Mysore Raspberries Taste Bland?

I really want to like Mysore Raspberries since they’re the only raspberry that does excellently in all of Florida and even deeper into the tropics.

It’s a prolific and close-to-weedy cane fruit that bears abundant quantities of blue-black fruit. I’ve written about it before in this post on growing raspberries in Florida… however, one thing I failed to mention is that the Mysore raspberries we’ve grown are somewhat lacking in flavor.

Mysore_Raspberries_Taste

I don’t think it’s just the plants we were growing, either. When I interviewed Sandy Graves (inventor of the BoonJon composting toilet) a month or so back, he told me his Mysore raspberries were pleasant but not all that flavorful.

There’s a rich raspberry flavor to true raspberries from up north. Blackberries also have their unique rich flavor… yet the Mysore raspberries, though great producers, just don’t have “it.”

Anyone else notice this? I’m wondering if it’s a cultural or a genetic thing. If they were grown in rich soil or with less water, would they have more flavor? Or are their genetics such that they just won’t ever hold up against their temperate cousins?

I’d like to hear your experiences.

Pictures from the new gardens

The first thing we did after moving in to our new homestead was start planting.

Fortunately, there were some beds here already, filled with soil and just waiting to burst into new life:

New_Gardens

The bed in the foreground to the far right, filled up with random stuff, is our new compost pile. I always rotate compost piles right through my garden areas as described in my book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting. It makes a lot of sense. Fertility stays right where I’m going to be growing next year’s crop, plus the resulting compost is easily accessible for my other beds. I can even get fancy and pile a little dirt in the middle to plant squash or melons if I feel like it. For now, we’re filling the compost pile with everything from newspapers to cocoa pods, mango peels to sea urchin shells. It’s going to be some fantastically rich material.

In order to feed the vegetables as they emerge from the ground, I also create a barrel of fermenting cow manure/nitrogen-fixer tea I can pour down the rows with a watering can (this is another trick from my book that allows you to stretch a limited amount of material across a large area before your compost piles get established).

Compost_Barrel

I made sure to cover the standing water to keep mosquitoes from breeding, then possibly infecting us with Zika (which somewhat of a risk here and there across the region), dengue fever, malaria, Chikungunya or some other horrible tropical disease.

Behind the main garden beds I dug three more around the base of an established moringa tree, making sure to angle them against the slope so as to block erosion during the rainy season:

Double_Dug_Garden_Beds

We just planted these with cabbages, hot peppers and more cabbages.

I like cabbages. They make me plant them every year.

We have bamboo growing down the hill by the river, so I took some to make a trellis for some climbing purple-podded Roma beans we brought from the United States:

Bamboo-Trellis_Purple_Beans

I love the purple stems on the beans.

Finally, I had to dig some of my melon pits (you can see me create a ridiculous melon pit in the Compost Everything movie) and plant some Seminole Pumpkins:

Seminole_Pumpkins_Melon_Pit

I’ll bet they’re the first Seminole pumpkins in the country. Wouldn’t that be cool?

Thus far we’ve also planted pimento peppers, bell peppers, Scotch bonnet peppers, tomatoes, beets, spinach, carrots, bush beans, cassava, watermelons, sweet potatoes, yams, pigeon peas and Missouri corn cob pipe corn.

I can’t wait to see how everything grows in this very different climate. We can plant basically year round since we’re on the mountainside and the weather never gets too hot or too cold. The only limitation is rainfall – and we can overcome that with irrigation.

I’ll post more photos as the gardens grow and mature.

Growing Jackfruit in South Florida

Growing_Jackfruit_In_South_Florida_Open

Growing jackfruit in South Florida? You bet!

If you subscribe to my YouTube channel, you probably saw the video I posted last week on my friends Chuck and Sarah who are growing jackfruit in their South Florida front yard:

The tree is almost, but not quite, as beautiful as Sarah:

Jackfruit_Tree_South_Florida_With_Sarah

(She’s totally gonna kill me for saying that… fortunately I’m a zillion miles away from South Florida right now. Ha ha! Come and get me!)

This particular jackfruit tree is a truly magnificent specimen, loaded with highly valuable fruit.

