As far as fruit fanatics go, we’re pretty intensely obsessed. Luckily we’re not the only ones, or it would be a bit lonely. A lot of other fruit fiends can be found online at the Tropical Fruit Forum, a discussion board for people obsessed with growing tropical fruits. This year, a group from the forum invited me to come along on their annual fruit expedition in Puerto Rico. To hook me, the invite included a possibility of fresh durian. Could I pass up on the chance to try durian grown in the Western Hemisphere? No way!
I was thrilled when the trip’s organizer, Jay, contacted me. I
felt so honored to be invited. Growing up I was that shy girl in
glasses who was definitely NOT invited, whether to lunch tables or
birthday parties. I guess I’m cool enough now for a fruit party. Awesome!
The group organizes through an online forum called the Tropical
Fruit Forum. These folks know something about every fruit there
is, from jaboticobas to durians to mangoes to stuff I’ve never heard
of. I frequently ask for help identifying fruits I’ve found on my
travels or finding the answers to nerdy fruit questions. Many members
have also traveled to exotic corners of the world and are
encyclopedic in their knowledge of the world’s fruitful offerings.
Puerto Rico is their current stomping grounds, because it’s an easy hop from Florida and technically part of the United States, which makes it both easy to get to and fairly easy to navigate. This was their fifth year there, and their highly organized leader Jay had every day mapped out and filled to the brim with fruitful activities. I arrived in Puerto Rico ready to sit back and enjoy the program.
I love, love, love durian, and my appreciation seems to be expanding to other weird and obscure fruits, especially any that
have spikes, are deformed, have strong odors, or manage to look like
they belong in the X-Files. In Puerto Rico, Jay and the Tropical Fruit crew introduced me to a lot more really fascinating products of the plant world.
Needless to say, the Puerto Rico trip was a real learning experience. We visited four farms and tasted some
really interesting stuff. Hanging out with them, I learned possibly more Latin then during my entire
Catholic school career, as well as grafting techniques, soil
requirements, fruit photography, and stock market advice.
Much thanks to Jay, Noel, Harry, Ethan, Ian, Warren, Gwenn, and
Ray for a fun, fruit-filled week!
I hope you enjoy the pictures. To see more pictures, go to our
Puerto Rico is an island roughly 100 miles long and 40 miles wide. A mountain range running east to west, the Cordillera Central, divides the island into a northern and southern region. On these steep, misty slopes small farmers plant their collections of exotic fruits. It’s beautiful and somewhat mystical, just like the extremely rare fruits preserved here.
Many fruits from Southeast Asia, like the rambutan, have been introduced with astonishing success. It happened to be the season for rambutan, pulasan, and mangosteen while we were there and the trees were loaded. It was neat to see these fruits so far from their home territory, and get a sweet taste of fresh, sun-ripened fruit right off the tree.
But of course, I was excited about the things I hadn’t seen before.
|Kwai Muk, Artocarpus. hypargyreus|
|Charichuela (Garcinia madruno)|
|Mamoncillo or Spanish Lime|
Then there were things that are just hard to find even though they are super awesome.
While I was mostly excited about the eating
part of the fruit hunt, the guys were off climbing trees and sliding
down the mountainsides to gather cuttings or seeds for their gardens
back home (they all have phytosanitary permits with the USDA and know
There was plenty of bamboo around to remind us that we were in a jungle. It felt exotic, and hot, and the beaches were just beautiful. But what really made the trip feel like Puerto Rico, and not some other humid tropical country, was seeing an ancient petroglyph from the Tainos, the original peoples of Puerto Rico, right next to a waterfall.
And then of course…. there was durian.
I’m saving my best durian photos for the next post, which will be about durian in Puerto Rico. Make sure to have some durian on hand because these pictures are inspirational – for cravings anyway. Mmmmm.