Richard’s Notes

Here we are in the last days of September and the weather has already started to change. The change here in South Florida is noticeable only if you pay close attention. The daytime temperature is starting to come down ever so slightly. If you haven’t applied fertilizer since last June, now is the time to do it. It is important to keep your plants healthy at all times. Fruit trees respond well to an 8-3-9 mix with minor elements. Learn to read the guaranteed analysis that, by law, must appear on the label. The more minors that appear there, the better the product is; you get what you pay for. All other plants, including fruit trees, respond well to a good-quality Palm Special fertilizer, such as 8-2-12. It is not a good idea to fertilize when there is a possi- bility of a freeze or other cold weather, the reason being that you don’t want to stimulate new growth which is tender and likely to be damaged in cold or cooler weather. After this application of fertilizer, the next should be at the end of March or the beginning of April.

We here at Richard Lyons’ Nursery do not recommend the planting of citrus or avocados at this time. Citrus Greening disease is destroying thousands of citrus trees throughout the State of Florida, and Laurel Wilt in our area has already killed thousands of trees the belong to the Lauraceae family, which includes avocados. There is no known cure for Laurel Wilt.

On a happier note, a migratory hummingbird has already been spotted at the nursery, and we are enjoying many varieties of butterflies. Remember, plant what they need for nectar and larval food and they will come.

That’s all for now until next time –

To Your Good Health!

By now everyone knows the benefits of healthy eating, and one of the best ways to achieve that goal is by incorporating fresh fruit into meal planning. In our part of the world, we are particularly blessed to have a large variety of tropical fruits available to add unique tastes to what we consume in the way of temperate crops.

Brooks Tropicals has skillfully addressed this important topic by offering lunch recipe suggestions. The names alone are intriguing:

Caribbean fruit toss with starfruit dressing

Caribbean papaya and veggie salad

SlimCado mayo

Caribbean red papaya chutney

Caribbean breeze salad with coconut cream dressing

Florida starfruit in papaya sauce

Caribbean red papaya snack bar

To get details of Brooks’s nutritional suggestions, just open this link:

Looking for Passion?, Part II

This week we conclude with the Passion Flower species which Richard Lyons’ Nursery recommends for our area. Many of these plants are available at the nursery.

Passiflora incarnata (Maypop Passion Vine) is among the hardiest of the Passion Vines. The Cherokee word for P. incarnata is ocoee, a name also given to the Ocoee River of the Appalachians. The Maypop Passion Vine is also the state wildflower of Tennessee. The striking 2-3 in. wide flowers feature bluish-white tepals, and the corona comprises white and purple filaments. The species is both a bee attractant and a butterfly larval host. The name Maypop refers to the fleshy fruit that matures to an orange hue. It should be planted in sunny positions. This vine can reach 12 ft. long, and can trail as well as climb.

Passiflora quadrangularis (Giant Granadilla) is a fast-growing vine that may reach 50 ft. or more in length. Its fragrant flowers are about 5-in. wide and produce hues of green or reddish-green on the outside of the sepals and white, pink, or purple inside. The Giant Granadilla is a New World native, though exactly where it originated is no longer known. It produces the largest fruit of any of the Passiflora species, an aromatic oblong-ovoid structure 8-12 in. long. Fruiting is very sporadic in southern Florida without hand-pollination.

Passiflora suberosa (Corky-stem Passion Vine) is a wide-ranging species that occurs natively from Florida and southern Texas into South America and the Caribbean, but it has become naturalized as far away as Australia. It is a larval host – perhaps the best larval host – to a number of butterfly species. While it produces purple-black edible fruit, the quality is nothing special. The stems of P. suberosa, corky-textured with age, are just a few feet long, so that this species functions as both a vine and an informal ground cover. It grows in full sun to light shade and does not require supplemental watering once established. Its small greenish-yellowish flowers appear year-round.

Passiflora alatocaerulea (Three-lobed Passion Vine) produces fragrant, bowl-shaped white sepals with lavender to purple filaments. This hybrid between P. alata and P. caerulea reaches about 20 ft. in length and is a bird and butterfly attractant, as well as a larval host. In order to keep the vine in best health, it is advisable to prune out interior growth from time to time. It performs well as a trellis plant. P. alatocaerulea tolerates alkaline soils and prefers sunny to partially-shaded exposures. Keep the soil evenly moist, but not saturated.

