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cocoa for fun yes, profit maybe.

The more I consider the options of what I can get to greenhouse grow, the more I’m interested in cultivating a variety of nuts and spices to complement my focus on fruits. Nutmeg, cloves, allspice, black pepper, coffee, and alongside these,  cocoa.

The missus and I were reconnoitering the conservatory at Matthei Botanical Gardens Sunday, and they have a decent-sized cocoa tree, maybe 13′-14′. Growing straight from the trunk were the seed pods, in various states of maturity, small green ones the size of an egg, large brown ones the size of a human heart.

The seed pods are full of seeds, or beans, which are first fermented, then dried, then roasted, then shelled, then ground. The fermentation and the roasting are the key to the flavor.

Sounds labor-intensive as hell, and a risky proposition for a novice like me. But what do I have to lose, save time and the pittance for a tree?

cocoa beans

the impossible mangosteen (garcinia mangostana)

My two new mangosteen trees arrived from Hawaii today, looking wonderful. I had pretty low expectations for the size and health of the plants after all my searching and researching. Not only are they nigh-impossible to grow in the US, it seems they’re also pretty hard to come by.

Most of the tropical fruit tree nurseries I’ve been dealing with don’t carry it. And I was nearly tempted by an ebay seller who ships them from Hawaii bare-root, but I bought a rambutan from him a couple weeks ago, and it now looks like death warmed over — I’m not even sure it’s alive — so I figured there was a better route and kept looking.

I finally found another grower, Hula Brothers in Hawaii, selling them for $100/ea. or two for $150, shipping included. I figured what the heck, I’ll most likely lose one, might as well get two, improve my odds. I kept checking the door all day today, and they finally came at five pm. They were the best-looking plants I’ve gotten in the mail yet.

mangosteen treeThat’s probably a five-year-old tree there. Which means just five or six more years until I have a chance at some fruit.

It takes ten years for a mangosteen tree to fruit in favorable conditions, favorable being ultra-tropical always moist and never-lower-than-eighty-degrees kinda weather, preferably on a riverbank. There’s only one known instance of anyone getting one to fruit above the 200th parallel. Some feller in S. Florida got lucky. But I’m going to mimic Thailand/Puerto Rico in a greenhouse, and I’m going to get it to fruit. Mark my words. Check back in six years re: deliciousness.

The fruit is a beaut is the reason for my mania. I have never seen anything so pretty that tastes so good.

mangosteen fruit


It’s been raining nearly non-stop for the last two days, and the temperature won’t get over the mid-sixties. I’ve got dozens of tomatoes I’m dying to pick but they just sit there on the vine: plump, green, and tempting. The very picture of refusal. I spent a morning working in the garden at Good Fatherers yesterday and it was the same deal: six, seven, eight maybe hundred pounds of tomatoes weighing down three hundred plants, and we picked less than eighty pounds. I never thought I would be the one saying this, but I could really really use a really really hot sunny day. Just one.


Little Shop of Horrors: Garden Full to Burstin’ (not Ellen)

It’s mid-August and things are really heating up around the garden. I’ll pick my first ripe tomato tomorrow, I’ve got more cucumbers than I can deal with, and the pumpkins and gourd vines are threatening to swallow the house.

Despite all the shade I stupidly failed to foresee in the back yard, I did manage to get the passiflora to bloom. Unearthly as usual:


Things are getting interesting down at the farmer’s market too. I spoke with the guy I bought my many many heirloom tomatoes from last year and he said he’d be setting up his full display next week.

I bought a couple watermelons from Tantre Farms, just because they were beautiful and caught my eye. A Tigger Melon, and another melon I don’t know the name of. Check it:


and it: