Photos used in the banners. ©Larry Zimmerman, fruit and plants from his garden unless noted.
The photos cycle randomly.
Ceriman AKA Monstera deliciosa; flower, 4 buds and 3 ten-month-old fruit almost ready to pick on the center right. Lives up to its Latin name, deliciosa. It tastes a little like really smooth pineapple with other tropical fruit overtones. Be sure it is fully ripe or it will burn your mouth. Wait for the hexagonal scales to fall off by themselves; only the soft fruit kernels underneath are edible.
Black Sapote fruit showing the stages of ripening. (Download this description as PDF)
. Because the ripe fruit is too soft to support its own weight, if it ripens on the tree it will fall–splat. Not all varieties get this dark when fully ripe, but they all get really soft. Do not pick until the calix (flower remnant at the stem) lifts completely away from the fruit. Once that happens, it is mature and will ripen on the counter. Cold on the tree is ok but once picked do NOT refrigerate until it is ripe. Otherwise it may ripen unevenly or not at all.
. Be patient, it can take a week or more, but touch them daily to see if they are starting to soften and set those aside. At first, they will turn a slight yellow cast, then get slightly soft. It may seem like it is going bad as it turns dark over several days, but don’t worry. When it looks like it should be tossed, it is perfect to eat. It will become soft enough the skin will easily dimple when pressed, and when you pick it up there will be about a 1-2″ flat area on the bottom from the weight of the fruit. With most varieties, the color will be a very dark olive-brown with just a hint of green as in the photo above.
. Cut around the equator, avoiding the seeds in the center, twist apart, remove and discard the seeds, then holding a hemisphere in one hand, use a spoon to scoop around the edge to remove the chocolate-color / pudding-texture fruit inside. Good plain, or stir in a little (~1 tsp) cocoa mix if you want to hide the fruitiness and have it taste exactly like chocolate pudding. Vanilla or a tiny bit of almond extract enhance the flavor. Or stir in some soft ice cream. Add to a smoothie or make into ice cream. Or bake it into cakes, cookies or brownies! The pulp can be frozen.
. When fully ripe the skin is so soft it can slide off when touched. The skin won’t hurt you but it is slightly bitter and not the same smooth texture as the fruit. A day or two earlier, the skin still has enough integrity that it is easier to scrape all the pulp out, yet the fruit is essentially as sweet. The middle fruit in the photo was dry, pasty and not at all sweet.
. Ft. Pierce is usually the farthest north the tree can grow; even that is a stretch, so it requires extra frost protection.
. The unripe fruit in the photo was cut open and discarded on the spot by an unknown passerby. Guess they didn’t like the taste. If you have ever tasted an unripe persimmon—they are related—you understand why.
Jujube cultivar Thai Giant. They were thick on the tree, just finishing late February 2016. At this stage they are immature. Like a sweet crispy apple, single seed. They are ripe when they get much lighter green especially at the ends, then start to turn rust color at which point they are even sweeter with rich flavor overtones. This winter (2015) was so wet many rotted before they turned fully rust but were very tasty at an earlier stage..
Echinacea (Purple Coneflower). Root, leaves, flowers, seeds can be used to make a tincture to boost the immune system. Fresh is effective; the dry, stale powder or pills from the store are usually not. They barely tolerate central FL heat. Treat as an annual.
Bunchosia (AKA Peanut Butter Fruit) Mature fruit on right, ripe fruit (deep red and soft) on the left. The novelty fruit is mostly seed and the texture is thick, sweet and pasty.
Epiphyllum oxypetalum (AKA Night Blooming Cereus) normally does not fruit because it is not self-fertile. If a dragon fruit blooms the same night, you can transfer pollen by hand and get this fruit. It is similar to dragon fruit, but small. This one was just over 1″ x 3″, much drier, not much flavor. Described as tasting like dry water.
• Dragon fruit, Zamorano, same bud, late afternoon and flower open at 10pm.
• Flowers open after full dark, about 10pm.
• Opens after dark for one night only. Hand pollinate for best results.
