|Though the fruits are dry, seedy and inedible, pink velvet banana is great in the garden.|
|Raised water gardens with red mangroves are the perfect complement to these raised beds.|
|I don't know what this tree is, but I love the rosy translucent new leaves.|
|Ananas bracteatus? This is the ornamental red pineapple in bloom.|
The Miami Fruit and Spice Park lies in the Redlands just to the southwest of Miami, and is surrounded by countless nurseries and farms that take advantage of the rich swamp muck soil and tropical climate. On the short drive from the Costa Farms trial gardens, we drove through groves of blooming mangoes divided by hedges of the 'areca' palm commonly grown as a houseplant. This was paradise.
We were at the doorstep of the park's Mango Cafe just minutes before opening, and the minute they let us in we already knew what we were ordering. A tropical fruit sampler and a passionfruit smoothie. I was starting to feel like my allergies were really a cold after all, and I was ready to have a seat after the short walk from our car. The platter was a cornucopia of color and flavors, from the tart yellow pear tomatoes that I had recently illustrated, to the canistel, a fruit with the flavor and texture of a baked sweet potato pie.
|Unripe fruit forming on the trunks of the jaboticaba|
|Ripe jaboticaba fruit, ready to be devoured.|
My favorite fruit on the platter was the jaboticaba, something I had been craving since I first read about their odd arrangement of sweet and musky fruits along the trunks of their trees. Jaboticabas are especially unique in that they require a good twenty to thirty years of growth before they first producing fruit on their twisted trunks. There's a folk tale from Brazil that goes a little something like this: A young man came across a elderly man who was clearly not long for this world, and the ancient Brazilian Johnny Appleseed was planting jaboticaba seeds. "Are you crazy?" The young man exclaimed. "Don't you realize that you won't be around to eat the fruit?" The old man paused and calmly explained, "If everyone thought like you, there would be no jaboticaba fruit."
So I spit out my jaboticaba seeds after my lunch and wrapped them in a napkin so that my children can one day enjoy jaboticaba for themselves. It's a retirement plan. With seeds tucked into my khakis, we entered the park through the gift shop. The gifts themselves didn't thrill me too much, but the sampling counter was like a dessert to our tasty lunch.
|Snotty flesh or not, even the scales make the fruit look like it has post nasal drip.|
|The trees are dripping with snot.|
|My own rendition of the snotfruit, in colored pencil over a wash of marker.|
Apart from the black sapote (which I should add is only ready to eat when it looks as if it's rotting) the highlight of our tasting was the unfortunately named snotfruit. It's actually called Rollinia, an only slightly more marketable name than 'snotfruit.' Anyways, it bruises too easily to allow for shipping to your grocery store. Yes, the texture is snotty to say the least, but the flavor is nonetheless comparable to the esteemed soursops and custard apples, with a light and refreshing flavor like lemon meringue. Unlike the jaboticaba, the patient attendant told me that it takes a mere two years to produce a fruit bearing tree from seed. I happily accepted her offer of seeds to plant for myself, but it was hard for her to understand me because I was stammering in my excitement.
Or maybe I was just coming down with something. In an excruciating twist of fate, halfway through our walk around the park I've dreamed of visiting for about five years, I could barely walk and was getting chills. As I later found out, I was coming down with pneumonia and still have it over a week later. Just don't blame the snotfruit.