Taste The Tropics – Exploring Miami’s Tropical Fruit Paradise

Dragon Fruit Dessert

Dragon Fruit Dessert

Fruit at Robert is Here

Fruit at Robert is Here

tropical fruit

Tropical Fruit

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Dig into a piece of tropical fruit that’s a color, texture or smell you’ve never tried before. Say the names aloud as you browse them in a supermarket, farmer’s market or specialty shop. They're often funny, bouncy words that originate in Brazil, the Yucatan or Caribbean. Tasting them is fun - imagine a fruit that looks like a green tomato but is black inside (and tastes like chocolate pudding!) or mini purple bananas that are sweeter than your average grocery store variety. In Miami, tropical fruits grow aplenty in varieties you've likely never seen or heard of before. Take your time to get to know them while you’re here.

Look up and see what you can spot beyond the coconuts. Ask questions about unrecognizable fruit you see on trees around the city. There are fruit trees tucked into front and backyards of homes, in public parks and lining just about any walk you take in Miami’s lush neighborhoods.

Indulge in Miami’s tropical fruit varieties and get to know these rare, healthy, and sometimes strange fruits.

Tropical Fruit Climate

Miami is classified as having a “tropical monsoon climate,” a designation given to specific regions that have a warm climate, serious rainy season and designated dry time of year. It's a classification we share with parts of South and Southeast Asia, a bit of West and Central Africa, and primarily in South America and the Caribbean. As a result, you’ll find fruits that grow here in Miami that originated far beyond our pocket of the Caribbean, for example: India, the origin of our beloved mango.

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, all of which grow in abundance in the area and supply local restaurants and beyond, 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.

Tropical Fruit at Robert is Here
Tropical Fruit found at Robert is Here

A Tropical Fruit Primer

Here is a short primer to kickstart your introduction to Miami’s tropical fruit:

Mango

Sweet, juicy mangos is another fruit you’re probably familiar with. The fruit is typically orange in color on the inside with a tough skin that can range from green to red and create beautiful sunset shades in between. The 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. If you’ve never tried a mango before it's ripe, give that a taste too, it's a tart, almost sour flavor that is often spiced up with lime, salt or hot sauce and is a nice refreshing beach snack.

Avocado

You may think you know the avocado from the ubiquitous avocado toast and the much-beloved guacamole, but did you know those are both made from hass avocados and here in South Florida we grow a different variety. The larger fruit comes in a lighter green color and a lower fat content. Because of this, they hold their shape better in a salad than the Hass variety. The lower fat content also means they yield a lighter guacamole. Try one for yourself and see which one you prefer.

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 some say are quite like a pumpkin in consistency. 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 (it can weigh up to 30 or 40 pounds so you won't be able to throw one of these into your carry-on for an airplane snack!), 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. Look for jackfruit on vegan menus used as taco fillings or mixed with BBQ sauce.

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, Mamones

With an incredibly short season during May and June, the lychee is a delicacy with origins in China. The golf ball-sized fruit 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.

Another cousin to the lychee is the mamon, mamoncillo, Spanish lime or guinep. Eat these by peeling off the tough green shell (it’s okay to use your teeth as a tool!) and then pop it in your mouth to suck off the bit of flesh surrounding the large seed. Alternatively, peel them, pour hot water over the pile and then pull the flesh off to make a tasty juice.

Dragon fruit, Passion fruit, Papaya

Dragon fruit, passion fruit and papaya are another delicious tropical fruit family. 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. Passion fruit comes in a variety of colors ranging from yellow to red and purple with a sweet, tart flavor profile.

Keep an eye out for these as a beautiful topping on acai and fruit bowls in health food restaurants and juice bars around the city.

Fruits at Robert is Here
Assortment of fruit found at Robert is here

Where to Find South Dade’s Tropical Fruit

You’ll find a selection of tropical fruit in every local grocery store in the area, but if you're ready to really dive in and explore the incredible diversity of fruit options available here you may need to dig a bit deeper. No fear, there are plenty of places to sample these local specialties. Here are just a few.

Fruit and Spice Park

For an introduction of a deeper exploration for a seasoned fruit lover, the Fruit and Spice Park is a can’t-miss 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. Hop aboard a guided tour on a tram and you’re welcome to pick up fallen fruit to taste it along the way. There’s also an onsite Mango Café where park-grown produce is the key ingredient of the menu.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

The Tropical Fruit Collection at Fairchild Tropical Garden has the world’s largest collection of mango species! A visit to Fairchild is a wonderful way to see the diverse flora and fauna in the region and get to know more about tropical fruits. Beyond the annual International Mango Festival, a beloved event by fruit lovers and growers where you can taste, learn and even purchase rare species of mango trees, there are year-round tropical fruit focused exhibits on display at the Whitman Tropical Fruit Pavilion.

Ask their experts questions about avocados, cacao, canistel, chocolate persimmon, jackfruit, mamey, sapote, and more. Visit this expansive botanical garden for tropical fruit trees living amongst a wide variety of botanic plants and trees in a stunningly beautiful setting.

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 bun - but get there very early in the morning and be prepared to wait in line!

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.

Visit their onsite restaurant The Redlander for brunch, lunch or dinner and try dishes that incorporate the areas locally grown fruit like guava glazed chicken wings, avocado bites with a cilantro dipping sauce, key lime pie and more - all paired with their tropical fruit wines for the maximum experience.

Read More

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