Against the Tide

A veteran Olympic swimmer Aims to beat the skeptics.

In a phone interview, Barreto acknowledged Krome Gold would sell some of the excavated fill, but he defended his desire to build million-dollar homes on farmland. "I think it's great," he said. "We're going to have lakes stocked with bass and horse trails. Who doesn't like that?"

Barreto insisted there is no conflict between his wildlife commission duties and real estate development plans, noting the current zoning allows him to build up to 93 houses (without the lake) on the 466-acre site. "We're building less units," he said. "In my opinion, we're downzoning."

Considering the political clout of Barreto and company, you can expect them to claw their way past the community council to the county commission, where contributions trump conservation any day of the week.


Dara Torres: Swimming upstream.
Friedemann Vogel/Bongarts/Getty Images
Dara Torres: Swimming upstream.

Flotsam

Fruits of the Bloom

In more ways than one, this miracle berry is freakin' sweet.

By Michael J. Mooney

Curtis Mozie, a 64-year-old retired postal worker, doesn't look like an exotic horticulturalist. Strolling around outside his West Fort Lauderdale house in shorts and black socks pulled high on his thin legs, however, he guides you through a gallery of hard-to-find fruit growing on trees and bushes on the property. There are Scotch bonnets, ice-cream beans, and dragon fruit. "But that one there," he says of an inconspicuous bush about five feet tall, "that's the miracle fruit."

Miracle fruit — Synsepalum dulcificum — is a small berry from West Africa. The "miracle" is the startling effect of the fruit on human tongues. After you eat one of these tart fruits, which look like elongated cherries, everything that should taste sour tastes sweet. Mozie is the biggest commercial grower of miracle fruit in North America.

A brisk, energetic man, Mozie is happy to demonstrate. He reaches under some of the firm leaves on his plant and carefully clips off a bright red sample. Protruding from one end of the oval fruit is a stem; sprouting from the other is what looks like a fine hair. "That's the tail," Mozie says. He washes the berry with a garden hose and plucks off the stem and hair.

"Bite into it," he says. "You should feel the skin slide right off. Careful not to eat the pit." The fruit is tart, like a mild grape. "Rub it all over your tongue."

Then Mozie pulls out a jug of water and a lime. He pours the water into a cup and slices the lime.

"Squeeze the lime into the water," he says. "Now have a taste."

It tastes like Country Time lemonade with a pound of sugar added. The lime itself tastes sweeter than a peach.

Mozie pulls a beer from his refrigerator. It's as if it were made from mangoes and pears. He pours a shot of pure white vinegar into a cup. Vinegar! No puckering up here. The stuff tastes like warm soda.

This fruit, whose sweetening effects last about two hours, could change the way Americans consume everything, Mozie says. For diabetics, it could be turned into a sugar-free additive. For cancer patients, it could eliminate the postchemo metallic taste in their mouths.

Mozie first encountered the miracle fruit 12 years ago, at an exotic fruit market in Davie. He was stunned. "I didn't believe what was going on in my mouth," he says. "I knew there was money to made on these things."

He immediately began buying plants. Now he has 10 acres of miracle fruit bushes growing on a farm in Davie. And it's still not enough to keep up with demand, he says. He sells the berries for $3 each, with a minimum order of $100. In one week earlier this year, he grossed $135,000.

His customers are generally the cosmopolitan type, the kind wealthy enough to afford $3 berries. Miracle fruit is popular at what Mozie calls "flavor-tripping parties," where the host provides plenty of sour foods and drinks and then implores guests to trick their tongues with the effect of the berries.

 Mozie, who has bags of Miracle-Gro in stacks along the walls outside his house, points out a few more of his exotic plants in the back yard. They come from all over the world. There's lemongrass. Allspice. Bay rum. Passion fruit. Papaya. Sugar apple.

Is there anything Mozie can't grow?

"A beard," he says with a smile.

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