Growing Jackfruit In South Florida

Can A Jackfruit Tree Handle Freezing?

A mature jackfruit tree, though a tropical through and through, has the ability to survive temperatures into the upper 20s for brief periods. That means you can grow them along the coast up into the Palm Beach area, with special care given to the trees when young.

According to UF:

“Jackfruit leaves may be damaged at 32°F (0°C), branches at 30°F (-1°C), and branches and trees may be killed at 28°(-2°C)”

I wanted to plant a jackfruit in The Great South Florida Food Forest Project, and in fact I did put a seedling in there at one point… but after seeing the size of Chuck and Sarah’s tree, Mom vetoed the idea. And the seedling DIED MYSTERIOUSLY

That little yard would be great with a massive tree canopy and gigantic fruits no one in the house would eat, don’t you think? C’mon, Mom!

Jackfruit_Tree_South_Florida4

It’s just like another mulberry tree! You can never have enough mulberry trees!

Let me make the case further for those of you who, unlike my beloved mother, are on the fence about this beautiful tree.

Why You Should Grow a Jackfruit

If you’re way out of the range for growing jackfruit, as many of you are, then this article is just a curiosity… but if you’re in the range where they grow, or even close enough to zone-push a bit, let me make the case for this marvelous tree.

Where I now live in the Central American rainforest, jackfruit is well-known by many as a healthy, easy-to-grow delicacy that acts as a starch crop, a fruit crop, and a nut.

In the USA, it’s more of a “eww…. that’s weird…” kind of a fruit. This attitude isn’t helped by the fruit’s strange smell when ripe.

Let’s get the couple of negatives out of the way first.

Some has described the smell of ripe jackfruit as “boiled onions”; however, not all the jackfruit I’ve encountered smell like that. Some just smell somewhat fruity. Fortunately, once opened, there’s no strange scent to the delicious flesh inside.

Another objection to growing jackfruit trees in South Florida or elsewhere in the US is that most people have never tried them and are afraid of growing something they haven’t tasted.

That’s a sissy excuse. Just go for it. Sissy.

A final reason people don’t like jackfruit is the incredibly sticky latex in the rind and around the edible portions of the fruit. I’ve shown some pictures of us butchering a jackfruit before, laid out in a horror-movie style without any explanation.

…anyhow, here are some good reasons to grow jackfruit.

Reason #1: Jackfruit Trees are Beautiful

Look at this:

Jackfruit_Tree_South_Florida_Staghorn_Ferns

Jackfruit growing into a staghorn fern. Just that picture should be enough to make any gardener say “sign me up!” Plus, the fruits look like fractal geometry up close:

Jackfruit_Skin

Not enough? How about some cold, hard capitalism?

Reason #2: Jackfruits are Highly Valuable

In the right ethnic markets, you can get mad money for good jackfruit. I’ve heard of them selling for $10 per LB! That’s pretty awesome, considering how many pounds one of these fruit can reach. Even if you never ate a single fruit yourself, you could likely cover one bill per month just selling jackfruit. A lot of immigrants miss the jackfruit of their home countries and don’t have the space or the time to grow their own. Meet the need and PROFIT!

Jackfruit_Tree_South_Florida

This is what mad money looks like

Reason #3: Jackfruit are Productive

Jackfruit trees can produce hundreds of pounds of fruit per yearand they will produce for about half the year… and sometimes will have ripening fruit here and there year-round. This productivity happens with very little care. Jackfruit can even start fruiting from seed under ideal conditions in just a couple of years.

My friend Chuck harvested about a dozen just when I was visiting their home to record my video:

Jackfruit_Tree_South_Florida5

That was probably 140lbs worth… with easily another 1,000,000,000 LBS ON THE TREE!

Reason #4: Jackfruit are Delicious

You know Juicy Fruit(TM) gum? That flavor was based on jackfruit. The story goes that the owner of Wrigley’s gum tried a jackfruit and was blown away, so he took a fruit to his lab guys and said “make gum that tastes like this!”

The flavor of jackfruit is eminently tropical with undertones of passionfruit, pineapple and guava. It’s amazing. I can’t imagine anyone not liking it.

