Despite drought, then rain, fall tropicals show success

Despite drought, then rain, fall tropicals show success

While one might associate tropical fruits with summer months, tropicals also shine well into the fall and winter. 

Despite extreme weather of combined heat, humidity and storms, tropical fruit from Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals Inc. is expected to have a successful fall season.

“Our passion fruit vineyards are showing such great promise for an exotic tropical taste for fall enjoyment,” said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals. 

From January through May Florida and Central America experienced major drought, and the summer brought heavy rains and high temperatures, which affected dragon fruit and yucca, said Denise Gomez, marketing assistant for Miami, Fla.-based J&C Tropicals.

Popular items from J&C Tropicals include yucca, malanga blanca, calabaza and dragon fruit, she said.

Florida star fruit is also a popular holiday garnish. Harvest for star fruit began in November, Ostlund said.

In the tropics, Brooks Tropicals’ SlimCados avocados are growing, Ostlund said. SlimCados will reach their peak in fall and early winter.

“These avocados get larger — yes, even larger — as we harvest into the fall and winter,” Ostlund said. “We’re picking in the winter.”

Florida dragon fruit had a strong year and fields are looking promising for next season, she said. 

Gomez said demand continues to grow for dragon fruit and, because of weather, supply is down. 

“Tropical fruit overall is achieving greater demand,” Ostlund said.

Brooks Tropicals assumes increased demand is due to the unusual shapes, colors and sizes of tropical fruit, and consumers looking to buy them after having them in a tropical dish or drink, she said.

Star fruit, passion fruit and dragon fruit are becoming more popular, she added.

“Star fruit’s stellar reputation as a ‘quickly disappearing garnish’ has cooks thinking the fruit deserves to be in the dish whether salad, veggie side or grilled entrée,” Ostlund said. 

“Passion fruit iced tea in many restaurants is sparking trial at home.”

Dragon fruit is also being added to salads, she said.

Because of the rise in popularity, tropical fruit stands out among fall favorites at retail.

“As you head into the winter, locally grown displays can be widened to domestically grown,” Ostlund said. “Florida’s domestically grown star fruit, passion fruit and dragon fruit are a colorful welcome sight on the approach of winter.”

Tropical fruit also adds to salad and lunch box displays.

“Star fruit and dragon fruit slices are eye catchers for the consumers ready to grab a salad and go,” Ostlund said.

There is a shift from tropical summer fruits to more root vegetables in the fall and winter, Gomez said.

“These mainly are used in soups and stews, so it fits the temperature change,” she said.