Taste The Tropics – Exploring Miami’s Tropical Fruit Paradise

Dragon Fruit Dessert

Dragon Fruit Dessert

Fairchild Tropical Garden

Fairchild Tropical Garden

Fruit at Robert is Here

Fruit at Robert is Here

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By: Shayne Benowitz

Homestead & the Redland

South Dade’s Homestead and Redland area is considered Miami’s heartland. Home to acres of farms producing tropical fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, it’s a cornucopia of riches for farmers, chefs and gastronomes, alike. While you’re probably familiar with oranges, tomatoes and avocados, you’ll discover rare and exotic tropical fruits in Homestead and Redland. Whether you visit a farm stand, park or farm-to-table restaurant, chances are you’ll be introduced to a whole new world of flavors. Here is a primer to Miami’s tropical fruit and where you can taste them in South Dade.

A Tropical Fruit Primer

Mango

Sweet, juicy mangos is another fruit you’re probably familiar with. The fruit is typically orange in color on the inside with a hard skin that can range from green to red. Their smooth, buttery flesh is both sweet and tart with flavor profiles ranging from pineapple to coconut, lemon and peach. Their season runs from late April through September when hundreds of varieties grow abundantly in Homestead and the Redland.

Sapodilla, Canistel, Mamey

Sapodilla, canistel and mamey are all in the sapote fruit family, distinct for their soft fruit, hard shells and oversized egg shapes. They’re most often enjoyed as the star ingredient in a milkshake, smoothie or ice cream sundae. Sapodillas have a rich brown sugar flavor and a gritty pear texture. Canistels are often called eggfruit for their shape and their firm golden pulp. Mamey has russet skin that looks like a fuzzy potato with a creamy, sweet orange-colored or dark red pulp.

Jackfruit

Part of the mulberry family and often growing larger than a watermelon, the jackfruit is found inside a prickly green shell with tough flesh that can be eaten raw when it’s ripe with flavors resembling pineapple or banana. More often, it’s boiled immature and consumed as a vegetable or a meat substitute for vegan dishes, like green jackfruit curry.

Cacao

While more commonly grown in Central and South America, you’ll also find cacao in South Dade. These pods are filled with juicy flesh surrounding the cacao bean, which produces chocolate. Look for cacao at farmer’s markets throughout Homestead and Redland including the Southwest Community Farmer’s Market.

Lychee & Longan

With an incredibly short season during May and June, the lychee is a delicacy with origins in China. The golf ball sized fruit found has roughly textured brown skin with a slippery clear flesh beloved for its floral flavor. When lychee season ends, it’s cousin the longan appears in South Dade. Similar in look and size, they’re milder in flavor than the lychee, but no less delicious. While they’re wonderful to eat on their own, you’ll often see lychees and longans as garnishes to cocktails or as ingredients in sorbet or limeade.

Dragon fruit, Passionfruit, Papaya

Dragon fruit, passionfruit and papaya are another delicious tropical fruit family found in Homestead and the Redland. They have a similar look with edible seeds and flesh ranging in color from deep red to white and orange. Dragon fruit blossoms on vining cactus with a sweet, mild flesh that’s either magenta or white and flecked with seeds that look like sesames. Papaya is technically an herb and has a juicy orange flesh with a mild and sweet aromatic flavor. Passionfruit comes in a variety of colors ranging from yellow to red and purple with a sweet, tart flavor profile.

Where to Find South Dade’s Tropical Fruit

Fruit and Spice Park

Fruit and Spice Park is a 37-acre tropical fruit park growing more than 500 varieties of fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs. It’s been around since 1944 and today it hosts weekly farmer’s markets and annual events including the Redland Heritage Festival, Asian Culture Festival, Redland Summer Fruit Festival and Mango Mania. There’s also an onsite Mango Café where park-grown produce is the key ingredient of the menu.

Knaus Berry Farm

Established in the 1950s, Knaus Berry Farm is a seasonal fruit stand and farm specializing in strawberries. It’s also earned a cult following for its pilgrimage-worthy homemade cinnamon and sticky buns.

Robert is Here

Robert is Here has been a Homestead tropical fruit stand staple since 1959. Here, you’ll find rare and exotic fruits and vegetables grown in South Florida farms, as well as local honey, preserves, hot sauce, breads and homemade guacamole. There’s also a petting zoo, play area and picnic tables with live music on the weekends. It’s one of the best spots in town to try a mamey milkshake or other tropical fruit smoothies.

Schnebly Redland’s Winery & Brewery

One of the Redland’s most popular attractions, Schnebly Redland’s Winery and Brewery pioneered a novel approach to winemaking and brewing. Originally operating a produce packaging business in the Redland, Peter Schnebly had the bright idea to experiment with winemaking using the area’s tropical fruit. The result is an entire winery devoted to lychee, avocado and starfruit wine, amongst many others. With the success of his winery, he decided to try his hand at brewing and now you can also enjoy craft beers like his Big Rod Coconut Ale and Shark Bait made with citrus.

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