Tropical and Exotic Fruits
Tropical fruits are considered specialty crops for Tucson. We may surmise that those crop plants may be difficult to obtain, be of high economic value, may be difficult to grow in our area, may not be well known, or they may even have a greater health benefit than many other crop plants.
Avocados: The best ones for Tucson are the Mexican avocados, which are hardy to 19-24 F. The flowers appear from January to March and may be lost to cold weather. They need loose, well-draining soil with a sandy loam type being the best while being tolerant of both acid or alkaline soils. Protect young trees from frost by wrapping them well in the winter with freeze blankets and adding lights if necessary. Although flowers may be lost with frost they may re-bloom, especially the Mexican varieties. Grafted types may produce within a few years while ones grown from seed may take anywhere from eight to twenty years to produce.
Bananas: They are fast growing herbaceous perennials that form from a rhizome and are native to tropical climates with an average temperature of 80F and average yearly rainfall between 75 and 100 inches. They require rich, fertile soil, so lots of peat moss or compost and organic fertilizer high in nitrogen with some potassium is best. They like an acid soil and are not tolerant of salty soils. They will stop all growth when the temperature drops below 55F, and while they may tolerate temperatures below this level for brief periods of time, you will never see fruit if the plant is damaged from frost.
Ginger: An herbaceous perennial that does best in filtered sun, or shade after 10 am with a rich, moist soil and humidity. But it does not like waterlogged conditions. Conversely, dry conditions, lack of humidity may lead to problems with spider mites.
Guava: A tropical fruit thought to be native to southern Mexico to Central American and hardy only to around 29F. The Strawberry Guava is hardier to the cold than the common guava and will fruit if sheltered from freezes. The Lemon Guava is a slightly larger tree with fruit that is yellow skinned.
Kiwifruit: A fast growing deciduous vine, with large, green fuzzy leaves. The fruit is about the size and shape of an egg. Vines may grow twenty to thirty feed in length under ideal conditions and care. They require a rich, moist soil with regular fertilizer high in nitrogen. They may be grown in full sun, but because of their large leaves they will require less water if they have afternoon shade.
Loquat: One of the healthiest fruits you may ever eat is the Loquat. Grafted varieties, particularly 'Champagne' does better than other named varieties. Due to the large leaves the tree requires regular watering. Fertilize with a fruit tree fertilizer that is not over 10% nitrogen as excessive nitrogen may result in smaller crops.
Moringa: A tropical tree that grows up to sixty feel tall in the tropics and up to 4500 feet in elevation and up to 1500 feet in the sub-tropics. Tucson's elevation is around 2500 feet and the trees will freeze her and possibly be killed., especially in their first year in the ground. Called the tree of life because all parts of the tree are edible, Moringa are drought tolerant once established, but are susceptible to root rot in waterlogged soils.
Passion Vine: Since most fruiting Passion vines do not perform well here due to the freezing weather, the types sold in nurseries are more commonly flowering, ornamental types. They do well in the full sun, and except for the native, Passiflora bryonioides, they do not like freezing weather. All fruiting types are short lived anywhere from five to seven years in age.
Peanuts: Although native to South America, peanuts do exceptionally well here. They need fertile, wll-draining soil to perform well. A sandy soil mixed with peat moss is best. Essentially you ant a loose soil that you could insert your arm up to your elbow with little or no resistance. Plants grow ten to twenty inches high and after the bright yellow flower fades, a 'peg' like structure forms at the base. This peg then grows down into the soil and forms the peanut below the soil surface.
Persimmon: Native to Asia, the tree grows to around fifteen feet in Tucson. The trees are usually male or female, but you do not need two trees for pollination. Most trees will set seedless fruit by themselves. If another tree does result in pollination, the fruit will have seeds.
Sugar Cane: Is a perennial grass that performs well with very fertile soil, so give it extra compost and water. Fertilize on a regular basis with a fertilizer that has 10-15% nitrogen. After three years, remove the original clumps and plant new canes to preserve the flavor.
Tumeric: Is an herbaceous perennial that grows to about three feet high. It does well in the full sun with a very rich and fertile soil. It requires regular water, except during its winter dormancy.