Join the Palm Beach Rare Fruit Council and Learn How to Grow Rambutan, Grumichama and Mangosteen
Oh, South Florida, how do we love you? Let us count the ways: Tons of sun. Pleasant, year-round temperatures. Some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Yes, living in paradise certainly has its benefits -- especially when it comes to eating exotic foods -- and we at Clean Plate Charlie aren't just fanatical about the wide variety of restaurants and cuisine available to us. We also love all of the local fresh produce at our disposal. Thanks to sub-tropical climes we have the ability to grow more rare and exotic fruits and vegetables year-round over any other place in the country. Take that California!
Would you like to learn how to grow rare fruit like this African cucumber?
Whether we're mulling over ways to use up all those ripe mangos falling from trees left and right, or sipping a lychee martini made with the local-grown fruit, it seems like there's so much more we're missing. And there is.
What about all those other rare fruits and trees like sapote, sapodilla, jackfruit and custard apples? How do you grow them? Where can you buy them? And what does their fruit taste like? If you've ever asked any of these questions, you may want to consider becoming a member of the Palm Beach chapter of the Rare Fruit Council, a local non-profit organization with one mission: to foster and the growth of rare fruit in South Florida.
The Rare Fruit Council was originally founded here in South Florida in Miami in 1955, a way to help share the knowledge of exotic fruits grown locally. It later expanded to become the Rare Fruit Council International, an international body of commercial growers, professional researchers and hobbyists, fruit breeders and fruit eaters -- basically anyone with an interest in rare fruits. The Palm Beach County chapter held its first meeting in 1970, and today stands as the first local chapter of the Rare Fruit Council International.
Since that time, the local chapter has grown -- slowly. There are currently just over 300 members, a number current chapter president Charlotte Gomes hopes to grow during the course of her term. With more than 100 varieties of rare and exotic fruits in her own back yard, Gomes said she is proof that you can learn to grow fruit trees at any age.
"I grew up believing that everything in Florida was poisonous [and could kill you if you ate it]," Gomes told Clean Plate Charlie during a recent interview. "Then I married Gary, who grew up in Guyana. We would go for walks in the parks around South Florida together and he would pick all kinds of fruits and eat them. Today, we laugh about it, because not only did he survive, but I have discovered a whole world of delicious fruit and now we spend much of our time educating others about them."
Today, there are more than 100 rare and exotic fruits grown right here in South Florida -- many of them in people's back yards -- including some you may have never heard of before like soursop, cecropia, grumichama, jujube and jaboticaba. And the people who own these plants share their seeds at the Palm Beach Rare Fruit Council monthly meetings, which are held the 2nd Friday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Mount's Botanical building located at 531 N. Military Trail in West Palm Beach.
Native to Brazil, the grumichama grows a purple, cherry-like fruit.
During these meetings, dozens of members gather to hear a specialist in the plant world give an educational lecture on a variety of topics including new gardening techniques, plants or products. In April, the council will be hosting a speech by Dr. Richard Campbell, director of horticulture and senior curator of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, who will be discussing the specialized pruning techniques for some of South Florida's most popular fruit trees including mangos, lychee, longan, jackfruit and and peaches.
To learn how to become a member, keep reading: