New Papaya Tree

IMG_3330My newest papaya plant is full of fruit. This tree is only 7’ tall so the fruit will be easy to pick once they are ripe. Papaya is also called lechosa and fruta bomba in Spanish. In Australia and some countries of the Caribbean, it is called papaw or pawpaw. The mature fruit can weigh up to 20 pounds!

My First Persimmon

IMG_3129 (2)I only discovered persimmon when I was visiting my brother Carlos, in Sacramento, California, 13 months ago. He had a basket of it on his kitchen counter that his neighbor who was growing it had given him. Carlos had never tasted the fruit either. So we sliced one open and ate it. I was astonished at how good it tasted. So Carlos gave me a few of the precious bounty and I’ve been a huge fan ever since.

When I saw persimmon trees on sale at my local nursery this past May, I took one home, even though persimmons don’t usually fruit well in south Florida. The variety I purchased– Fuyu Persimmon– is bred for our hot climate and is supposed to need less cold days to develop fruit. The little tree had three tiny persimmon growing on its’ limbs, which the saleslady told me would fall off because the tree was still too small to fully develop the fruit. But I held out hope that they would grow large enough to eat.

I placed the new tree along the side of the house until I could figure out where I wanted to plant it in my yard. Then I sort of forgot about it. By the time I began to pay attention to it again, it had dried out. All the leaves had fallen off, but the three tiny persimmons still clung to the tree. I promptly planted the tree and began to faithfully water it. Leaves grew back. Then one immature fruit fell off. Then the second immature fruit fell off. But the last remaining fruit (pictured) tenaciously hung on and did eventually grow large enough to eat. Can’t wait till next year’s crop!

The Papaya Whisperer

IMG_3354 (3)I am so thankful to my gardener for helping me cut down these large papayas from my very tall papaya tree. I just couldn’t maneuver the fruit-picking pole between the high hedges and the electrical wires to get at these beauties. He got them easy…although a fourth papaya was accidentally knocked into the yard of my NeighborWithCameras. We weren’t able to retrieve it because there is a wall protecting their side yard from mine, not to mention the security cameras trained on us. I hope they are grateful for the tasty treat that fell out of the heavens onto their grass!

A Common Plant

IMG_3136(2)Do you recognize this leaf? It belongs to a common plant, grown in many people’s yards. It’s a Monstera Deliciosa, also known as Ceriman, Split-Leaf Philodendron or Swiss-Cheese Plant. I first wrote about Monstera last July when mine began to fill with fruit. What’s special about Ceriman is that it is one of few plants that flower and fruit in full shade. And most people don’t know that they can actually eat the fruit. Monstera can also be grown in a planter, and as a houseplant, though it is unlikely to produce fruit like this.

If you want to use the fruit, Monstera is best grown at temperatures of 20–30 °C (68–86 °F). It requires shade and likes high humidity.  The fruit begins to ripen when the hexagonal green scales start to lift off naturally. It takes about a week for all the scales to come off, so one piece of fruit is harvested over several days–not all at once. As the scales come off, you scrape off the moist flesh underneath, which is what you eat. With the piece of fruit in the picture it took 9 days for all the scales to fall off. Since I wasn’t going to use it right away, I scraped the flesh off into a container and froze it every few days, until the entire fruit was finished ripening. A warning is warranted here—don’t force the scales off! You need to let it ripen naturally to the point where the scales lift-off on their own. Then you can eat the flesh underneath. If you eat the flesh before it is fully ripe, it could cause severe irritation in your mouth and throat. If you do this once (as I did the first time I attempted to eat the fruit), you won’t do it again!

Monstera is high in potassium and vitamin C. It tastes like a blend of pineapple and banana. Here are some of my recommendations for how to eat the ripe fruit: mix it into a fruit salad, add it to smoothies, put it on granola or on top of oatmeal, sprinkle it on salads.

© 2015 Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com. Excerpts and links may be used and are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given to Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any other use and/or duplication of this written material & picture(s) is prohibited without written permission from Beatriz Portela.

Banana Flower

59 (2)The first bananas are growing on my Goldfinger Banana plant. This plant is approximately 12’ tall. When the high winds started in Miami due to a possible impending storm, I decided to cut the flower off so that the plant wouldn’t be so top heavy. Banana plants don’t do well in high winds; they tend to topple over. The flower weighed close to 3 pounds!

