Araza. Rambutan. Lonsoon. Exotic tropical islands? No, they’re exotic tropical fruits.
Dwight Carter, born and raised in Minnesota, has turned 10 hectares of Guatemalan farmland into an arboretum with hundreds of fruit trees. He’s growing sustainable crops to help local Guatemalans raise their own trees. They can use them to produce fruit for their own families to eat—introducing a healthier alternative to their traditional beans-and-rice fare—or sell the fruit in local markets to create income.
Dwight’s passion for fruit trees came about when he visited a botanical garden in Honduras. Shortly afterward, he set about buying his current property and converting pastureland into orchards. He started out on a part-time basis in 1987 and became a full-time agronomist about 12 years ago.
One of Dwight’s early plant trials was with the rambutan, a red fruit covered with mean-looking spines. They’re harmless. The outer skin is peeled to reveal a translucent white fruit with the texture of a grape. It kind of tastes like one, too.
Dwight’s success led him to establish a rambutan association for marketing the fruit and sharing ideas on growth and production. He’s become an expert on rambutans, and his advice is sought by neighboring countries, such as Belize, that are eager to develop sustainable crops for their citizens.
The durian is Dwight’s personal favorite. The hard, spiny-covered specimen is what he calls the king of fruits despite its foul-scented skin.
Another favorite is the miracle fruit. The small, red berries have a sturdy skin. When it’s removed, there’s a sweet meat inside enclosing another seed. It’s called miracle fruit, because its sweetness overpowers anything sour that follows it. It contains a molecule that activates the sweet receptors of the taste buds. A sampling of miracle fruit followed by a healthy bite of a Persian lime made the lime taste as sweet as honey.
Dwight is absorbed completely by his work. It was up to his friend Kevin Lock, a U.S. expat of 15 years, to create a tour of the farm, Frutas del Mundo, to educate others about exotic fruits and how they could change the face of Guatemalan farming. For about $22 each, a group of cruisers enjoyed a half-day tour that included a lunch of tilapia from Dwight’s own pond and all the fruit we could eat.