“We’re trying to do some cutting-edge horticultural things to our trees,” Brooks said. “We’re trying to get to 52 weeks out of the year, but we’re not quite there yet, maybe 85% of the year.”
By hedging and “topping” trees, horticulturists are stimulating off-season blooms. All of Brooks Tropical’s starfruit acreage is at Pine Island, Fla., except 15 acres in a greenhouse in Dade County.
“We’re trying to even out our production through the year,” Brooks said.
Mike Vanderbeek, vice president of C-Brand Tropicals Inc., Goulds, Fla., said Florida star fruit are generally available June through mid-April.
“The window is being close to where it’s a year-round product,” Vanderbeek said. “I think it’s definitely increasing in acceptance and consumer awareness, but we certainly haven’t saturated the market.”
If you blink, you might miss the monthlong domestic season for lychee, but many shippers source from outside the U.S. to expand their availability.
“I remember it was only available two weeks out of the year, now it’s seven months,” said Robert Schueller, assistant marketing director of Melissa’s/World Variety Produce Inc., Los Angeles. “We’ve seen the specialty category grow. It starts in Mexico, goes to Taiwan, then there’s a little domestically, then to Israel, and the season ends. Out of Mexico, the season begins in May and continues through October.”
Lychees, as well as their cousins, longans and rambutans, are poised for growth, said Bill Vogel, president and general manager of Tavilla Sales Co., Los Angeles.
“Ten years ago, nobody cared about the lychee,” Vogel said. “We’re growing some. We just got our feet wet. It gives the old seasonality to the fruit category. People look forward to it, and it’s an impulse buy, because they know it’s not going to be there in two weeks.”
Mango imports, lagging over the Cinco De Mayo holiday because of lighter harvests in Michoacan, Mexico, are picking up as the harvest moves to Nayarit, Mexico, said Chris Ciruli, salesman for Ciruli Bros., Nogales, Ariz. The Nayarit harvest began the second week of May, but the region won’t begin full production until May 20, Ciruli said.
“In Michoacan, we haven’t seen the heavy volume we’ve seen in recent years, with over 2 million boxes a week shipped,” he said. “Right now, we’re ahead of schedule from the Mexican production last year, but you have to remember last year was a small production year.”