I’ve been quite busy over the winter working on acquiring and propagating some cool new plants for Florida Food Forests, along with increasing my stock of standbys that proved popular in 2014.
I’d say the best-sellers of last year were mulberry trees (I have some really cool varieties), pears, longevity spinach, peaches, Japanese persimmons, Chinese water chestnuts, Celosia argentea, surinam purslane, cassava and olives.
Some of these take a long time to propagate and were hard for me to keep in stock. I probably could have put a lot more into people’s hands if I’d been able to get started earlier, so this year I’m working on it. Some things, like pawpaws, take a serious time investment. Two years ago I planted around 50 seeds and got about 6 to germinate… then waited months until they were a good size… and then those sold out quickly once people realized I had them. Last fall I got about 200 seeds this year from a better source and am hoping for a good run of them this time.
The problem with pawpaws: the seeds need to be kept in a damp mix in the fridge for four months before they’re sown… then it takes another few months for them to come up. I won’t be able to plant the seeds I have until March, then it will probably be fall of this year before I have seedlings that are large enough to sell. 2016 should be better… this is a long-haul thing.
Improved loquats are another one that takes time. Since very few people grow them here, I have to grow my own seedlings until they’re big enough to graft (this takes at least a year), then I need to graft them with scions from improved varieties, then wait for those grafts to (hopefully) take and grow… then I can sell them. I have a few improved trees right now, but it will probably be summer before there are ones I can sell.
Part of the challenge of being a nursery that deals in rare edibles is that I have to do a lot of the work myself in germination, finding strange vegetables and figuring out how to propagate them, and grafting fruit trees with better types.
American persimmons are another tree I’d love to carry lots of but they’re much like pawpaws in the time they take to develop.
That said, this year I’m adding some cool new plants to the mix to see how they do.
Among other things, I’ve nailed down the following and I’m excited to see people trying them here in North/Central Florida:
Chinese Chestnut trees
Tobacco (oh yeah, I’m totally growing it)
I’m also working on growing Japanese Raisin Tree, Sichuan Pepper (wish me luck, Andi… it’s a long haul with growing these babies), Mysore Raspberries, Black Pepper, Kava Kava, Dragonfruit, 1000 Fingers Banana, Lion’s Ear, Cattley Guavas, Yacon, Tea and some rare non-Carica figs.
It ought to be a very interesting year. Some of the Raja Puri bananas I sold to folks last spring are already producing fruit for them, so I’m totally keeping that variety in stock.
Last year I only had a handful of some rare plants. They would come with me to the Farmer’s Market once in a while and get snatched up by plant geeks like myself as soon as they were spotted. Naranjillas and turmeric, coffee and edible-leaf hibiscus; they were pretty much all gone by fall whereas one of my favorite plants – chaya – only rarely sold even though I think it’s one of the best crops you can grow.
We’ll reopen the booth at the 326 Market soon… I’ll let you know when we’re there. Thanks for the e-mails and the encouragement.
I am thrilled to see people growing their own food.