There had always been a considerable love affair with fruit for me from as far back as I can remember. I can vividly remember gorging myself as a child on star apples (camito) or anticipating the arrival of mango season in Jamaica. Mangoes were never the common fruit where we lived in the hills of Mandeville some 2300 feet above sea level as it was mostly too cool and wet up here, but we made do with what was about.
But as a youngster you would look forward to the trips through the lower areas where venders would line the roadside with anything that was in season at the time. Everything was present from naseberry (sapodilla), sweet sop (sugar apple) and sour sop, to bananas and the huge jack fruit.
Even though the cool climes and relatively over abundant rainfall negated against some fruits thriving, it was an excellent local for others. Some like the lychee (sub-tropical fruits) actually welcomed and needed the cooler mountain air to flower successfully. The lychee, stood out as the most prized of fruit for me and most of the population, fetching high prices year after year.
The longan, a close relation to the lychee, is also a prized possession, however not as well-known except in the large Chinese community on the island.
It was a common occurrence for the family to spend hours scouring the adjacent areas for the luscious plump fruit that were up for sale. The kids were hardly able to endure the excruciatingly long drive (15 minutes) to dive into the bags of red gems.
It was on one of these outings many years ago that I first met Reg a local enthusiast whose love of exotic fruit was infectious, and I was soon bitten by the bug.
Now residing in the hills overlooking a north coast town, his present ‘ranch’ striking a picturesque vista as cruise ships meander into port in the distance. While just below this canvas there is the outline of naseberries (sapodilla) and longan (dragon eye) trees reflecting that same strong Jamaican sunshine. Some of his more prized possessions even rarer than my own like the exquisite mangosteen, (known as the queen of fruit) of which only a few trees have been known to have fruited on the island.
Like a lot of endeavors, hobbies or even that rare job, doing what you love can have a relaxing almost spiritual effect up on the mind and body. (The eating isn’t all that bad either) something akin to the zen like state of consciousness so many traditionalist Japanese strive for
“The person of Zen when eating simply eats with full concentration, one thing at a time and not allowing the mind to become influenced or distributed by other things, as is the usual way of most people. When practicing a martial art you concentrate on each technique, perform it, accept it for what it is, then leave it.” Taichido.com
Another one of my favorites is the atemoya, what most would regard as an ugly fruit. I have heard it described as a cross between an asparagus and an alien blob. But what is sure is that it makes up for its lack of charisma with a taste that is to die for. Reminiscent of a pina colada in taste with custardy succulent flesh so tasty many can’t wait for late summer to roll around when they start to ripen on the trees.
There is a love hate relationship with birds and bats when you have sweet ripening fruit to draw their interest. Insisting on partaking a little too much and a little too vigorously in the procuring of the crops.
How animals so slight in stature make such a huge dent in crops in such a small amount of time continues to baffle me, I guess its simply strength in numbers and working intently together. (something maybe we could learn from)
(Image:carambola or star fruit)
But back to my friend Reg. His journey has been a continuous search for fruit, both for the knowledge and for the prized trees to add to an ever growing collection.
Whether it’s the subtle sparkle of the morning dew as the sun slowly evaporates the moisture from the night before, or the tangy yet sweet flavors that supercharge the salivary glands just thinking about the tastes. (Like now) Or it could be the joy of having the perfect specimen, plump, juicy and bursting at the seams, making for the ultimate of pastimes.
It never grows old to mingle with what nature chooses to create. (lending a little help where necessary) Some of us choose to make sure that others later down the line, maybe in some far off obscure patch of land can also experience the zen of tropical fruit growing. The rarer the better.