Tropical Fruits and Nuts ( David S. Seigler )

Tropical Fruits and Nuts:  Outline






     Changes -some ancient

Cultivation – propagation – rarely monoculture – why not?

Most Important






Tropical nuts- importance




Fruits from market in Panama

Tropical fruits in a Queensland market


Many types of tropical fruits. Some exotic and not found commonly in temperate regions of the world.

Others are well-known cultivars such as tomatoes, squash, green peppers and cucumbers.

Most of the other types of tropical crops are perennials that cannot be cultivated in temperate zones of the world.

More types of fruits in the tropics than in temperate portions of the world

Few previously known here. The situation has changed in recent years. Many exotic tropical fruits are “in”.

In the tropics, most gathered wild or cultivated on a local scale and consumed locally.

Bananas, citrus crops, pineapples, mangoes, and avocados are major exceptions.

See the table of tropical fruits and nuts on pg. 76.

Tables of production, p. 77.


Bananas (Musa sp., Musaceae) are from southeast Asia. The taxonomy is complex. They were early taken to Madagascar and Africa by the Indonesians. In 600 B.C. they were in India. Alexander the Great saw them there. In 1522 in West Africa. To the Americas by 1516.

Other evidence indicates that bananas were also domesticated in east Africa at an early date.

Banana plantations in Jamaica

Musa sapientum, bananas, Musaceae

Banana leaves and plantains

Most banana species have seeds.

Common cultivars are sterile triploids.

Most bananas in the tropics cooked, but many also are eaten fresh.

Most of bananas in the U.S. are the latter type.

Primitive, probably diploid, banana

The rise of bananas as a cultivated crop is linked to the history of the United Fruit Company.

In 1900, the company developed a good transport system to ship bananas to market.

They perfected the conditions to ship the fruits without spoilage and to ripen them at exactly the proper time for market.

They also dominated the politics of many Central American countries.

Bananas reproduced vegetatively. This leads to many fungal disease problems.

See figures pg. 94.

Musa textilis (abaca) is used as a fiber crop.

Citrus crops

Domesticated members of this genus are difficult taxonomically because of selection of mutants and hybridization in agricultural practice.

All have a hesperidium for a fruit. This is basically a berry with a leathery skin (exocarp and mesocarp together) and oil glands.

The endocarp has modified fleshy hairs or juice sacs that are the part we eat.

Citrus fruits

Citrus fruit keeps relatively well. None of this group is native to the low, wet tropical regions of the world.

They seem to prefer dry climates with lots of sunshine.

They cannot tolerate severe frosts well.

The citron (Citrus medica) was the first introduced into Europe.

Almost all are propagated vegetatively. The orange (Citrus sinensis, Rutaceae) is the most widely cultivated of all of the Citrus crops.

The wild ancestors are not known.

Oranges transferred to the Persian empire. The Moors brought them to Spain. The Spanish and Portuguese introduced them into the New World.

Most U.S. oranges from Florida, Texas and California.

Diagram of orange flowers etc. p. 79.

Citrus aurantium or bitter orange used for marmalade and liquors.

Citrus aurantifolia, the lime, from East Indies. The Arabs used them by 1000 A.D. They were introduced into Europe by 12th or 13th century. Used to treat scurvy by the British.

Citrus reticulata, the tangerine was brought to the U.S. and to Europe about 1800. From S.E. Asia.

Pomello, Citrus grandis, Rutaceae

Citrus paradisi, the grapefruit, arose spontaneously in the West Indies. Considered to be a hybrid between the pummelo (C. maxima) and the sweet orange (C. sinensis) by some.

Pink grapefruit (e.g., Ruby Red) are “sports” or somatic mutations.

Ruby Red arose in McAllen, Texas, in 1929 and is propagated vegetatively.

Grapefruit, Citrus paradisi, Rutaceae

Lemon, Citrus limon, Rutaceae

Pineapple, Ananas comosus, Bromeliaceae

Widely distributed in the New World when Columbus came.

Pineapples domesticated by the Guaraní Indians of Paraguay.

Pineapples are multiple fruits.

Most modern cultivars parthenocarpic. They set seed without fertilization.

Normally, pineapples are reproduced vegetatively.

Pineapple, Ananas comosus, Bromeliaceae

Pineapples were taken to many countries by the Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch.

They were taken to Hawaii by the Dole family.

In the 1970s, Hawaii grew about 1/3 of world’s supply.  Now about 2%.

Avocados and  flowers

Avocados, Persea americana, Lauraceae

Primitive avocados

Mangoes (Mangifera indica, Anacardiaceae)

Mangos, Mangifera indica, Anacardiaceae

Dates, Phoenix dactylifera, Arecaceae

Collecting pollen and pollinating date palms

Figs (Ficus carica, Moraceae)

Figs are from the Near East. They have been cultivated for thousands of years.

This large genus contains only one important commercial fruit crop.

The fig is frequently mentioned in the Bible and other Near Eastern literature.

Figs are often pollinated by small wasps, although some are parthenocarpic or self-pollinating.

Smyrna figs have only female flowers. Smyrna and Capri figs often grown together to provide pollen source.

See diagram p. 96.

Fig, Ficus carica, Moraceae

Figs in market

A synconium

Breadfruit and jackfruit

Breadfruit, Artocarpus atilis, Moraceae

Jack fruit, Artocarpus heterophyllus, Moraceae

Pomegranates (Punica granatum, Punicaceae)

Pomegranate, Punica granatum, Punicaceae

The papaya (Carica papaya, Caricaceae)

Papayas are native to Central America or northern South America, but now are cultivated throughout the tropics.

They are in demand in the U.S. mostly for the enzyme papain isolated from the immature fruits.

See p. 100.

Papaya, Carica papaya, Caricaceae

More exotic tropical fruits

Members of the genus Annona such as the sweet sop and the cherimoya.

Soursop or guanábana, Annona muricata, Annonaceae

Star fruit or carambola (Averrhoa carambola, Oxalidaceae) is native to Asia.

Kiwi fruit (Actinidia chinensis, Actinidiaceae) are native to Asia. They were introduced from New Zealand.

Passion fruit (Passiflora edulis, Passifloraceae) native to New World are widely eaten. See p. 103.

Guavas (Psidium guayaba, Myrtaceae) (native to S. America) Several other members of this family are also eaten.

Hog plum or ciruela, Spondias purpurea, Anacardiaceae

Sapotes and sapodillas (most from the Sapotaceae).
 Mamey colorado, Calocarpum mammosum, Sapotaceae

Amecameca market with mameys

Rambutan, Nephelium lappaceum, Sapindaceae

The “mamon tico” or mamoncillo (Melicocca bijuga) is native to Central and South America.  Also Sapindaceae.

The mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana, Clusiaceae) is native to Southeast Asia. Although really delicious, it is rarely seen outside of that part of the world.

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