Puerto Rico trip #2

11 years ago

This year's trip was much later than last year's due to weather. The rains were slow to come and that delayed flowering. No sense going down to PR on a fruit hunting trip if there was going to be no fruit! So with forecasts of heavier than normal rains, possibility of hurricanes or tropical storms, and dengue of us from all over the country descended upon the beautiful island of Puerto Rico to witness and scarf up as many kinds of rare fruit that we could.

This serves as my jounal of our adventures in PR. I hope you all get as much out of it as I did putting into it! LOL! I will correct any mistakes later...trying to get this done!

A few of us have met before while for others it was a first time meet... even though all of us have known each other very well for many years and were already friends. We were all hard-core rare fruit fanatics. What better bond could there be?

We made our base of operations at the HoJo's in downtown Mayaguez. A good location that put us about 30 minutes or so from most locations we wanted to hit. After a quick check in and showers, we all walked a few blocks to a local place known for their pizza and mofongo. The beer was good too!

We were up early Wednesday morning to head up into the mountains to meet Ian Crown. Ian has a mangosteen farm which also produces lots of rambutan, longan, pulasan, and durian...among some others. Warren, my bud from FL, and I have visited Ian before and couldn't think of a better way to start off our hunt than with him. And since Ian was originally responsible for us coming he was this time as well, we thought it fit to spend as much time with him as we could...dragging him to dinners as well.

Weather was great. Hot hot hot and muggy to rival Thailand. The only nuisance was the ants. But lots and lots of fruit. Eat and eat till you can't eat no more although I don't believe any of us ever made it to that point! Ian, as always, was a fabulous host. He not only shared whatever fruit we could lay our hands onto, he thrilled us with story after story of the farm, trees, and fruit. Definitely an education for us all. Just a beautiful place to be.

We got to try one of Ian's durian, variety unknown, that came off a tree that just fell the night before during a storm. It was quite a big tree too and very sad to see. However...I did learn later that they were going to attempt to raise the tree in hopes of saving it.

There was mangosteen of course, several varieties of pulasan, rambutan, and longan. The pulasan and rambutan were exquisite. I tried a yellow rambutan that was not quite ripe. It was very good and only hinted at what it would be like when ripe. The abui was very good. The durian was pretty good and got a thumb's up from our group's durian expert Warren. A few of the guys reluctantly tried it but just couldn't bring themselves to enjoy it.

A long day here but our day was not over the surprise of our youngest group member who had his hands on his knees and hanging his head in exhaustion! The terrain was...not friendly! Our next stop was Felipe Osborne Shea's farm a little higher in the mountains.

Warren and I had also visited Felipe last year and was warmly welcomed back. He is 86 years old and will scamper up and down the trails, or lack of, daring us all to keep up....which proved difficult. Felipe has a large farm and we didn't see most of it. There are large plots of coffee and achachairu(sometimes known as g. laterifolia but this is believed incorrect also), as well as other fruit. The achachairu is unbelievably good. When bright orange and at it's peak, I believe I like this better than mangosteen. My wife thinks it tastes like a cross between mangosteen and longkong...sounds good to me! It was fun to listen to the ol boy. Filled with stories and a quick, wry wit, he entertained us all.

After the tour, Felipe invited us into his beautiful home overlooking the mountains. We sampled some Herrania varieties and other garcinias...which unfortunately were too far past their peak. He cut open a durian for us. The first from the tree. A small fruit that actually turned yellow when ripe. It was quite good and even caused a few of the more timid durian eaters to raise an eyebrow.

We left Felipe getting on towards evening and made our way back down the mountain. After scrubbing a full day of sweat, dirt, clay, and various fruit juices off, we met Ian in Rincon for a wonderful dinner.

Thursday had us up early again and on our way up the mountain to visit Sherry Ballester of Viveroanones Nursery and Farm. Much to our disappointment, we did not get to visit Sherry last year. Sherry has a vast diversity of fruits and ornamentals. She loves her land and her trees very much and is very proud of it she should be. There was lots to see and taste here as well...more mangosteen and some rambutan. I climbed a langsat tree and tossed down fruit to everyone. That was fun for everyone! Too bad the fruit was about a week or so away from being at it's best. Still good. Afterwards, we relaxed on her porch with more fruit and an absolute awesome punch she had made from frozen acerola, fresh lime and fresh passionfruit. My God was it good and refreshing! Sherry was a sweetheart and cared for us like we were her own. She even drove us to our next destination which was a good distance away. After introducing us to Juan Miranda, whose farm we now stood on, she left us to take care of a family crisis.

Juan was a new meet as well. A very nice and humble guy. He has over 90 acres of jungle that he is single handedly and slowly clearing away for his fruit and ornamental trees. What he as accomplished so far was spectacular. Beautiful landscape and quite a variety of plants. We came upon a seedling pulasan of his that was producing for the first time. It was a knockout! If we could have reached all of the branches, we would have wiped the poor tree out. It was incredible. Juan then found us a ripe marang...which none of us have experienced before. Wow! I never expected the delicate, banana custard-like flavor. A pleasant surprise for us all. Gerry begged him to get a few more! Another surprise waited for us up the hill. Sherry had driven all of the way back to Juan's after discovering Gerry had left his camera and bag at her place. Beyond the call and deserved our appreciation even more...especially since we were going to make Gerry walk back!

