Cassabanana, Sicana odorifera

Cassabanana, Sicana odorifera

Welcome to fall!

This is the time of year that we get to bring out the long sleeves and sweaters and snuggle up! For most of us in the Northern Hemisphere this is harvest time – a time to plant your vegetable garden. At the Fruit & Spice Park, we are continuing to expand our collection and explore interesting plants. Fall is also the start of our festival season.  First up, is the Redland Tropical Island Festival on November 3-4 where we will be celebrating our proximity to the Caribbean with fresh seafood, great island music and fun activities for the kids.  Following that we kick-off the holiday season with our perennial favorite the Redland Heritage Festival and Craft Fair December 8-9. The Heritage Festival spotlights the rich agricultural history of our unique and precious slice of South Florida.  I hope you will join us; more information here

A relatively new addition to our collection is Cassabanana, Sicana odorifera.  This beautiful member of the melon family is known by many names throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean.  Names like melocotón, pepino socato, or cohombro all describe this relative of the cucumber.  Ideally grown on a tree or trellis for support, this fast grower produces fruits that are 12 to 24 inches long and red to purple when ripe.  Resembling a giant hybrid of eggplant and cucumber, with the aroma of cantaloupe, it is truly unique and delicious.  It can be eaten like a cucumber when immature, or like a melon when ripe.  It has such a captivating scent it is sometimes placed in homes or linen closets for the smell alone.  When ripe, cut lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and eat the cooling flesh for a sweet treat.  Like many of its relatives, one plant may yield an abundance of fruit, so be prepared to make preserves or jam, harvest green fruit for cooking, or simply share with friends.  This beauty may be found climbing an Ice Cream Bean tree in our Tropical Americas area, close to the Guava collection.

Another aspect of our unique area and climate that should be on your radar during this time of year is your very own garden patch.  No matter how much or how little space you have you should give it a try.  Even if it is just a tomato or pepper plant that you put in a pot and set on the balcony. There’s nothing like plucking your own fresh produce from a plant that you have nurtured to fruition.  Volumes have been written about the intricacies of gardening, I highly recommend our very own Miami-Dade County UF/IFAS Extension office for the latest research and the most valuable information to ensure success.  In particular, this page it has a wealth of information.  So, get those gardens going and experience for yourself the relaxation and health benefits of growing your own produce!

I always look forward to vegetable gardening season, the same way a kid looks forward to summer vacation.  Sure, the days get shorter, but the early mornings and evenings can be gloriously cool and comfortable.  It’s the perfect time to poke around in a vegetable patch.  To be able to watch when a seed springs to life, then grows to maturity, and finally to fruition is truly food for the body and soul.