Living in the tropics allows the homesteader to go wild with unique tropical fruit trees and shrubs. You really can’t get a better climate for fruit production. The majority of the tropics worldwide are completely frost free with warm and humid weather year-round. In other words, exactly what most fruits need to thrive.
Sure, you could stick to the classic tropical fruits of banana, plantain, mango, and pineapple — but have you considered growing some of the lesser-known tropical fruits? A whole world of diversity is waiting to be discovered in tropical fruit nurseries. Shop around to find unique plants, or get in contact with other farmers in your area.
To whet your appetite, here’s a selection of 15 lesser-known tropical fruit trees for some inspiration on what to grow next on your homestead.
You may already be familiar with the bright pink, spherical fruits known as rambutan, though you might not be familiar with the tropical fruit trees they grow on! You’ll see them in tropical countries being sold in small plastic bags on buses and piled high on the tables of roadside vendors.
红毛丹是一种令人愉悦的水果。Peel away the outer skin，里面等待着一颗被糖果般甜美的果肉包围的芳香果仁。热带地区的高温和潮湿为这些不寻常的美味水果提供了理想的条件。
Rambutan saplings tend to be easier to source than many other tropical fruit trees listed here. Thanks to their well-earned popularity, your local nursery (if you live in the tropics) has a great chance of stocking them.
Soursop is undoubtedly one of the stranger fruits we eat. An odd fruit with an unfortunate name, it looks something like a cross between a pineapple and a custard apple (which is a close relative in the same scientific genus).
Soursop has a unique taste that people usually find pleasant but difficult to describe. It’s most often found made into smoothies, probably because eating it straight off the tree can get rather messy. Still, it’s a hardy tree that’s well worth growing — just make sure to eat it outside.
A spherical fruit the color of eggplant with what looks for all the world like garlic cloves tucked away inside — that’s mangosteen. It’s possibly the closest a fruit can come to the taste of a gummy bear, and once you taste it, you’ll immediately want to plant more.
The bad news is you’ll be waiting a while for the tree to bear fruit. While some produce their first fruits in their sixth year, you’ll usually be waiting ten years or more. That said, you can expect them to produce about 200 to 300 fruits in their first fruiting year, and500 plus a year at maturity. If you can wait it out, you’ll be well rewarded.
4. Carambola (Starfruit)
Carambola is a fantastic tree to have on your homestead. For one, it grows a delicious tropical fruit. The fruits from this tropical tree are a yellow-orange color and when cut into pieces, they resemble 5-pointed stars — hence their nickname.
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The other reason to make carambola trees a priority is they fruityear-round. That means that just a handful of trees in the ground or in pots can supply all the carambola you need, whenever you want it.
5. Ice Cream Bean
How’s that for an appealing name? This might be one of the most exotic tropical fruit trees on the list! The fruit is a long, slender bean and really doesn’t look edible from the outside. However, once you pry the woody fruit open, you’ll find a row of seeds inside covered in a sweet fluff that can only be described as cotton candy-like in texture.
6. Malay Apple
This one is tasty and ornamental. Malay apple trees (Syzygium malaccense) not only produce delicious fruits, they also put on quite the show as they’re doing it. When it comes close to fruiting time, the tree becomes encircled in a carpet of impossibly vivid pink flower stamens.
The fruits themselves are pear-shaped and a light pink. True to their name, they’re eaten like an apple, skin and all. The taste is mild and pleasant with a hint of cucumber.
Malay apples are easy to grow, hardy trees. The only trouble is figuring out how to get your share of fruits before the monkeys nab them all!
Jackfruit has the honor of being the largest of all fruits produced by a tree. Each fruitcan weigh up to 55 kilograms (120 pounds). Even better for the homesteader, trees will produce an average of 200 fruits a year in maturity, making them a worthwhile investment. Ripe jackfruit is sweet and vaguely banana-like in flavor. The fruits, when eaten unripe, have a mild taste and meaty texture.