It's late in the day and unfortunately we did not get to visit with Sadhu at Govardhan Gardens. We did still have an hour drive to the south to visit the Jardines Eneida nursery. A friend of Ethans recommended this nursery and Sherry and Juan both told us it would be worth the trip.

After an agonizing wait in traffic, we finally arrived. When asked where their fruit trees were, we were pointed to where the avocados and citrus were. Avocados and citrus? Was this a mistake? Somebody messing with me? I didn't come all this way for avocados and citrus! But soon my ears picked up some "ohhh...look at this!", "Wow! They have this! And that!". Lots of grafted rare fruit trees for $6-$8. As Gerry said..."It would be a crime NOT to buy something!". Everyone found at least one plant they had to have. Ethan and I both latched onto a grafted achachairu. The two rental cars were soon packed with plants and smiles. Well worth the trip. I guess they will ship to the US as well. Just make sure that they secure the plants and pack well with newspaper.

Back to the hotel and another even more awesome dinner with Ian. We had a couple of huge avocados from the farm and Ian had the place whip up some guacamole. It was wonderful and everyone eyed everyone else wondering who was going to grab and lick the bowl. After the meal, we had Ian try some of Juan's pulasan...which he really liked. We shared some mangos from Harry which were unbelievable. Sheehan picked up a soursop somewhere. We all wish he would have left it where he found it!! LOL! I was up till about 2:00 a.m. cleaning seeds.

Friday we got of to a little later of a start than normal. We headed up the mountain yet again to visit Bryan Brunner at Montoso Gardens. We visited Bryan last year and were very pleased to be given the opportunity again. Bryan has lots and lots to see. It took a good while to walk the grounds and see some of the nursery portions. We spent a good bit of time searching for one durian that had fallen from the tree. We never did find it in all of that jungle and steep slope.

After the tour, Bryan was generous and kind enough to help us bare root all of the plants that we accumulated during the week. He also supplied all of the packing materials and boxes for each of us. Bare rooting is a pain in the a$$! So the next time you go to complain about someone charging a bare root fee, take it from all of us and don't bitc#. It is time consuming, dirty, and wet work. This took us 2-3 hours and by this time everyone was dirty and plain beat...and hungry. After loading up all of the boxes in both cars, Bryan was also going to go with us to the post office in Maricao to make sure there were no problems there. Only one problem...someone lost the keys to their rental car...and it wasn't me! After a frantic search by all, it was determined that the jungle had swallowed them up for eternity. So while he tried to get satisfaction from the rental agency, me, Bryan and few others drove to the post office only to get there 10 minutes before they close! Whew! Just made it.

Bryan was again generous with his time and helped the key fumbler with the rental and towing agencies. He also invited him into his home and went and got pizza while waiting for the two truck. The rest of us??? Well, the six of us piled into MY car and boogied back to the hotel. This was quite a cozy arrangement and resulted in many LOL moments. Cleaned up and "walked" to a restuarant for dinner...close by. Too darn tired to drive anywhere. Saturday it was up and everyone off to the airport to head home.

Everyone we visited was in a class of their own. They all love and appreciate the land and the bounty it gives. They are knowledgeable and giving in all respects. We enjoyed the he!! out of each of them as I'm sure they enjoyed us and our appreciation of what they shared.

Fruits I got to enjoy: longan, mangosteen, pulasan, rambutan, mango, durian, abui, avocado, soursop, achachairu, g. madrono, g. accuminata, rollina, lansat, marang, ice cream bean, lemon drop mangosteen, genip, herranias.

Trees sent back: pulasan and durians, cherapu, grafted achachairu. Lots of cuttings and seeds.

Here's some pics of the various places. Unfortunately many pics somehow got deleted from the camera so the others will have to fill in some gaps. First stop is Ian Crown's farm. Couple of the guys picking pulasan.

Rambutan loaded with fruit. Just one of very many.


Durian. His arms was just not long enough to keep it farther away!

Yellow rambutan

At Felipe's. The fruit below is madrono. Normally a delectible garcinia but this was past it's prime.

Felipe himself.

At Sherry's farm. You've all heard the song by Meatloaf... "will do anything for love"?? Well, apparently I will do anything for fruit! Up in a langsat tree tossing down fruit to the waiting hands below.

Some pulasan and durian seedlings I picked up at Ian's and Juan's.

Some fruit taken back to hotel for late night snacks and to get seeds.

At Juan Miranda's farm. Marang we were getting ready to open.


At Bryan's. Sheehan holding a 50lb. cheena. That's Bryan standing beside him. Robert later carried that beast way way WAY up the hill. Our iron man!



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