Check inside with a flashlight, use a paint brush or just wiggle your fingers through the anthers to pick up pollen on your hand, then touch it to the stigma to pollinate. The anthers are at the end of the dozens of filaments in a cone shape. The stigma is the starfish shaped piece on a heaver stalk in the middle of the anthers. If your variety is self-fertile, only one flower is needed. If not, cross pollinate between two different varieties blooming the same night. It never hurts to cross pollinate if you have more than one bloom. (Pollen will collect on lower petals–brush into a bowl.)
• Buds form after two consecutive rainy days in summer.
• Fruit is ripe about a month later. Best to pick about 5 days after color starts, before the scale tips turn brown. Most varieties have red skin, inside can be white, red, magenta, pink.
Pineapple flower. It takes “cold” weather (<59°) to naturally stimulate flowering, which is why you should plant them out in January so they are large enough to flower a year later. It takes about 6 months for the fruit to be ripe. If you grow them in a 3 gallon pot you can bring it in as it gets nearly ripe, because raccoons.
Pineapple flowers. The center plant is an “edible” variegated variety. It did not flower until some apple cores (ethylene gas) were dropped in the center. The other plants are MD-2, the standard grocery store variety, named for Millie Dillard, wife of Frank, the general manager of Del Monte at the time. MD-2 supplanted Smooth Cayenne as the commercial pineapple of choice.
Far right is a multi-crowned white fleshed Sugarloaf, which bloomed in 2015. Too bad they are too delicate to ship: they are incredibly delicious and acid-free.
Pineapple var. MD2, from the top of a store-bought pineapple planted a year ago last January. Grew to fruiting size in a year, then got enough chill to flower this winter. Flower to fruit in 6 months. Turned fully yellow on the plant (in a 3 gallon pot) mid July. Somehow critters didn’t notice. They were too focused on the Mexicola avocado nearby.
Banana var. Manzana (Apple) 30# bunch. They all turned yellow the same day. Ate some, peeled and froze some, dehydrated some. To avoid them all ripening at once, be sure they are in a breezy area so the ethylene gas dissipates. Or put them in front of a fan.
Last of a friend’s canistels, cultivar Trompo, picked mid March ’15. (Thanks D!)
Jaboticaba (Sabara) fruit ripening early April ’15. Turns dark purple when ripe, about a month after flowering. Thick skin like a muscadine grape, sweet white pulp. Slow grower. 3′ tree planted 2011, first fruit in ’14, nearly 7′ high in ’15. Loves lots of water.
Pomegranate, cultivar Hipolito. Thick skin. Largest so far: 2 cups of seeds. Ready to pick when it turns from round to flat sided. Still OK if it splits, as long as you pick it right away.
Passion Fruit, seedling of Yellow Sunshine. Roots are 30′ away in the shade; the vine found a home on a firebush tree in full sun.
Neem with flowers and young leaves. All edible (bitter) and very healthy. My doc uses neem leaf tea on staph infections. Oil pressed from the seeds is used as a commercial insecticide (although Florida does not allow its use on certified organics).
White Sapote half ready.
Choquette avocado, ripe October-March. This one is 2#10oz, about 4.5″x 7″ long. Not as oily rich as Haas; it is more buttery. Does not darken in storage like Haas, which is a good thing because it’s a lot to eat all at once.
Mamey Sapote at Erickson Farms just east of Lake Okeechobee during their annual Mango Madness open house. Note the orange spot: scrape away a fleck of skin and if it is orange, it is ready to pick and will ripen on the counter in a few days. If it is green, it is not mature and will not ripen.
Atemoya, Priestly, hand pollinated.
Carambola AKA Starfruit, cultivar Shri Kembangan. Very sweet and juicy when picked ripe. Starfruit are usually more tart. They are very astringent and stay that way if picked less than fully ripe. Too delicate to ship commercially when ripe, so what you buy in a store is usually unpleasant.
Peruvian ground cherry, one of several Physalis. Poha (Giant Cape Gooseberry) and Aunt Molly are other common varieties. Culture is similar to tomato. The fruit is sweet tart.