It’s hard to explain to gardeners in temperate climates, but the sheer amount of food you can grow in the humid tropics is unbelievable. Every time I visit South Florida I get climate envy. South Florida gardening can be truly amazing.
You really have to screw it up to lack food. And believe me – it does happen. There are way too many ornamentals and areas paved over with concrete and planted with inedible grasses and palms, yet if you are a gardener who will work with the climate and love to grow, you can produce insane quantities of produce.
About 12 years ago I planted a starfruit tree in my parents’ backyard. Here it is in 2013, to the lower left. It’s only about 4′ tall here.
And here it is today:
This tree is a monster, producing way more starfruit than my family can eat. They are sweet and juicy, and Mom regularly gives them away to friends.
Many others fall to the ground and are re-absorbed into the soil.
Is this a waste?
Well, maybe in a sense, in that no person gets to enjoy the fruit that fall and rot. But in another sense, it isn’t, as the fruit feeds the soil, the insects and the worms. Also, these fruit are the result of the rain and sunshine God sends in abundance. If you want to take it down to the numbers, the tree originally cost me $35. Since then it has produced literally tons of fruit which has been enjoyed by many, many people. Baskets have been eaten and baskets have been given away.
My sister Rachel told me today that starfruit sell for $1 each where she lives in Georgia. Down in South Florida, I bet it’s about the same, maybe a little less. If you were to calculate the value of the fruit we’ve eaten over the years, it must be at least $2000 so far, and the tree should have many years in front of it.
And then when you look at the other trees in this system, some of them have been real champs. The mulberries are abundant, the moringa are always producing new crops of leaves, the katuk is a a huge mess of greenery, the mango tree is ridiculously overfilled with fruit, and there are yams everywhere.
In a tiny little South Florida yard.
But just the starfruit alone is a testament to what can be produced in the sand, provided the climate is frost-free year round.
And not only is it abundant, it’s beautiful.
I absolutely love starfruit and how the semi-translucent fruit hang like Chinese lanterns on graceful nut-brown branches.
When I was in Grenada I remember people on YouTube saying, “whoa – there are so many mangoes on the ground, just rotting away! You need to can them!”
It’s hard to believe it, but you really cannot keep up with fruit in the tropics. There’s always more, poured out from Heaven in insane abundance. By the time you finished canning the first round, you’d have another thousand pounds of something else to can. You’d really never even end up getting around to EATING what you can, since there’s always more fruit coming in season.
You just enjoy what you can pick as the seasons change, and learn to not worry about saving all the extra. Sure, it would make sense to get a pig or chickens or something to turn the abundance into meat, but still – there’s so, so much!
I wish I could get everyone in South Florida to at least grow one edible fruit tree. Maybe they’d catch the bug and plant more after that. Next thing you’d know, there would be food in such abundance you wouldn’t need to import any.
It’s a dream. Every time I visit and see the green lawns and trimmed, inedible hedges, I imagine what could be done. Maybe one day it will.
If you live down south and haven’t figured out how to garden yet, you’ll enjoy reading The South Florida Gardening Survival Guide. You can’t beat the potential productivity, once you know what you’re doing.
If just one starfruit tree is worth thousands in fruit… imagine the value of a small tropical garden or food forest! The abundance of the tropics is open to you. Will you seize it?