Succulent treats perfectly ripe from the tree. Exotic flavors and textures: silky like pudding, so sweet and juicy that wearing a bib while eating is a must. Yes, a brief talk with tropical fruit enthusiasts is enough to tempt the taste buds.
Sufficiently aroused appetites might enjoy this weekend's Redland Natural Art Festival at Homestead's Fruit & Spice Park. There, in addition to the customary arts, crafts, and entertainment, area farmers gather to hawk tropical and subtropical fruit and spice trees that thrive in South Florida's unique climate.
The selection includes edibles seldom seen on grocery store shelves, such as bananas that are round and bite-size. Among 92 varieties available at Going Bananas in the Redland area, the Thousand Fingers banana is a yellow peel-and-pop-in-your-mouth fruit with a sort of coconut flavor, says Going Bananas co-owner Katie Chafin.
Richard Lyons, a lawyer and president of Richard Lyons Nursery in Miami, sells subtropical greenery including lychee and longan trees and the architectural star fruit (a.k.a. carambola), which resembles stars when sliced. Lyons likes to eat his sautéed in butter. Linda Smith, a Fruit & Spice Park tour guide, whips up star fruit jelly, pickles, and pies. When baking dessert breads, she strategically places the star fruit pieces vertically in the loaf pan, so that each slice of bread includes its own star. Of course star fruit can be enjoyed fresh and luscious. "You need to eat it in the bathtub or over the sink because the juice just runs all over," Lyons says.
Colleen Boggs of Pine Island Nursery offers a selection that includes green sapote. Bright orange and creamy inside, the ripe fruit boasts a flavor Boggs likens to a brown sugar-sweetened sweet potato. She enjoys it sprinkled with cinnamon. For those who crave a heartier spice, she sells vines that produce green peppercorns. They can be dried for the pepper grinder. Or, in a taste bud-pleasing move, they're quite nice fresh, sautéed with oil and garlic.