Looking for Passion?, Part I

To say that the collection of Passion Flower species is large and widespread is an understatement. Comprising some 500 species, the genus Passiflora is found growing natively in Old and New World Tropics, excepting Africa, and in temperate locales as well. In the United States, there are species as far west as California and as far north as Ohio.

Most of the Passiflora species grow as vines, and many are celebrated for the beauty of their flowers. A few even produce fruit of commercial quality. In influencing the behavior of vining species, you should use flexible, soft ties that can be adjusted easily. Richard Lyons’ Nursery recommends the following selection of Passion Flower species that are amenable to the soils and climate of Southern Florida:

Passiflora alata (Winged-stem Passion Vine) is native to the Amazon Basin from Peru to eastern Brazil. Its fragrant flowers combine curved red sepals with a corona featuring alternating bands of white and purple. The vine can reach 20 ft. or so in length. It should be grown in full sun to light shade, preferably in a spot where northerly winds are blocked. It is not particular about soil type, so long as there is good drainage. Prune dead material annually just before active growth resumes.

Passiflora amethystina X caerulea (Lavender Lady Passion Vine), introduced in 1982, is a popular hybrid, desired for its very vibrant violet-purple 4-in. blossoms. It is mildly fragrant, attracting butterflies, and also serves as a larval host. Lavender Lady is quite cold-tolerant, capable of surviving dips down to about 20°. In southern Florida’s climate, it is capable of flowering nearly year-round. Grow this beautiful vine in full sun and provide moderate irrigation.

Passiflora citrina (Yellow Passion Vine), native to Central America, yields multitudes of l½-in. yellow flowers pretty much continuously. The blossoms are more tubular and flared than those of most other Passifloras and seem to last a bit longer. Reaching to about 15 ft., this vine is amenable to both container and inground culture. While probably preferring acidic soils, the Yellow Passion Vine adapts well to alkaline soils. It attracts hummingbirds and bees. As with most Passion Vines, P. citrina should be grown in well-drained soils.

Passiflora coccinea (Red Passion Vine) is native to the northern tier of South American countries. Yet another species that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies, the Red Passion Vine reaches about 12 ft. in length. While it blooms best in full sun, it does tolerate light shade. Its 3-4 in. wide flowers range from scarlet to deep red, and its narrow petioles possess a hue in the red-purplish range. Although P. coccinea produces an orange to yellow-colored edible fruit in native habitats, it does not fruit in southern Florida.

Passiflora coriacea (Bat-leaf Passion Vine) earned its common name from the distinctive shape of its leaves. The flowers of this species are fairly small, about an inch across, and feature light lime-green petals, light yellow filaments, and a nearly black center. It is native from southern Mexico into northern South America, where it flowers most heavily during the dry season. It does not grow as long as many of the other Passifloras, and it sometimes trails along the ground.

Passiflora edulis (Edible Passion Fruit Vine) is native to Brazil, Paraguay, and northern Argentina. Its sweet-tasting, seedy fruit is grown commercially in a number of tropical and subtropical countries around the globe. The fruit, which is high in Vitamin C and dietary fiber, is either eaten raw or juiced. An oil extracted from the seeds is used in cosmetics and food products. The fruit of P. edulis is nearly round and possesses a tough rind. There are several fruit forms within this species. Richard Lyons’ Nursery carries the one known as Purple Granadilla, which is less acidic and juicier than the yellow form.


World’s Largest Fruit on a Tree — and Yummy, Too!

We’ve all heard about 1,600-lb. pumpkins and 270-lb. watermelons. Those are impressive weights, and fortunately the fruits had the ground to support them as they increased in size. But do you know the largest fruit that grows on a tree?  It’s the jackfruit (or jakfruit), and not only is it big, but it’s also very tasty – and versatile. Let’s take a brief look at what makes this odd-looking food so popular around the tropics.

