When you think about tropical fruit, pineapple, coconut and mango likely come to mind. These fruits are generally available in grocery stores throughout the U.S., but are usually imported from places like Mexico and Colombia. But if you live in South Florida, Southern California or Hawai'i, you'll see these fruits, and so many more, growing locally. Atemoya, black sapote and sapodilla, for example, thrive in hot, humid climates and are relatively unknown in this country, outside the areas they are grown.
But in the regions where they grow, the bright, tangy, fragrant flavors of these tropical fruits are embraced fully. There are festivals in Hawai'i to celebrate breadfruit, a starchy fruit that can be used both unripe, similarly to potato, and when soft and ripe, in sweet preparations such as custard. While Florida's official state fruit is the orange, the large Cuban population there is more partial to mamey sapote, a fruit that the magazine "Edible Orlando" describes as tasting like, "the best baked sweet potato you've ever eaten (except better), infused with mango and hints of almond extract." And in Southern California, you are as likely to see dragon fruit, prickly pears and star fruit in your morning breakfast fruit bowl as you are raspberries and blueberries.
We've recently expanded FoodPrint's Seasonal Food Guide and Real Food Encyclopedia to include more of the fresh produce available in these regions. And while some are easy to eat and use in recipes, other tropical fruits — jackfruit for instance — require skill to properly open and cook. To learn more about these fruits and for recipe inspiration, we often turn to these expert cooks, bloggers and social media influencers. Do you have a favorite social media account focused on tropical seasonal eating that we forgot? DM us on IG to let us know!
Rare Fruit Council International
Miami's Rare Fruit Council (@rarefruitmiami) is a non-profit that was established in 1995 to promote tropical fruits in South Florida. If you live in the area, you can attend monthly meetings at its Miami headquarters (or affiliate fruit clubs), which include speakers, plant swaps, tastings and potlucks. They also have plant sales at Miami's botanical garden and a stand at a local farmers' market. But those of us outside the sunny state can still ogle gorgeous fruit photos thanks to their Instagram account, which showcases information about rare cultivars, photos of plants in various stages of growth, and information about tropical fruits. Some Miami members recently visited Grimal Grove, a tropical fruit grove in the Florida Keys, where they got to harvest cacao.
Florida native Craig Hepworth named both his Instagram account and website Florida Fruit Geek, where he is dedicated to "celebrating the abundance, diversity, and health benefits of food that grows on trees." His website is a wellspring of tropical fruit knowledge; he offers information on using scientific names, fruit growing guides, and how-to videos for fruit preparation. On his social media account, he shares photos and very detailed captions about produce he finds all over Florida, things like loquats, durian and mamey (which he describes as life changing). Many of the fruits he shares are very rare or plants he is growing himself, including the tamarillo fruit in the IG linked below, which Hepworth describes as tasting, "like you mixed flavors of tomato and melon, then sprinkled notes of berry taste into that mix." He has recently been trying a new grafting technique to grow the tamarillo fruit; follow his account to see how he progresses.
Mariana Velásquez, food stylist and author of the new cookbook "Colombiana," doesn't focus solely on tropical fruits on her Instagram account (@marianavelasquezv), but the native Colombian regularly features recipes and dishes that do. Some recent posts include a cheesecake topped with guava and blackberries; uchuva (also called cape gooseberry); and plantains and mangoes as part of a tropical fruit still life. Velásquez also has her own line of flowy kitchen aprons, including one that features oranges, inspired by citrus groves.
LA-based food stylist April Rankin (@_april_rankin) is a regular at the city's Santa Monica and Hollywood farmers' markets, where she snaps gorgeous photos of what's in season. While it's not all tropical fruit on this account, you'll find dragon fruit, loquats and passion fruit mixed in with her posts of other seasonal produce, recipes and selfies. While her captions are minimal, the photos are so pretty, if you are searching for some #tropicalfruitporn or a new phone wallpaper, this is the account for you.
As food editor of "Honolulu Magazine," Martha Cheng eats a lot of great food, some of which she documents on her Instagram account (@marthacheng). But along with travel and surf photos, Cheng also shares plenty of information about the tropical fruit she eats her way through: different varieties of mango, grown on her backyard tree, or lychee from a local grocery store. A few months ago she showed off the amazing variety of bananas she got in a tasting box, like the sweet-and-tangy Mysore and pink-fleshed Iholena, all of which are unavailable outside of California, Florida and Hawai'i.
Big Island Farmers
For more Hawai'i fruit love, follow @bigislandfarmers, an account and website that help support small farmers by showing local shoppers where to buy their produce. Even if you don't live on the Big Island, following the account can be insightful, since they share information about and photos of different fruit varieties, along with specifics on farmers' markets, stores and shopping news. One recent find on their page: a farmer showing off Hawai'i-grown coffee beans in their green stage before roasting.
The Breadfruit Institute works within Hawaii''s National Tropical Botanical Garden to research and promote breadfruit cultivation, and is home to the world's largest collection of breadfruit cultivars, with 150 different varieties. As we have previously reported, Diane Raggone, director of the Institute, calls it the "most ecological carbohydrate in the world," as one breadfruit tree can produce 300 pounds of fruit annually and its strong root system helps strengthen the soil and store carbon. On their Instagram account (@breadfruit_institute), the Institute shares photos of their many different varieties, as well as other plants at the botanical garden, including rare bananas, star fruit, chiles and others. Following their account, you'll also find tips for cleaning and cooking breadfruit and information about soil health.