Greetings from our beautiful little corner of the botanical world!
As I write this, South Floridians are shivering from the effects of a “cold snap,” a tempeture that our northern neighbors would laugh at! Despite our lack of experience with tempetures under 70°, a forecast low of around 50° poses danger to our most fragile tropicals like Durian and Breadfruit. No worries we have these beauties wrapped in the warm protection of a toasty greenhouse. There are so many activities planned at the Park this time of year, but we must remind ourselves that this is the season when some of our leafy residents take a well-deserved rest, in preparation for a busy spring.
The subject of dormancy can be unfamiliar to South Florida gardeners, since we grow so few varieties that go obviously dormant—by dropping leaves or defoliating–in defense of cold temperatures. A few of the temperate crops grown here that go dormant are Mulberry, Morus spp., peaches and other stone fruits, Prunus spp., and grapes, Vitis spp. We are accustomed to seeing the denuded grapevine in the winter, but I usually get a few concerned calls this time of year from folks concerned that their Mulberry is “dying.”. In fact, it is simply resting and storing energy for a spring flowering and flush of growth. We have other favorites that benefit greatly from a little cold weather. Mango, Mangifera indica, and especially Lychee, Litchi chinensis, are stimulated to flower by cooler weather.
An antidote to all of this dormancy is the glorious Black Sapote, Diospyros nigra. Commonly called the chocolate pudding fruit, this neotropical member of the Persimmon family is a large tree with shiny green foliage. It makes a great shade tree with the added benefit of producing a delicious fruit. Take care not to plant it directly over a walkway—it is no fun being bombed by a ripe Black Sapote, as a member of staff found out not too long ago! The fruit resembles a large green tomato hanging on the branches and should be harvested when mature and left to ripen on the counter for a few days. The trick: Wait until it looks like it should be thrown out to harvest. The pulp resembles dark chocolate and has a complex flavor that is complemented by a little honey or sugar, or better yet as a topping for vanilla ice cream. Our Black Sapote trees can be found in the Tropical Americas fruit forest area.
I hope that you will be able to visit soon, and experience these wonders in person. Also, don’t forget our upcoming events, including the Asian Culture Festival, and the Blues and BBQ Festival. Details here https://redlandfruitandspice.com/events/category/festivals/
Some other fruits you may encounter on your visit this month are:
Canistel – Pouteria campechiana
Carambola –Averrhoa carambola
Ceylon Gooseberry – Dovyalis hebecarpa
Gamboge – Garcinia tinctoria
Jujube – Zizyphus spp.
Mamey Sapote – Pouteria sapota
Sapodilla – Manilkara sapodilla