Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tropical Fruit Trees Thrive in the Arizona Desert

I Love Tropical Fruits! The more exotic the fruit, such as dragon fruit or passion fruit, the better I like it. The problem with being a tropical fruit lover is that I don’t live in the tropics! This typically means that with tropical fruit comes a high price associated with the long distance they must be shipped from the tropics. Most of the tropical produce found in the USA comes from Southern Mexico, Central America, and South America. Couple this long distance with high fuel prices and it makes for some very expensive fruit. If you have ever seen the price of mangos you can understand what I’m saying. What we pay for one mango here we would pay for a whole kilo (about 6 fruits) in the tropics. Another problem with shipping fruits long distances is that the fruit must be picked before it has fully ripened and is therefore not as flavorful as fruit allowed to ripen on the tree, bush, or vine. I have been fortunate enough to have visited the tropics and trust me…..nothing tastes better than freshly picked tropical fruits.




I have often toyed with the idea of growing tropical fruits in desert but I figured I would have to spend a fortune on a climate controlled environment which defeats the whole purpose. Then I got a meet-up message from Dennis McClung at Gardenpool.org that the group was going to meet at Tropica Mango Rare Fruit Nursery  in Mesa AZ. Of course I had no idea that anyone was actually growing tropical fruits in Arizona so I was all over that opportunity. Well on the day I was to go I ended up with an ear and sinus infection and couldn’t go. I was disappointed and decide as soon as I could I would take a drive out there on my own.
 
The Tropica Mango Rare Fruit Nursery is Located at 10520 E. Apache Trail,
Apache Junction AZ (Actually E. Mesa) So type Mesa in The Ole GPS




Well, Saturday, June 25th, 2011 was that day. I left about 10am and arrived at the nursery about 11am. There is a big handmade sign in front of the nursery that proclaims rare and exotic fruit trees inside, Mango Banana, Guava, Avocado, and Papaya are all mentioned on the sign. I expected to see a huge greenhouse with misting systems and a sophisticated climate control system. Instead, I found a large array of very healthy looking plants and trees under a canopy of shade screen. When the owner, Alex Peña, arrive a few minutes later I introduced myself and started asking questions.


Some of the many varieties of Tropical Fruit Trees Found at the E. Mesa Nursery





The first question was, “What got you interested in growing tropical fruit?” Alex responded with a simple, “I like fruit.” He then went on to explain that he began a number of years ago by trying, with much difficulty, to grow an avocado tree. While doing this he also began experimenting with other tropicals and actually found most varieties quite easy to grow. In 1995 he opened the first of two nurseries, one in  Central Phoenix  and the other in East Mesa which just happens to have an Apache Junction Mailing Address.

Owner Alex Peña Is More Than Happy To Help Make Your
Tropical Fruit Growing Experience a Sweet Success



The second question I asked was don’t tropical trees require high humidity to grow. Alex replied that it is not the humidity that is the limiting factor but the temperature. What makes Arizona a great place to grow Tropical Fruit Trees is that the temperatures rarely dip below the point that will damage them. There are a few, such as the Guyabana tree that do not do well below 40 F. but most tropical trees will grow in Arizona. Some better than others. Not to worry though, Alex has become an expert in growing these trees in the Valley of the Sun and will be glad to offer the advice needed to make any gardeners’ attempts to grow tropicals successful!

Healthy Guava Trees Thrive in The Arizona Sun






I asked Alex what fruit trees would grow here and he started to rattle off a list which included mangos, banana, guava, avocado, papaya, and about 3 dozen other varieties. The greatest enemy to the trees is not the hot sun but the short winter with below freezing temperature. To counter this, the plants must be covered. Tropical fruit trees thrive in our hot desert climate, but Alex points out that most must be protected from full summer sun for the first two years until the bark develops enough to keep the tree from burning.


Bananas Are A Good Choice For Beginners.  





Well armed with Alex’s encouragement and the confidence that I can now grow my own fruit trees, I asked Alex which trees would work well in containers. I was told that bananas and guava will do well and that many of the species have dwarf varieties which will lend themselves well to containers. All I have to do is remember to water, feed, and protect the new trees from the hot sun and I will be well on my way to my own tropical garden.


My Personal Favorite, The Mango Tree




Cherries and Curry Leaf



Tropica Mango Also Carries Several Varieties of Sugar Cane




For more information on the tropicamango visit there website at: http://www.tropicamango.com/. The site offers all of the information needed to make growing your own tropicals a smashing success.


Search Amazon.com for growing tropical fruit







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