It All Starts in Florida
I flew into Miami and was picked up by Warren. We then nabbed Harry on the way north. Our first stop was Walter Zill's place to pick up a tree he was holding for Warren. It's always pretty cool talking with Walter. He's got so many stories about his mangoes.
The attendees were myself, Warren, Noel and his girlfriend, Harry, Sheehan, John and his son, Patrick, Zena, and Autumn. Awesome meal guys! Thanks! And thanks to Sheehan for his never ending ability to entertain and astonish. A fine afternoon.
It was late when the party broke up and everyone headed home. Warren and I went back to Miami for dinner and he had some packing to do. Up late and up really freakin' early to head up to the Fort Lauderdale airport for our departure to San Juan.
Monday - Aug 10
Since we were good on time, we stopped for some lechon...pork baby...pork! The skin was like a thin piece of hard tack candy. Crisp, brittle, delicious, perfection. Effing wonderful is what it was. Bellies full...it's time to hit the road and get our asses to Jardines Enaidas in Cabo Rojo where Ian Crown will meet up with us.
Again...we made great time and was at the nursery by 1:30. Got there before Ian so we had time to check out all the plants they had to offer...grafted madrono, genepas, avocados, mangoes, rambutan, and more. We looked like kids in a candy store and soon there were plants stacked up by several group members.
The owner and Ian once again took us around the farm. Gobbled up some of their wonderful Sasa and Jose Pabon genepas, achachairu, a few mangosteens, and more.
First stop though was the brand new Econo super market for coolers, water, snacks, and drinks for the week. This place turned out to be a popular stop for breakfast as well.
Our hotel was Rincon of the Seas. It was...okay at best and that's probably stretching it. But for the area, pretty good. Would I stay there again? Probably not. Nickled and dimed you. Food and drink was terribly expensive. Water in the rooms was barely luke warm and our last night we only had cold. Toilets didn't work all that well either. But it was clean.
We had time to hit the pool for a quick swim and then off to dinner to meet Ian. Our first night out was a place we've been to before. A sushi bar with a pool...sorry, cannot remember the name at this time. What a great place for surfers. For a decent sized group wanting to eat and drink? Not so much. They were not very accommodating to their customers. The bartender...well, he was...I'll just leave it right there and be done with it. The food was okay. But the company was great and we all made the best of it. It's always fun trying to split a check sixteen ways.
Tuesday - Aug 11
Walking the farm with Ian is just not about the fruit and trees. It is the total experience. We are in this beautiful country during the peak of fruit season, walking around a huge farm chatting with friends and listening to years of experience from Ian. I've been coming to his farm since 2009 and he always has new stories to share. It doesn't get much better folks.
We normally walk one portion of the farm saving the rest for Thursday's visit. We are supposed to have a really full day ahead of us and Ian's farm is just the beginning. We spent quite a bit of time hitting the pulasan and a couple of the guys were at the bottom of the hill looking for more durian that might have fallen.
Well, I thought we were to have a full day but our plans for the afternoon fell thru. We were supposed to visit Bryan Brunner's farm and nursery led by his son David. Unfortunately, David wasn't going to make it back to the farm as we all had hoped and planned. So I guess we were going to have to head back to the hotel and spend the afternoon in the pool. Boy...it sucks to be us!
Tonight's dinner was at La Cambija. Another surf bar/restaurant but soooo much better than the first. The fish was so fresh and every thing we had was simply delicious. A home run for sure.
Wednesday - Aug 12.
This is a very nice and orderly place to visit. They have lots of offer. I've been here several times before and giving how bad my back was hurting, I decided to sit this tour out inside the air conditioned office with a couple friendly TARS employees. I had my Kindle and Percocet, so I was content. I was hoping the pain would chill out before the next tours.
The gang spent about two hours with Sadhu when they called me down to the parking lot where we all chatted for a little bit. After TARS, the plan was to visit Sadhu's farm and then his nursery where I'm sure the group would have spent several hundred dollars purchasing some rare plants. Well, plans...don't always work out. It turns out there would be no visit to farm or nursery today.
