More Unusual Fruits from the Islands

December 23, 2009

Here’s the follow up article to finish describing the exotic Caribbean tropical fruits that I challenged you to identify in a previous post. James managed to name them all correctly and will receive a prize in the form of a PRO digging fork that he says will come in very handy as he cultivates his raised bed garden.

There are many unusual fruits found growing in St. Croix, and I did my best to throw a slight curve by showing a different view on any common tropical fruits that were included in the photo line up.

There’s More that One Way to Serve a Breadfruit

BreadfruitStarting with the breadfruits, these are strange but versatile fruits that I had never seen or tasted prior to my visit to the island. The flesh inside is white to cream colored, dry, and not quite as sweet as a typical tropical fruit.

The trees are very productive, bearing grapefruit sized round fruits. Although there are different varieties of breadfruit that produce larger fruits and some that are oblong rather than round.

Breadfruit trees offer many beneficial uses from lumber, to medicines and food. I wasn’t excited about the taste initially when I tried one breadfruit that was baked and another that was made into a fruity desert. I had a change of heart and enjoyed this tropical fruit when it was grilled or fried like plantains.

Uncommon and Edible Banana Flowers from St. Croix

PB201769Next on the list is a very familiar fruit, the banana which you may not have recognized because the odd part pictured was the banana flower or blossom rather than the fruits that we are accustomed to finding in bunches at the local grocer.

Bananas grow well in St. Croix and always seemed to be in season and ripening during my visits to the Caribbean. I have a friend that grows banana plants here in Pennsylvania during the summer months, but getting them to bear fruit in our climate is a totally different matter!

It turns out that the showy banana flower pictured is actually edible itself and commonly used in Asian and Indian dishes ranging from soups and salads to stir fries. You may also stumble upon recipe ingredients such as banana blossoms or banana heart, which are just other names for the banana plant’s flower.

Tropically Refreshing and Juicy Passion Fruits

DSCF0318The passionfruit flower is probably more recognizable than the fruits themselves and that is unfortunate because they are tasty and can be used in a variety of ways. I’ve tasted passion fruit in tropical fruit flavored drinks but the fresh fruit was an entirely new experience.

The fruits are about the size of a large lemon and can be cut in half to reveal a juicy mix of seeds, gel like pulp, and juice. The seeds are soft enough that you can eat them along with the flesh and enjoy the slightly sweet, tart, tropical flavor.

This plant isn’t a tree but a vine that can be staked along rows in the garden, making for an attractive windbreak or divider. Passionfruit vines are very productive and the fruits turn yellow as they ripen and fall to the ground where they are easily harvested.

From Papaya Flowers to Perpetually Productive Fruits

PB201759Papaya trees are ornamental and incredibly productive with mature fruits ripening towards the bottom while new flowers continued to set and develop new fruits at the top of the tree.

Papayas are so exotic and attractive that I would love to grow one out on the patio. We did come across an annual variety that was being propagated at the University of the Virgin Islands so maybe that’s not such a far fetched idea after all.

There were fruits almost as large as coconuts ringing the tree trunks in a circular arrangement. The dark green, slightly ridged papayas quickly turn orange as they ripen to signal that they are ready for harvesting. The fruits are eaten fresh and used in a variety of cooked dishes.

Whoever Said that You Can’t Eat a Loofah?

PB181370This final fruit could easily be mistaken for some climbing variety of cucumber, but it is actually an edible loofah. The loofah is a plant that I grew to love in St. Croix and I will definitely find out how well it will grow in my garden this coming summer.

I always considered loofah to be nothing more than an oddity grown to create sponges and was surprised to learn that certain loofah varieties are not only edible, but actually very delicious.

A strong climber, loofah will need to be trellised and given plenty of room to roam. In return it will produce enormous fruits that are tasty and make a great addition to soups, stews, and stir fries.

If you’re fortunate enough to be blessed with a tropical climate you may want to try your hand at growing some of these exotic fruits in the garden. If not a visit to local market or ethnic grocer may turn up a surprise or two from the exotic fruits described in the past few articles here.

You can see more photos from St. Croix and the Virgin Island Sustainable Farm Institute posted on the Veggie Gardening Tips Facebook page.

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  • Ms. Hill

    Hi there,

    I’m new to organic gardening and came across your blog when looking for a cure for bottom rot on my tomatoes. I live in South Florida (10b.)

    Anyhoo, two weeks ago, I learned that loofahs grow on a vine! My neighbor down the street grows them. Whowouldathunk? She gave me a handful and I made the most beautiful soaps out of them. Oh yeah, I love roasted breadfruit with bacalou aka salt fish…Mmmm,mmmmm. Happy new year!


  • You are funny. I live in south florida also.Having fun growing everything. Served collards mustards and turnip greens together. no less i was the hit at christmas dinner from all my family. anyhoo blog later.

  • I also love papaya trees! And eating a loofah, I had no clue that they were eddible, cant wait to hear how well they grow in your garden!

  • Hello everyone! I have grown vegetables all my life and never knew that loofah grew on a vine. I always thought it was a sponge that was cultivated from the ocean – like some of those household sponges you buy at Wal Mart. Any way, very interesting topic Kenny, and glad you got the chance to spend some time in the tropics away from the snow.

  • That’s great to know these organic fruits. I think these are superb gardening tips for you. So all the garden lovers people will enjoy this post because they will find it quite helping for their garden.

  • Great Photos! We unforunately can’t grow such cool things here in NJ.

  • I am curious if passion fruit vine is the same as the passion flower vine that my parents grow in Florida and attracts all those lovely butterflies:)

  • Charles of Perth

    Yes, likely the one! Florida would be an ideal climate for passion fruit. Flowers are very exotic looking and pretty. Dead easy to grow too. Bit of fertilizer a couple times a year….and some sort of trellis to spread out on – and they are happy…never had any disease problems or serious pests…..and the reward can be many dozens, even hundreds, of tasty fruit.

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