shop and online to customers who don’t mind paying a hefty sum to have a fresh pie overnighted to them.

Of course, Kermit’s pies aren’t the only game in town.

“There’s an awful lot of copycats… but most of them are trying shortcuts. They’re not using 100 percent key lime juice,” Kermit says of the fruit, which originated in Southeast Asia. “A Persian lime and a key lime are two different animals.”

Persian limes may be cheaper, but they’re a lousy substitute for key limes because they lack that signature tartness, Kermit warns.

His commitment to using real key limes has attracted locals and tourists alike, plus celebrity customers including Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown and Robin Roberts.

And they don’t just come for the pie. In addition to his signature desserts, Kermit sells nearly 200 key lime-infused items, including salad dressing, salsa, bath gel and lip balm.

His next endeavor? Key lime motor oil.

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