The Gainesville Fruitluck is starting to become a happening event. We had our third seasonal fruitluck on January 20, at the Ethnoecology Garden at the University of Florida. Despite the chilly weather, about 35-40 people attended, and brought a great diversity of fruit to share.
The Gainesville Fruitluck was inspired by the long-running monthly Tampa Fruitluck, and we scheduled it this time to have our event a week after the Tampa folks had their fruit gathering. That scheduling enabled a group of us to make the trek down to Tampa/St Pete the previous weekend, procure lots of tropical fruit from the amazing Mustang Market near St. Petersburg, hang out with our friends at the Tampa fruitluck, and bring a nice stash of tropical fruits back to Gainesville to share with people at our own event the following weekend.
Gainesville is in North Florida, and it’s sometimes hard to find really good tropical fruits for sale there – I think Mustang Market is the closest place to reliably offer some of the good ones. I’ve been telling lots of people how good a couple of my favorite winter-ripening tropical fruits are, canistel and chocolate pudding fruit, and I wanted to both get some of these for myself, and to make sure people could try these delicious treats at the fruitluck. Mission accomplished – we got a supply of both canistel and chocolate pudding fruit to take back to Gainesville and many people were able to try these amazing fruits for the first time.
The Ethnoecology Garden is a wonderful spot, with a wooden bench sitting area surrounded by gardens full of a collection of edible and useful plants gathered by members of the UF Ethnoecology club over the years. The weather was overcast and chilly, but there is a fire pit next to the sitting area, so we kept a nice fire going for anyone to soak up some heat.
Fortunately this has been such a mild winter (so far) that many of the banana plants in the garden still had most of their leaves, so we were able to cut some leaves to use both for a tropical-style “table cloth”, and also for banana-leaf plates. At the end of the gathering, we simply tossed the banana-leaf table coverings and plates into the compost pile at the gardens, for minimal waste. We also had a hand-cranked blender, for making human-powered smoothies out of the fruits.
A special treat for me was that my friend Cheng Liu brought fruits of tejocote, the Mexican hawthorn (Crataegus mexicana), which she’d gotten at a farmers market in Atlanta. This fruit is prized in parts of Mexico for use in ceremonies for Day of The Dead, and used in ponche, and hot fruit drink enjoyed at Christmas and New Years. I had never tasted tejocote before, and I enjoyed it and saved the seeds for planting.
Another treat was that Oliver Moore brought some of his Gainesville-grown jackfruit, grown in a greenhouse, for everyone to taste. He has one jackfruit tree fruiting in his tall greenhouse, and I suspect it might be the northernmost fruiting jackfruit tree in the state of Florida.
It’s always fun at a fruitluck seeing all the diversity of what people bring to share. Here’s the list of everything I recorded that was at this event: Korean pear, tejocote, cavendish bananas, plantains, yellow passion fruit, papaya, pineapple, jackfruit, grapefruit, strawberries, canistel, avocado, tangerines, miracle fruit, apple, melon, red banana, kiwano, pommelo, mango, chocolate pudding fruit, prickly pear, rambutan, loquat, Asian persimmon, dragonfruit, and kiwi.
We’re planning the Gainesville Spring Fruitluck tentatively for some time in April, which is the season for mulberries and loquats around here – we should have an abundance of local sweet fruity goodness to share and enjoy then.