Reason #5: Jackfruit is also a Starch and a “Nut”

The seeds of a jackfruit can be boiled and eaten like chestnuts or boiled peanuts – and, like its close cousin the breadfruit, an entire unripe jackfruit can be skinned and roasted as a starchy vegetable. It’s not just a sweet fruit – it’s also a potential staple starch crop!

Half_A_Jackfruit_And_Seeds

Edible “nuts” in the foreground, tasty fruit in the background.

Conclusion

If you can grow a jackfruit tree, do it. Even if you never ate a single fruit, you’d be the wonder of your neighborhood.

growing jackfruit in south florida

Growing Jackfruit in South Florida: Front Yard Edition!

Check and Sarah’s tree is quite a looker – and they had no idea what the tree was going to be like when mature. They went out on a limb (heheh) and now are harvesting huge fruits they can share with friends or sell at local markets. Growing jackfruit in South Florida (or other tropical regions) is delicious, fun and potentially profitable.

Why not go for it?

The Oh-So-Useful Cecropia Tree

Cecropia tree canopy

The Cecropia tree is one of my new favorite species.

When I visited the tropics a few years ago, I saw a large Cecropia tree growing in my friend’s pastureland and asked what in the world it was.

“Bacano tree,” he replied. “You can cut them down again and again to feed the goats whenever you’re short on forage.”

I looked up at this crazy, Dr. Suessian tree and wondered if it had any other uses. “Bacano” is just one of the many names for these genus of fast-growing trees. Others include

If you subscribe to my YouTube channel, you probably saw the little video from ECHO I posted a few weeks back where our tour guide was sharing some of the many uses of this incredible tree.

Here’s that quick video again:

Sandpaper, wood, animal fodder, edible fruit, tobacco substitute, quick shade, musical instruments, composting material, biomass for biochar… and it even has some medical uses.

It’s funny. People complain about trees dropping leaves all over their yards… but at ECHO they viewed the constant leaf drop as a plus.

Cecropia tree leaf

As I wrote in Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting, it makes a lot of sense to plant fast-growing trees and plants just for the purpose of making compost. If you’re in a tropical climate, the Cecropia tree is a great choice.

I imagine it would make a great “nurse tree” for a tropical food forest, providing shade to younger trees along with a lot of chop-and-drop potential. The Cecropia tree is considered a “pioneer species.”

That means it’s one of the first plants to jump into a torn-up spot, bringing new life to damaged, eroded or burned areas. Pioneer species grow quickly and help shade and restore the soil so more finicky long-term species can return.

These are the sorts of trees you want at the beginning of a food forest.

When I start my next food forest, I’ll be adding Cecropia.

As it is, we have a few large Cecropia trees and some small ones here and there on our new homestead. Last week I tried some of the leaves as a tobacco substitute in my trusty Peterson’s briar pipe and found they tasted much like a decent English tobacco blend. Really good – much better than I expected, plus the smoke was quite smooth and non-irritating.

I tried chopping up a felled Cecropia in the bush with my machete and found the wood to be very, very hard. The stems are hollow, which has given me some ideas for future musical instruments…

…anyhow, as I stated in the title, this is really a useful tree. It’s a shame you can’t grow it in the temperate USA. I’ll bet you could pull them off in parts of California, Florida, Texas, Arizona and most definitely Hawaii… but for those of you in New Jersey, Oregon, etc., it’s not going to happen except in an amazingly huge greenhouse. And if I had enough money for one of those, I’d simply move to someplace warmer.

A few pictures from the new homestead

Last week I posted this picture of some tropical fruits we harvested from the farm and asked for guesses:

Tropical_Fruits

Some of you did quite well.

Here are the answers:

Tropical_Fruits_Labeled_yep

Thus far I’ve found the following edibles growing on our property:

Acerola cherry, Avocado, Banana (many), Breadfruit, Breadnut, Cacao (many), Cashew, Cecropia, Cinnamon, Citrus (many various trees), Coconut, Coffee, Grapes, Guava, Hog plum, Jackfruit, June plum, Katuk, Lychee, Malay apple, Mango (many), Moringa, Nutmeg, Papaya, Passionfruit, Plantain (many), Purple mombin, Rambutan, Soursop, Star apple, Sugar apple, Tamarind, Wax apple

Interestingly, many of these fruit trees (cacao excepted) were planted around the same time I was planting my now-sold property up in North Florida. We’ve actually managed to acquire a piece of land at a similar level of development to our old homestead; however, trees produce faster and in greater quantity down here. Not a day goes by that we aren’t harvesting fruit of some sort.

