tropical fruit

Fairchild's Tropical Fruit Collection

The Tropical Fruit Collection at Fairchild represents a diverse collection of genetic living material of many of the tropical world's fruit trees, including the avocado, jackfruit, mamey sapote, sapodilla, canistel, abrico, caimito, Spanish lime and tamarind. Each of these fruits has its own unique scientific focus based on research and outreach. These two objectives are defined by the content of each collection, the space needed for their conservation and our ability to commit resources to each fruit.

Mango (Mangifera indica)

Our living genetic collection contains the world's largest mango collection, with nearly 600 mango cultivars, and has given the Tropical Fruit Program its greatest impact in the realm of fruits. We hope to further expand in number the diversity of our mango cultivars in order to encompass the widest possible diversity of cultivars and wild mango relatives. This collection's entirety serves an international audience of home gardeners and commercial producers.

For more than 20 years, we celebrate the Fairchild International Mango Festival to promote the mango as a resource, and  to increase the level of education within general and expert audiences. Educational programs are presented to the local and international community to enhance the appreciation for the diversity of the mango (Mangifera indica), its wide range of flavors and uses, and a multitude of horticultural/ technical points of its production. The focus of the event is the living collection that represents the considerable genetic diversity in mango.The International Mango Festival takes place in July during the peak of the mango season in South Florida. 

For information on growing mango trees, click here

For information about mango propagation, click here

Follow our blog: For the Love of Mango: click here

Avocado (Persea americana)

The avocado is an important fruit crop for subsistence farmers, small and large-scale producers throughout the tropics. In the lowlands of tropical America, local selections of West Indian avocados dominate regional markets. These local West Indian avocado selections are often of superior fruit quality and adaptation to the climatic and edaphic conditions of the area. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG) has initiated a 3-year project for the collection of West Indian avocados in lowland Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama. Working with local collaborators we have identified superior selections within localized areas of diversity, collected budwood and established a living collection at the Fairchild Farm.

Avocados should be harvested mature, however, determining the proper time to harvest can be difficult because the fruits change very little. Maturity standards have been determined by weight and time of the year for each cultivar. Homeowners usually harvest the entire crop when a few mature fruits have fallen. This is not the best way to harvest because the flowering of the avocados results in fruits in varying stages of development on the tree at the same time. The best way to know when a fruit is ready to be harvested is the size of the fruit; the largest fruits should be picked first. After harvest, let them ripen at room temperature 75° to 80° F (24° to 27° C). The fruit will ripen within 2-4 days; the skin yields to a gentle squeeze. At this stage, they are ready to eat or may be kept in the refrigerator for several days.

For recipes, click here.

For information on growing avocados trees, click here.

Canistel (Pouteria campechiana)

The canistel is native to the Yucatan Peninsula, where it was cultivated from ancient times by native people. A member of the Sapotaceae family, the canistel is highly adaptable in Florida where it is grown in some home gardens. The tree is easy to grow with minimal care because it is quite wind resistant and tolerates sandy or limestone soils. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden has been working in significant research conducted on the superior selections for the past 15 years within the genetic bank located at the Fairchild Farm.

Canistel  has similar characteristics to cooked pumpkin. It is delicious when mixed with milk products. The yellow flesh is relatively firm and mealy with a few fibers. The fruit matures from November through March. Canistel can be eaten fresh or used in pies, milkshakes, pudding and bread. The fruit are picked when mature (yellow-color) and can be stored at room temperature for 3 to 10 days. If you wish to store the flesh you can freeze it for up to 6 months. Before freezing, mix the flesh with sugar. Canistel are rich in vitamin C, calcium, minerals and low in fat.  

For information on growing canistel trees, click here.

For canistel propagation, click here.

For recipes, click here.

Mamey sapote (Pouteria sapota)

The mamey sapote (Pouteria sapota) is native to Mexico and Central American lowlands. It grows well throughout the Caribbean islands and the lowlands of South America, Central America, and in the West Indies--including the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Cuba where it is planted as a dooryard fruit and cultivated commercially for the local market. In South Florida the mamey sapote is well adapted. We have 40 different mamey sapote cultivars in our genetic collection located at the Fairchild Farm.

It takes from 13 to 24 months from flowering to fruit maturity. This large, long fruit has coarse, brown, leathery skin and yields to a gentle squeeze when ripe. The flesh is salmon or red colored and has a sweet taste with a texture similar to custard. Mamey sapote has a very distinctive flavor which blends well with milk, other fruits, and is especially tasty in smoothies.

For recipes, click here.

Sapodilla (Manilkara zapota)

The sapodilla was probably introduced to Florida from the Bahamas in the 1800s. It is native to the Yucatan peninsula and grown throughout the American and Asian tropics. It is prevalent in home gardens and is widely recognized as a fruit for fresh consumption in both hemispheres. The sapodilla is found in Florida as far north as Merritt Island, but mostly is found from Miami to Key West. Some trees are growing in warmer spots of central Florida and on the west coast from Pinellas peninsula to Naples.

The flavor is like a cocktail combining pear, peach, brown sugar, cinnamon and a little brandy. Sapodilla fruits are soft, sweet and have a beautiful smell when ripe. The sapodilla tree is an attractive, slow-growing evergreen tree.

Sapodilla is an important component of estate agriculture for its sales in local markets in both tropical Asia and America. Commercial production serves both fresh fruit and processed pulp markets. Processed pulp is primarily used for the production of flavorings, ice creams and sorbets.

For information on growing Sapodilla trees, click here.

For recipes, click here.

Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus)

The Asian tropics have long fascinated western fruit enthusiasts. Where else can you be seduced by the sultry tastes and aromas of durian, mangosteen, rambutan and pulasan? Or, of course, Artocarpus heterophyllus, the fabled jackfruit? This most unusual fruit is a member of the mulberry family, although its outward appearance would not suggest the relationship. The fruit can weigh up to 30 or 40 pounds, with an unusual, spiky green skin. Inside there are a hundred or more large, starchy seeds surrounded by a sweet and aromatic flesh, all attached to a central core. The aroma of the ripening fruit is extremely sweet, with a distinctive flavor reminiscent of bananas and 'Juicy Fruit' gum.

The origin of jackfruit is probably India. David Fairchild collected a variety in Ceylon which was then planted on his property in Coconut Grove.

Jackfruit is also called jak-fruit, jak, jaca, in Malaysia and the Philippines, nangka; in Thailand, khanun; in Cambodia, khnor; in Laos, mak mi or may mi; in Vietnam, mit.

Although the jackfruit was introduced to Florida and tropical America over a century ago, it never attained widespread acceptance. This was probably due to its unusual appearance, unique aroma and lack of local familiarity with its uses. Also, because it was difficult to graft, there was little improvement in jackfruit and most of the trees in this hemisphere were of inferior quality.

Fairchild has collected, planted at the Fairchild Farm and nurtured more than 30 jackfruit cultivars from India, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia. We are now fruiting these treasures. We are also revising our cultural practices, based on what we have learned over the past ten years of intensive study.

For more information, click here.

For information on growing Jackfruit trees, click here.

For information about Jackfruit propagation, click here.

For recipes, click here.

Learn more with the book, The Jackfruit: Growing the World Largest Fruit.

Tropical Apricot (Mammea americana)

Abrico is a tropical American fruit crop with potential for plantation and estate agriculture in Florida. The fruits are large, up to 2.5 lbs, and the flavor is agreeable to most as a fresh fruit and as a preserved product. There has been little systematic selection of superior clones of abrico either within or outside of its native range. The fruit is consumed locally throughout Central America and the Caribbean, but has never attained appeal within an international market.

Over the last 4 years Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG) has endeavored to make a collection of superior abricos. Material has been collected in the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Hawaii, and most extensively in Nicaragua. The criteria for selection have been large fruit, heavy production, agreeable flavor and ease in separation of the flesh from the seed(s). There are currently 14 selections under trial in South Florida at the Fairchild Farm.  

Propagation of abrico is typically from seed within the home garden, and the tree is not commonly found in nurseries. Fruit are harvested from productive trees within a region and are sold in local markets throughout tropical America.

For more information, click here.

For information on tropical Apricot trees, click here.

Tamarind (Tamarindus indica)

The tamarind  is native to Africa and is well known in the tropics. The tree has long been naturalized in tropical America, the East Indies, the islands of the Pacific and South Florida. The tree grows and fruits best in a hot lowland tropical climate with distinct wet and dry seasons. It is grown as a shade and fruit tree, along roadsides and in dooryards and parks. It is appreciated because of its tolerance of drought, infertile soils, and strong winds. In Trinidad and Jamaica, tamarind is a popular refreshing snack. Asians, particularly in Thailand and India have a long tradition of eating and cooking with tamarind, creating delicious salsas, chutneys and sauces. The tamarind fruit "pod" is smooth, and brittle to the touch; inside the tasty flesh clings tightly to the hardened dark-brown seeds. The fruiting season in Florida is February to May and tamarind paste is available year-round in Asian specialty stores.  

There is great variation in genetic characteristics of tamarind, but it has a limited germplasm base. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden has started a tamarind collection and selection based on productivity and fruit quality.

For recipes, click here.

For information on growing Tamarind trees, click here.

Spanish Lime (Melicoccus bijugatus)

The Spanish lime is a tropical American fruit  with potential for plantation and estate agriculture in Florida and the Americas. The fruit is classified as a drupe, ranging in size from 12 to 30 g depending on the selection or cultivar. The edible portion of the fruit, termed the aril, is succulent, with a pinkish to white or yellowish color. The pulp is adherent to the stone and is best for eating out-of-hand or in juices. The fruit is consumed locally throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean. It has appeared in the international market on a small scale and is often sold on the streets of New York and Miami (USA) in season.

Over the last 4 years the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG) has endeavored to make a collection of superior clones of Spanish lime. Clonal material has been collected in Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Florida. The criteria for selection have been trees with a unique fruit type, heavy production, large-fruit, sweet flavor and easy separation of the flesh from the seed(s). There are currently 9 selections Queen (FL), Newcomb (FL), Pedro (FL), Higuito (Costa Rica), Joana (Nicaragua), Ariel (Nicaragua), L0318 (Jamaica), Martinez (Puerto Rico), and Sasa (Puerto Rico) under trial in South Florida at the Fairchild Farm. Production and fruit quality data collection began in 2007.

For information on Spanish Lime trees, click here.

Caimito (Chrysophyllum cainito)

The caimito fruit has a star like design when it is sliced, hence its common name Star Apple. It is native of the West Indies and Central America. Caimito is not grown commercially on a large scale but is mostly appreciated as a fruit tree in home landscapes and along roadsides. A small commercial industry exits in south Florida. The leaves slightly leathery, shiny green on the upper surface and golden-brown on the lower surface. The fruits are delicious as a fresh dessert fruit; it is sweet and best served chilled. It has a soft, extremely sweet flesh that is delicious when cold. The peel may be red-purple, dark-purple, or pale-green. It is smooth, glossy, and leathery. In purple fruits, the inner rind is dark purple, and in green fruits, white. The pulp is white, soft, and milky surrounding 6 to 11 seeds. Generally the fruit is eaten fresh, although it may be an ingredient in fruit salads and sorbets.

For more information, click here.