The Gainesville Winter Fruitluck was chilly but fun

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Despite the chilly weather, we had a good turnout of people bringing wonderful fruit to share at our latest Gainesville Fruitluck.

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.

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Sometimes it was even hard to see the fruit, there were so many eager people crowded around the fruit table!

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.

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I got to try tejocote fruits for the first time at this event. Also known as Mexican hawthorn (Crataegus mexicana), this fruit is popular in Mexico in Day of the Dead ceremonies, and as part of ponche, a hot fruit punch enjoyed at Christmas and New Years. I enjoyed them.

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.

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I love seeing the diversity of all the fruits which show up at a fruitluck.

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.

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We had a winter fruitluck, and it went great! Almost 40 people braved the chilly temperatures, and brought a tremendoud abundance of fruits to share. Two of my favorite fruits ripen in South Florida this time of year: pumpkin pie cheesecake fruit (aka canistel) and chocolate pudding fruit (aka black sapote), and I made a special effort to make sure these were available at our North Florida event – it was fun to see many people trying these amazingly delicious treats for the first time. We had the fruitluck once again at the University of Florida's Ethnoecology Garden, which has an extensive collection of edible and useful plants growing. We used leaves from banana plants in tbe garden as "tropical table cloths" and also for banana-leaf plates. Cleanup consisted of simply tossing them in the compost pile. We also had a hand-crank blender, for human-powered smoothies. The diversity of fruits people brought was amazing. I tallied it up, probably missed a few, but here's the list I recorded: canistel, mango, chocolate pudding fruit, papaya, tangerine, miracle fruit, prickly pear, jackfruit, grapefruit, Korean pear, strawberry, apple, melon, tejocote, red dragonfruit, yellow dragonfruit, rambutan, loquat, kiwi, Asian persimmon, kiwano, Cavendish bananas, red bananas, plantains, melon, yellow passionfruit, avocado, and pommelo. We're doing these fruitlucks in Gainesville four times a year, once for each season. Next one will be in April, timed for the height of mulberry and loquat season, when those sweet treats are dripping off the trees around here. #fruitluck #fruitparty #Gainesvillefruitluck

A post shared by Craig Hepworth (@floridafruitgeek) on


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