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Southwest Florida

Florida's Gulf Coast

Florida Tropical Fruits

Warm oceans surround the southern tip of Florida, producing a tropical climate ideal for the growth of nutritious tropical fruits. Many of these fruits are not grown anywhere else in the continental United States. Tropical fruits available "Fresh from Florida" include:

Available August-October
There are two types of annonas grown in Florida, atemoyas and sugar apples, and both are similar in appearance. The fruits are light green, have a bumpy skin, and are about 3 inches wide and 4 inches long. Atemoyas and sugar apples are made up of small segments that when ripe separate to expose the white flesh of sweet fragrance and fine creamy texture. Annonas can be eaten fresh from the shell with a spoon while the seeds are separated in the mouth and discarded. The flesh is often added to fruit cups, ice cream, blended with milk and juices to make a cool beverage, and can also be frozen.

Available year round
Florida grows over 50 varieties of banana that range from 3 inches to 16 inches in length. The fruit turns from deep green to yellow or red when ripened, and the fruit’s texture can be firm or soft when ripe. After the peel is removed to expose the white or yellowish fragrant flesh, it is ready to be eaten. Bananas are a versatile fruit that can be eaten fresh, with ice cream, fried as a side dish, and pureed for breads, pies, custards, and milkshakes. Bananas can also be mashed and used as a staple in baby foods or even dried and made into a flour for pastries.

Available year round; most plentiful Fall/Winter
The carambola is a tree with fruit of golden yellow color and a touch of green along the edges when ripe. It is oblong, up to 6 inches in length, and deeply lobed, and when cut in cross section, the slices form a star that gives the fruit its common name of “Star Fruit.” This fruit is completely edible with a thin skin and juicy, crisp flesh, that is sweet. Florida’s sweet carambolas are enjoyed fresh, in fruit salads and in many desserts, including fruit tarts and upside-down cakes. The fruit adds flavor and beauty to stir-fried entrees and tossed green salads. Carambola juice can be made into delicious Florida fruitbased wines, and mixed with gelatin or sherbets.

Available January-February and May-October
Guavas are small, oval fruits about 2-6 inches in size with a thin, light yellow-green skin that is edible. The ripe fruit softens to the touch and emits a sweet, characteristic fragrance. The flesh of the guava can be white, pink, yellow or red, with numerous, small edible seeds. It is delicious eaten out of hand, sliced in fruit cups, pureed for cream desserts, juiced and used in punch, ice cream and sodas, or frozen for later use.

Available July-August
The longan, a close cousin of the litchi, is a tree fruit that grows in clusters. The individual fruits are round with a diameter of about 1 inch and are covered with a brown skin that has a smooth to “pebble” like texture. The flesh of the longan is translucent, white and crisp. Inside the fruit is a single, round seed. Longans are eaten fresh out of hand (discarding the peel and seed), canned in syrup, baked in pies as filling, or placed in fruit cups. They can also be dried and eaten like raisins, or frozen whole in plastic containers.

Available late May-early July
Lychees grow on trees in clusters of 2 to 30 fruits and ripen at the end of spring. This heart shaped fruit has a diameter of 1 to 2 inches and is yellow-red or reddish-brown in color. The thin skin is bumpy, leathery, and easy to peel. Inside, the pulp is translucent, sweet and juicy, and surrounds a single seed, and the flavor is sweet, fragrant and delicious. Lychees are peeled, pitted, and eaten out of hand, added to fruit cups, stuffed with cottage cheese, or blended with ice cream, gelatin or fruit juices. Lychees may also be added to stir-fry dishes, placed on baking hams, or grilled on steaks. When the fruit is dried whole, the skin hardens and when shaken, the fruit inside rattles like a nut which gives it the name “lychee nut.” Lychees can be stored whole in plastic bags and frozen to enjoy throughout the year.

Mamey Sapote
Available February-September
This large, long fruit has coarse, brown, leathery skin, and when ripe, yields to a gentle squeeze. The beautiful flesh is salmon or red-colored, and is sweet tasting, and its fragrance complements its flavor. The texture of this non-fibrous fruit is custard-like. Mamey Sapote is used in milkshakes and smoothies, fruit salads, cooked in desserts, or eaten raw with cream and sugar. Mamey also freezes well.

Available June-September
Florida grows many different varieties of mangos that can measure up to 8 inches in diameter. The fruit’s skin is leathery and smooth, and colored with greens, yellows and reds. Inside, the color of the flesh ranges from pale yellow to deep orange. A ripe mango is soft to the touch, with a pleasing aroma, and has a tropical peach-like flavor. Mango is enjoyed in many ways. One easy way is to peel it and slice the fruit into wedges. Mango can be cubed and added to fruit salads, gelatins, pies and cobbler, eaten as a fresh dessert or frozen. Mangos can also be used green sprinkled with salt, or pickled in a salsa as a condiment. Frozen mango juice adds a tasty twist to a cool beverage on a summer day.

Available mostly year round
Papaya resembles a melon in shape, size and texture, and is grown on a small tree. The skin is thin, smooth, tough, and is light or deep yellow in color when ripe. The inside flesh may be yellow, orange or salmon color, and it encloses numerous small, peppery seeds in the center of the fruit. Papayas are juicy and sweet, and taste similar to a cantaloupe with a characteristic fragrance. Although most commonly eaten fresh, after being peeled and cut into wedges, papayas can be served frozen, in fruit salads, added to ice cream, baked and eaten as a vegetable, pickled, or juiced and blended into beverages and gelatins. Unripe, green papayas are boiled and served as a vegetable, or cubed and cooked in vegetable soup. The fruit contains papain, which helps digestion and is used to tenderize meat.

Passion Fruit
Available July-March
This vine fruit is round and 3 inches in diameter. Its color ranges from dark purple with faint white specks, to light yellow, and the rind is tough, smooth, and approximately 1/8 inch thick. Under the rind lies a membranous sac filled with orange, pulpy juice with a characteristic flavor, and numerous hard black and brown seeds. This fruit is eaten by scooping out the pulp of a halved passion fruit – seeds and all. Eat it fresh or add cream and sugar. Passion fruit may also be added to fruit salads or beverages to give a delicious, tropical taste. Some prefer to remove the seeds by pressing the fruit through a cheese cloth or strainer. Then, the juice is added to beverages or sherbets or boiled and used in sauces, gelatins, candy, cake icing and filling, chiffon pie, or cocktails.

Information Provided by Florida Department of Agruculture