Fruit trees an important food source
Fruit Trees in Brazil
By Gary Wyatt, Jeff Coulter, and Suzanne Driessen
There are many edible fruit trees and shrubs in Brazil, which serve as a valuable food and income resource in small gardens to large plantations. Below is a review of a few of the fruit and food producing plants we saw and ate on our tour of southern Brazil.
Orange: The 9,000 acre orange plantation we visited was selling all of their oranges to a juice processor. This plantation had over 1.5 million trees, and is the second largest orange plantation in the world. The orange tree can begin producing at 3 years of age and continue to produce for up to 20 years. The plantation had 200 full time employees and hires up to 4,000 workers to help hand harvest the oranges during November and December. This plantation uses integrated pest management practices to identify insect and disease thresholds which indicate proper and timely control measures. Three varieties of orange trees are present on this plantation, as suggested by the juice processor. Bees are needed for pollination during August and September, so independent bee keepers bring their bee hives into the plantation during this time. Both businesses benefit from each other. In addition, windbreaks separate fields and provide a natural barrier to reduce the spread of disease and insect infestations.
Banana: Bananas are grown in many parts of Brazil. Bananas are a very common food served in many ways throughout the day. They are not just for breakfast. For example, we had fried, caramel bananas for dessert at lunch and dinner. Bananas grow in bunches, with 60 to 80 bananas per bunch. They are picked year round in large plantations. The main insect which affects bananas is the fruit fly.
Mango: There is a large mango export market in Brazil. They pick the fruit green, export it, and ripen it with ethylene gas at the destination. Mangos are slightly bigger than a softball and are usually yellow inside. Their taste resembles ripe peaches. There are two major types of mango: Tomi (commercially grown) and Coquinho (smaller).
Jaca: One day, our interpreter stopped the bus at a roadside stand. He brought back a strange looking, large football shaped fruit called Jaca. After cutting it he encouraged us to eat the yellow part around the large seeds. It had a rubbery citrus taste. It is not commercially grown but it is eaten and found in local markets.
Jaboticaba: This is called the blackberry tree. The large quarter sized berries are attached to the tree limbs and trunk, something that is not common in the U.S. Berries have 1 to 2 seeds and are used for jams, liquors, and fresh fruit. It is not commercially grown.
Acerola: This is a red berry that grows from a shrub. One berry contains as much vitamin C as 4 oranges. The berries are harvested and made into frozen concentrate. We noticed at the grocery store that a Tic Tac breath mint flavor was made from acerola.
Coconut: Plantations are usually found in the warm tropical region with sandy soils. Green coconuts are harvested for coconut water. It was offered at one of the restaurants as a supplemental drink at lunch. One tree bears up to 100 fruits that are harvested once each year.
Papaya: Papaya fruit was served for breakfast in almost all of our hotels. It was sliced and quartered like melon slices with its seeds on top. It is also served in a fruit syrup mix with other fruits.
Fig: Figs are usually grown in northern Brazil but were served as dessert in many restaurants. Figs are grown on bushy trees that are 30 to 50 feet wide. Figs are usually not eaten raw, and they are served in sweet syrup. Their seeds are smaller than those of strawberries.
Grapes: Grapes are grown to produce wine, in many parts of Brazil.
Although not a fruit, Cassava is a very important food source in Brazil. Cassava is a tuberous root vegetable like plant resembling horse radish with a brown skin and white inside. It is largely grown for flour, but it is also fried like French fries. However, it is cooked before it is fried. There are several tubers per plant.
A Flordia nursery has photos and descriptions of the tropical fruit we saw and tasted in Brazil on their website: http://www.tropicalfruitnursery.com/fruitproducts_gl.htm Some of these fruits can be grown in Flordia.