The jackfruit tree (Artocarpus heterophyllus) is native to India, but, like most plants that possess economic value, it is now cultivated in other parts of the world. A jackfruit tree in native habitat may reach 80 ft. tall, but in southern Florida, a mature height of 40 ft. is more the norm, and trees in a residential lot can be maintained, through selective pruning, at 10-12 ft. without seriously affecting fruiting. And while the tree itself can grow quite stately, it is the fruit that distinguishes it – round or oblong, rough-skinned, and, above all, HUGE. The mechanism that allows a tree to support hefty fruit is cauliflory, meaning that the fruit develops on the trunk and major branches, which are capable of bearing great weight. Some cultivars of A. heterophyllus grow fruit that ripens at 100 lbs., but others mature in the 10-25 lb. range. The fruits are known botanically as syncarps; like pineapples, raspberries, blackberries and mulberries, they consist of multiple individual flowers and their result-ing fruitlets fused into a compound fruit.

In subtropical southern Florida, jackfruit has proven to be quite dependable, usually flowering on an annual basis. In most years, the crop is available from May to October. The best way to tell if an individual fruit is ready to eat is to pick it up as soon as it falls off the tree. Of course, that practice has its risks if you happen to be standing in the wrong place. Concussions are not cool. The second-best way to detect a ripe jackfruit is the sniff test to see if you can discern a sweet aroma featuring notes of bananas and pineapples. But it’s not just ripe jackfruits that attract fans; many Southeast Asian recipes use green fruit.

Further testimony to the jackfruit’s versatility is the fact that it can be eaten fresh, cooked, frozen or dehydrated. The most delicious part of a jackfruit is its arils, the fleshy material that surrounds the seeds; they are usually of a more vibrant color than the adjacent, more fibrous material known as rag. If you are a newcomer to dissecting the fruits, you might find these suggestions helpful in dealing with the latex inside: (1) Wear throwaway plastic gloves, such as the nitrile gloves used in medical offices; (2) Lubricate the blade of your cutting knife with vegetable oil; and (3) Slice the jackfruit open lengthwise on a newspaper. If you’re planning to cook a 2-3 lb. green jackfruit, first drop it into boiling water to make it easier to peel.

How can you choose a good jackfruit to grow at home? It’s fairly easy. Because jackfruit grows true to seed, i.e., its seedlings almost always have the characteristics of the original plant, you can just plant seeds of a fruit which you found tasty. Exactly what does jackfruit taste like? Some people have said that it reminds them of Juicy Fruit gum, and a few even claim that the gum is made using jack-fruit. That’s probably not provable, because the exact ingredients in the gum are a trade secret, but some observers speculate that the aroma of both jackfruit and Juicy Fruit is like that produced by iso-amyl acetate, a chemical compound associated with sweet, fruity smells.

While the jackfruit trees at Richard Lyons’ Nursery are still in production, you can drop by to purchase a whole fruit, priced by weight.

We close with a few recipes recommended by Noris Ledesma, Curator of Tropical Fruit at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden:

Jackfruit Casserole (serves 4)

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 tsp minced onion
  • 2 cups green jackfruit flesh (cooked)

Preheat oven to 450°F. In a medium bowl, beat eggs. Blend in mayonnaise and cream of mushroom soup. Stir in cheese, minced onion and jackfruit. Turn into a 2 quart casserole. Bake for 45 minutes.

Jackfruit Salad (Serves 4)

  • 6 cups fresh jackfruit
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • ¾ cup golden raisins
  • 16 ounces sour cream
  • ¾ to 1 cup toasted walnuts – optional

In a large mixing bowl, combine jackfruit, lime juice, coconut, raisins and sour cream. If, after combining all ingredients, you feel mixture needs more of one above item, slowly add according to your taste. Add and mix in toasted walnuts just before serving.

NOTE:   Place walnuts on a cookie sheet, single layer, and toast 8 to 10 minutes in a preheated 300-degree oven. Turn walnuts over after 4 or 5 minutes.

Jackfruit Patties (serves 8)

  • 4 cups green Jackfruit flesh (uncooked) 4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • ¼ cup scallions, chopped
  • ¼ cup onions, chopped
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

Mix jackfruit and whipping cream. Beat eggs. Gradually beat in flour. Mix in sugar, salt scallions and onions. Stir in jackfruit mixture. Mix well. Shape into patties. Fry in hot oil, browning on each side.

Jackfruit Compote on the Light Side

  • 4 cups jackfruit arils diced in quarters or eights
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 full tsp finely diced ginger
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Place the sugar and water in pot over medium heat to melt the sugar. Add all the other ingredients in the order shown. Cook until the jackfruit is soft, about ten minutes.