Jackfruit has gotten increasingly more popular in recent years, and many vegans use it as a meat alternative because of its uncanny similarities to pulled pork.
Guavas are distinctive trees that are planted for shade in towns and alongside mangoes in otherwise-stripped, cattle grazing fields. Their fruits, yellow-skinned with red flesh, are reminiscent of kiwi in taste. In addition to eating them raw, they’re an excellent candidate for making jams and preserves due to a high pectin content.
9. Dragonfruit (Pitahaya)
Though they aren’t tropical fruit trees, per se, the famously-beautiful dragonfruit is definitely a plant worth mentioning. Technically, dragonfruit grows on a cactus. The fruit itself looks almost alien inside and out, but in contrast to the dramatic exterior, the taste of dragonfruit is mild.
Dragonfruit is another plant that begins to bear fruit within its first few years, and thanks to its higher tolerance for drought, you can get away with planting outside the strictly tropical zones of the world. Source a cutting or a small tree from a local tropical fruit tree nursery, and ensure you’re getting a reliable fruiting variety.
10. Caimito (Star Apple)
True to name, the caimito fruit is the size of a small apple. The most commonly seen variety in the Americas is purple, though you’ll also find green and red fruits. Unlike an apple, you can’t bite into the skin of a caimito. If you do, you’ll encounter a nasty, sticky latex substance. The tasty part is the pulp surrounding the seeds.
凯米托树从第四年的第三年开始大量果实。它们喜欢自己的空间，所以一定要把它们种在离你的家园其他树几米(比如10英尺)远的地方。Be warned: Humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy this fruit, so if you’re in an area with monkeys, you may get less than your fair share.
11. Miracle Fruit
Miracle fruit originates in tropical West Africa where it is eaten not for its taste, but for its incredible effect on the tastebuds. A protein in miracle fruit (named miraculin) binds to receptors on the tongue. Here’s where it gets interesting: The effect causes you toperceive sour and bitter flavors as sweet. For about thirty minutes after you eat a miracle berry, you can enjoy a sickly-sweet lemon, hot sauce, radish, or anything else you choose.
Its novelty alone makes miracle fruit a fun tree to grow. As a bonus, it’s a hardy shrub and will fruit in its third or fourth year. These tropical fruit trees are ones you’ll remember long after your first interaction with them.
我们都很熟悉腰果，但只有那些有幸生活在腰果生长的地方的人才能体验到热带果树的腰果。虽然它的保质期有限，很难出口到气候温和的国家，但它是可以食用和美味的。A little astringent raw, it’s often steamed to remove the tannins and processed into preserves and alcoholic drinks.
A specialty fruit of the guava family grown predominantly in Costa Rica, cas fruits taste something like a cross between a grapefruit and a lemon. Being astringent, it’s another fruit that’s commonly juiced with sugar and water rather than eaten raw. One thing to watch for when harvesting cas fruits is that like guava, they frequently host insect larvae. But these creatures aren’t harmful. Simply chop the fruit into four pieces and remove them before blending (the larvae make excellent chicken food).
14. Finger Lime
青柠是一种澳大利亚热带柑橘的名字。你可能猜到了，它们的大小和形状和手指差不多，而且它们有彩虹般的颜色。剥开水果皮，你会发现小的、扑鼻的、有点像鱼子酱的小球。They’re enjoyed either straight from the tree or in salads, with seafood, or in juices.
Being a citrus, finger limes have similar requirements to the more familiar citrus trees. They like a well-drained soil, though grafted stock can be planted in heavier soil types.
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Tamarind is cultivated all across the world’s tropics for the sweet-yet-tangy pulp of its fruit. It plays a central role in many Indian chutneys and is important in various stews. Being a legume, tamarind fruits look a lot like bean pods.
If you live in the tropics, what are your favorite tropical fruit trees? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below.
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