The day is young and after leaving TARS, we decided to get some lunch at the Ricomini Bakery. Not only do they have fine bakery items, but hot food and sandwiches that have never disappointed. Our next stop was ice cream! Everyone wanted corn ice cream. Yeah...corn. Of all the years coming down here, I've yet to try it. Everyone loves it. Soooo...hmmm...it's pretty damn good. But it's still not my "idea" of ice cream. Bellies full...it's time to get on the road and head to Juan's farm.
Juan seems to really enjoy our visits as much as we do. He knows we appreciate his hard work on the farm and we certainly appreciate him taking the time to show us around year after year and share his fruit. He does love the farm and all the work it takes to keep it going. Lots of dedication. Each year, it seems like he has cleared more and more land for his trees. When you start from solid jungle, that's work man!
Back at the start, several of us purchased some plants from Juan...mainly pulasan and durian seedlings. Our plan was to graft the plants on Thursday using scions from Ian's trees. A great day with Juan as always. If we hurry down the mountain, we might just have time for the pool before dinner!
Dinner this evening was at the Lazy Parrot. They actually have two restaurants. The upstairs is a little more upscale while downstairs is the pool and bar area. They serve wood fired pizzas! Effing delicious!! They also have one of the best salads I've had. Great time.
Thursday - Aug 13
Once we got back to the house, we had more durian. As long as they continued to be cut open, we were shoveling it in. It's been a damn hot and humid week and we were all pretty tuckered out. But most of us were not quite finished yet.
It was time to collect bud wood. So we all took off in different directions looking for the perfect scions for grafting. Patrick grafted several durian seedlings for Gwenn and Jimmy. Ethan was God knows where deep in the jungle. John and I were on our way to the pulasan. We had grafting supplies, seedlings, and air-layering supplies. We were going to be busy for a while.
We found our target tree near the road and easily spotted by the workers and whoever was going to be fetching our results. We first dug out some spots to secure the seedlings and then did our grafting. Next we put on a few air-layers as well. We wanted to hedge our bets since there is ABSOLUTELY NO ONE SELLING GRAFTED PULASAN. Hard to believe and we've begged, pleaded, and threatened to no avail. Lordy! Someone could be making a killing selling all of these rare, grafted plants just from our forum alone. Oh well. I wrapped yellow marking tape from several branches for visibility. Hopefully, we will be successful and when Gwenn comes back in January, she will find thriving new plants.
We collected more bud wood of various plants on the way back. I picked up some mangosteen, kwai muk, champedak, cacao, and vexator(blue grape...this I got from Juan's the day before). Warren had a bunch to take care of as did Ethan. This is in addition to the plants purchased as well as seeds obtained. Everyone was going to be busy once they got home!
It was getting much later than we anticipated and figuring Ian probably needed to get some actual work accomplished, we packed up and headed back to Rincon. The lure of some pool time was a good incentive as well.
Dinner this last evening was at another restaurant we tried for the first time last year and loved. Again, the seafood was as fresh as could be. We ordered multiple dishes and passed around among those at our table. The blackfin tuna was out of this world. It tasted like steak. What a way to end the week. We all too soon had to say our good-byes to all. This would be the last time most of us saw each other for this trip. And what a trip it was. Back at the hotel, we finished packing and Warren finished cleaning seeds.
The pulasan I purchased and grafted either went home with Gwenn for temporary safekeeping or is still on Ian's trees. I sent no plants home this year. Saturday morning was still very busy. I planted a bunch of marang seeds as well as a single peanut butter fruit seed I'd gotten from Warren's yard. It seemed like I was grafting all morning...and my back felt like it too. I took a gamble and grafted mangosteen onto madrono, achachairu, and lemondrop. Theoretically, it should work. It's my grafting skills that may skew my chances. But we'll see. Hopefully something will take.
Anyway...hope you enjoyed my tale. The rest of the pictures can be viewed by clicking the following: PR 2015 Fruit Hunting Trip.