© 2015 Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com. Excerpts and links may be used and are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given to Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any other use and/or duplication of this written material & picture(s) is prohibited without written permission from Beatriz Portela.

Pomegranate

16 (2)My little pomegranate tree is starting to fruit. This is a dwarf variety, good for growing in planters. It does best in zones 7 through 11. The tree reaches a height and width of approximately 3 feet.

 
 
© 2015 Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com. Excerpts and links may be used and are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given to Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any other use and/or duplication of this written material & picture(s) is prohibited without written permission from Beatriz Portela.

First Pineapple

1 (3)This morning I got to harvest the first pineapple from my yard. I had bought the plant over when I moved here a year ago. When it changed colors from green to yellow, I knew it was ripe. I have six other pineapple plants, in different stages of development. It takes approximately 2 years to grow a pineapple. This fruit can be easily grown in a container as well, because the roots are shallow.

© 2015 Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com. Excerpts and links may be used and are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given to Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any other use and/or duplication of this written material & picture(s) is prohibited without written permission from Beatriz Portela.

The Earth Machine

Master Gardener explains composting
Master Gardener explains composting

Saturday morning I attended a 1-hour composting workshop taught by the University of Florida, Miami-Dade County Extension. They gave me and each of the 50 participants a free composter: The Earth Machine. The plastic bin is only 33” high by 33” wide, so it can fit unobtrusively into most yards.

If you don’t know what compost is… it is the decomposition of organic waste such as food and/or plant material by microbes, worms & other organisms. The end result is humus, a rich material that you can use to fertilize your plants or enrich the soil. (Not to be confused with Hummus!)  It’s very easy to make compost. They suggest that you use 1 part GREENS to 3 parts BROWNS, though this is not a definitive rule. GREENS can be cooked/uncooked fruits & vegetables, breads & grains, coffee grounds & filters, and grass clippings. BROWNS are sawdust, hay & straw, wood fireplace ashes, yard trimmings (leaves, twigs), used potting soil, wood chips, shredded newspaper, eggshells and nut shells. As you fill the bin with your waste material, you should keep it moist and mix it up every now and then. In 4 to 6 months you will have a batch of rich compost.

Things that should NOT be put in the compost bin are aluminum and other metals; glass; meat, dairy and other animal products; yard trimmings treated w/chemical pesticides; and seeds. For more information on upcoming workshops and how to get a free composter if you live in Miami-Dade, you can go to Miami-Dade/UF Extension

© 2015 Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com. Excerpts and links may be used and are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given to Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any other use and/or duplication of this written material & picture(s) is prohibited without written permission from Beatriz Portela.

Basil for Pasta Pomodoro

basil (2)I picked some basil leaves today to use in a Pasta Pomodoro. This is a staple food for me because I always have the ingredients on hand: spaghetti or angel-hair pasta, basil, tomatoes, garlic and extra-virgin olive oil. I sauté the garlic in oil, then I stir in chopped-up fresh tomatoes & basil just to warm them up. Once the pasta is cooked I toss it with the fresh sauce or I pour the sauce on top. Optional: add salt & pepper, to taste; and parmesan cheese.

Basil is easy to grow, though it is a little finicky. It grows well either in the ground or in a planter. It likes a good amount of sun and does not like to be over-watered. It is best to let it dry out before watering the soil completely. But don’t wet the leaves if you can help it! If the leaves are wet too much or it sits in water, it can get a fungus (spots on the leaves), especially if you live in a humid place like I do. You can pick the leaves as you need them. Ideally you should use the leaves fresh. You can also dry the leaves, or freeze for later use.

© 2015 Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com. Excerpts and links may be used and are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given to Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any other use and/or duplication of this written material & picture(s) is prohibited without written permission from Beatriz Portela.

The Star Fruit

IMG_4495 (2)Pick me. I’m a luminous Star. Though some people may call me Carambola. Slice me crosswise and toss me into the heavens to shine. Bite into me. I’m crunchy and juicy and sublime.

 
 
© 2015 Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com. Excerpts and links may be used and are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given to Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any other use and/or duplication of this written material & picture(s) is prohibited without written permission from Beatriz Portela.