Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Fruitcation in Homestead to Celebrate our 22nd Anniversary




Craig and I decided to once again celebrate our anniversary with a trip to Homestead, Florida - the fruit capital of Florida.
We left our farm at 5am so we could arrive at Fruit and Spice Park at 9am. Arriving early gives access to the most fallen fruits to sample. We arrived at 9am and headed straight for the mangos in the back of the park. We started with the Po Pyu Kalay mangos - one of our favorites. We will post some videos of the mangos we tasted while at the park. You can subscribe to our YouTube channel here.








We then headed over to the cinnamon apple tree near the smaller greenhouse at the park. On the way, we came upon the Redland white sapote tree. Much of the fruit was damaged, but still delicious. I love the fruit - it is so perfumey. Craig much prefers Smathers and the seedling white sapote which is in the same area. We then continued on our way to the cinnamon apple tree. Much to my delight, there was one perfectly ripe, dropped cinnamon apple on the ground. In the past, I have only been able to taste fruit which was half eaten by insects.

We then took the 10am tour. We've taken a tour each trip to Homestead - each with a different guide - but all wonderful. We learn something new each time and are able to taste new fruits. This time, we were showed the Rhedia tree which has sweet fruit - in the past, we had only tried the sour fruits from one of the other trees. During the tour, we noticed the a'ea'e banana in the large greenhouse had ripe fruit on it. The new manager of the park was willing to have the bunch cut down after we asked.

After Fruit and Spice Park, we headed up to Coral Gables area to visit Fairchild Botanical Garden. We walked through the butterfly greenhouse and enjoyed seeing the new beetles and other insects on display. We then walked through the Whitman Pavilion which houses durian trees, mangosteen, and chupa chupa. Next, we walked through the palm collection looking for a palm we found last year which had fruit that smelled just like salt water taffy. We didn't find it, but came across many cute crabs, agamas,  basilisk, and iguanas. The sky suddenly turned black, so we headed out.





Our next stop was just right down the road. We went to the USDA Subtropical Research Station to pick up some plant material. Craig was able to find the jackfruit tree he ate the fruit off of during the fruit fly program last summer. The fruit was very unique and tasted a lot like butterscotch. The rag was edible and there was very low latex. He cut and bagged budwood to graft once we arrived back home.



The next morning, we had the pleasure of meeting up with Noris Ledesma at the Fairchild Farm. She brought out a beautiful box of Indian mangos shipped from India - and told us the story of the farm where they are grown. We were given one of the mangos and a bag of other mangos and mamey fruit. We headed out to the grove and looked at the beautifully pruned mango trees on the farm after walking through the beautiful arches of Rose Apple. Meeting with Noris is the highlight of our trips to Homestead.







Afterwards, we headed back to Fruit and Spice Park to sample more fruits before visiting our friend Don Chafin at his banana farm, Going Bananas. We enjoyed catching up, sampling bananas, and viewing the grove. We also picked up a jar of honey to bring back to my parents as a thank you for helping at our farm in our absence. My dad loves honey!




Friday afternoon, we stopped at Brothers Fruit Stand for Guanabana fruit and later to one of the many orchid stands along Krome Ave to pick up some orchids.


Saturday morning, started out with a great three hour class at Fairchild Farm taught by Noris. The class started with a sophisticated mango tasting. Noris shared with us how she learned about sophisticated tastings (think wine tastings) through a class on art of chocolate tasting in Europe. She did a great job of teaching us about setting up tastings according to geographical location of the fruit, smells, and comparative tasting. Such a treat! We then learned about growing mangos in Florida. Noris is growing organically at her farm and shared the difficulty being faced by fruit farmers in Florida due to low cost, imported fruit from Mexico. We learned about the cancer causing chemicals being used in Mexico to induce off season production, to satisfy the desire for typically seasonal fruits to be available year round. Florida fruit farmers are having to add value to fruit through tastings, better marketing, and niche markets. The class finished with a tour of the grove.








We then headed to Lara Farms to drop off some of our Purple Ambrosia passion fruit vines and picked up some loquat scions Craig had been wanting and some fruit trees. We then stopped at Pine Island Nursery to pick up some different jackfruit tree varieties.






Our final stop was Fruit and Spice park for a short visit during their Summer Fruit Festival. Because of all of the fruit trees and scions we had collected, we decided to head back home early Sunday morning. 


We ended Saturday night with our first dinner out the whole trip. We stopped at a fantastic Mexican restaurant in Homestead -El Rincon de Jalisco.




Sunday morning, we made room in our packed van for our suitcase among all of the fruit trees and made one last stop to Brothers Fruit Stand for more guanabana. Our trip home provided many views of alligators and various species of turtles.




Once we arrived home, we had much more work ahead of us. Craig grafted all of the scions we collected onto rootstock we had at our farm while I potted up fruit trees we brought, planted coconuts, and placed orchids under our oak tree.


 I also collected all of the passion fruit which had dropped while we were gone and packed some up for some of our fruit customers. It was great to come home to ripening lychees too!



We then filmed a couple of mango tasting videos with some of our mangos which were getting quite ripe.



Very thankful to my parents and our girls who took care of the farm while we were gone - gathering eggs each day, watering potted plants, and collecting dropped mangos.


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