Tropical Boosts

FloridaSAG2016_DM_LinkedUntitledArticle by Matthew D. Ernstfrom in The Journal of Florida Agriculture – Fresh from Florida, March edition.

From avocados and mangoes to starfruit and dragon fruit, Florida tropical fruits add exotic hues and flavors to fresh produce sections nationwide.

AVOCADOS

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Avocados move through a conveyer belt at the Brooks Tropicals facilities.

Grown in Florida since at least 1833, avocados are mainly grown in Miami-Dade County today. Florida avocado varieties prefer wet weather, and there’s a nutritional bonus: up to half the fat and about two-thirds fewer calories than their dryer-climate cousins. “Florida avocados are simply a different branch of the avocado family tree,” says Mary Ostlund, marketing director at Brooks Tropicals LLC, which ships Florida avocados nationwide from June to January.

The avocado harvest is holding, around 7,000 acres, despite a threat from laurel wilt fungus. A nonnative species, the red ambrosia beetle, spreads the disease. “With no known predators for the beetle, we as an industry have struggled to find answers,” Ostlund says. The University of Florida and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have helped avocado growers “come a long way in curtailing the problem,” she adds.

Brooks Tropicals salesperson Sue Garcia shows off the company's box of delicious starfruit

Brooks Tropicals salesperson Sue Garcia shows off the company’s box of delicious starfruit

TROPICAL CORNUCOPIA

Other tropical acreages, like guava and mango, are on the rise. Brooks Tropicals also ships Florida-grown dragon fruit, passion fruit, starfruit and mamey sapote. South Florida firms ship mamey nationally. The fruit has a texture that is both creamy and sweet, and the flavor is a combination of sweet potato and pumpkin with notes of almond, chocolate, honey and vanilla.

 

Other tropical acreages, like guava and mango, are on the rise. Brooks Tropicals also ships Florida-grown dragon fruit, passion fruit, starfruit and mamey sapote. South Florida firms ship mamey nationally. The fruit has a texture that is both creamy and sweet, and the flavor is a combination of sweet potato and pumpkin with notes of almond, chocolate, honey and vanilla.

“Florida delivers the nation’s produce aisle during the winter season. For tropicals, it’s almost year round,” Ostlund says.