I haven’t been able to find out if macadamia nuts are growing on any farms here, but I’ll bet they are somewhere I haven’t seen yet. That would be a great tree to add.

Here are some more photos from around the property. First, a look at part of the banana grove:

Banana_Grove Backyard_Bananas

There are quite a few more bananas planted further down the mountain but I didn’t feel like walking all the way down the slope with my camera.

Here are some shots of the cocoa orchard:

Cocoa_Orchard Cocoa_Pods_On_Cocoa_Trees Cocoa_Growing_On_Tree

We’ve already had some hot chocolate from the cocoa growing on the farm and I’m drying out more right now:

Drying_Cocoa

It’s not really cocoa season at the moment, but there are ripe pods scattered here and there through the orchard.

There’s also a massive breadfruit tree behind the house with plenty of almost-ripe fruit on it:

Giant_Breadfruit_Tree

Soon, soon!

By the back of the house is a jackfruit tree. I’ll post more on jackfruit later this week, but for now let me just say it’s a really delicious fruit as well as being a relative of the mulberry… just a lot, lot bigger!

Jackfruit

The children cannot wait for those fruit to ripen!

Anyhow, that’s enough writing for today. I’ve got to get outside and starting planting pigeon peas.

Compost Everything: The Movie – Now Available for Download!

On Saturday I was finally able to get Compost Everything: The Movie set up as a download.

Compost_Everything_The_Movie_Cover_webThe film was quite popular at the Homegrown Food Summit this year and many of you asked if it could be bought as a stand-alone product. Since it was being sold as part of a bundle by my friend Marjory Wildcraft, I wanted to give her plenty of time to sell copies of the entire Homegrown Food Summit before I ran off with my video and offered it here. Now that the Summit is long-done, I want to make sure anyone who just wanted my video can get it.

You can read more on the video and what it contains, as well as purchase your copy here.

It’s based on my book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting (which continues to sell excellently) and demonstrates many of the techniques I share there.

Thanks for all the great comments and emails about the video during the Summit. It took a lot of work for Rachel and I to put it together and it’s always gratifying to have folks tell me they enjoyed our hard work.

I’m almost 100% certain it’s the only gardening film that spontaneously breaks into a 90s-style music video in the middle.

Further South

Yep, we moved further south. It took us almost a year to pull off, plus some help from amazing friends and a lot of God’s providence, but we’re here at an undisclosed location near the equator.

Here’s a picture of some of the fruits and spices we brought in off the farm this week:

Tropical_Fruits

Can anyone name them all?

Cassava and sweet potatoes

I’ve interplanted a bed of cassava and sweet potatoes – we shall see how they do. Sometimes the cassava grow too densely and shade out their vining companions. I am interested to see if the cassava will make good roots in 6 months now that we’re in a frost-free climate. Up in North Florida, cassava usually takes more like 18 months to make decent roots, thanks to cooler weather and winter frosts which completely end all growth.

I should have internet by the middle of next week. Will post photos then.

 

New gardens are in!

I’m still stuck without internet, but we’ve been gardening like crazy. Got 12 or so beds going with scotch bonnets, cassava, cabbage, beans, spinach, beets, Missouri corn cob pipe corn, and yams. I also planted a breadnut tree and some papaya seedlings we dug up by the river. Yes, we moved much further south than our old place in North Florida.

Wait ’til I get back online and can post pics – you’ll love it.

I’ll be chasing down the internet folks again today… it’s hard to do any normal writing work on a hunt and peck phone. I’ve also got a half-dozen videos to post. Ah well, eventually. Might as well enjoy the extra gardening time for now.

Be back soon

We’ve moved to a new homestead and getting internet has proven to be more difficult than expected. I’ve been told we should have service in a week or so. I’m writing this post on a phone. For the time being, I won’t be posting on my regular weekday schedule. Stay tuned and thanks for your patience! I will post as I can. -David The Good

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