I originally wrote this over on Tropical Fruit Forum. However, I got to thinking, given the sizeable gardening community we have here, it might be appreciated here as well.
So I'm sure you've heard the term "crazy cat lady" before, right? Well, I'm sort of a "crazy tropical plant lady". When I moved to Iceland, I came with three oversized bags full to the brim with live tropical plants, and my collection has only grown since then, nurtured by a combination of the 24-7 summer sun and, more often than not, geothermal-powered grow lights ;) I buy and trade for seeds from all over the globe (my last four shipments were Ecuador, Hawaii, India, and Puerto Rico, respectively), some so rare that they don't have common names, but nearly all with one trait in common: they're tropical plants which produce edible fruit.
So without further ado... my little eden. :)
So I recently moved from Hafnarfjörður to the 112 district of Reykjavík, where I'm renting converted (well, 80%-finished-being-converted) industrial space as an apartment. I chose the place because it's cheap, concrete floors, and ridiculously high ceilings for my plants. Tonight I finished moving my plants into their home. So, let's begin the tour! Note: most plants I show I have multiple of, but I'm not going to bother taking a pic of every last one, lol ;)
First, the grow area (I could expand it threefold if necessary without impinging on my living area, and I'm only using about 70% of the area I've cordoned off):
To give a sense of its height:
A couple glances around:
... and up:
Now, on to the species.
Cape Gooseberry (Physalis peruvianis; Icelandic: blæjuber ("breezeberry")). Basically a weed that makes pretty little golden berries inside paper husks. Was my first plant to have fruit reach maturity in Iceland, although my passionfruit and mango tried but failed earlier; I've gotten a few dozen off of them. Stems break easily and it litters leaves, but everything it loses grows back twofold. Never had a single pest on them, even spider mites.
Jamaican dwarf red banana (Musa acuminita. Icelandic: banani). All bananas seem to grows great indoors - just give them rich soil and tons of water. The red has especially beautiful coloration. Indoor bananas occasionally gets spider mites, but rarely a threat to the tree's life even if they go undetected for a while. It has my largest pot, a converted rain barrel big enough to bathe in. That should be large enough to allow it to give a full yield (given its size, it should probably start flowing in a couple months)
Tamarind (Tamarindus indica. Icelandic: none). Pretty much minds its own business and grows at a moderate pace, I've never had problems with it. Tamarind yields pods with a sweet-sour flavor; I first had it in a coconut-tamarind dessert in central america and picked up some as soon as I got back ;)
Acerola / barbados cherry (Malpighia emarginata. Icelandic: none). While this shot is a bit close in, the tree is huge - the main branch kinda droops, but if I keep it upright, the tree is about 3 meters tall. It's fruited for me. You can see it flowering here. Low maintenance, fast growing, well suited for indoor gardening. Acerola fruit has the second-highest reported vitamin C concentrations per gram in the plant world - a single blueberry-sized fruit has the vitamin C of a couple oranges.
Dwarf cavendish banana (same species as the Jamaican Red): I actually picked this one up in Iceland, lol - the only fruiting tropical I've managed to find here. People have indeed fruited bananas here - although contrary to widely reported myth, we're not "the largest banana grower in Europe" (that'd be Spain; bananas here have only been grown on an experimental basis, not commercially).
Passionfruit (Passiflora edulis; Icelandic: ástaraldin (lit: "lovefruit")): I forget which variety, and I don't remember the color of the flower, sadly! I'll pay more attention the next time around :) Grows quite well - the only pest problem I've ever had was a small amount of scale at one point, but the scale didn't really seem to thrive on it. I wonder if it's aided by the sticky droplets it exudes at the base of each leaf?
Coffee (Coffea arabica. Icelandic: kaffi). Moderate-speed grower, generally pest free, likes moist soil but will tolerate dry, likes light but will tolerate shade... quite the little trooper ;) I had one actually get to flowering back when I lived in Iowa, but it was obviously too large to take with, I had to give it away. But I think some of mine here are nearing flowering size, so I've got my fingers crossed. :)
Pitaya / Dragonfruit (Hylocereus sp.; Icelandic: drekaávöxtur): Iceland has a region called the Dragon Zone (Drekasvæðið), where lots of oil has been found offshore. Now I have my own "Dragon Zone" in my grow area. :) Dragonfruit, a fruiting cactus, grows well indoors, although not always super-fast. Its tiny roots mean not much of a potting requirement. Sometimes pieces break off, but that simply means you get more dragonfruit plants - they're trivial to root, you pretty much just have to drop them on some moist soil and leave them alone for a couple weeks. And they're generally pretty carefree.
Longan (Dimocarpus longan; Icelandic: none): New seedlings, so I'm still learning. :)
Spítalinn ("The Hospital"): High-light area for sick plants in need of extra nourishment. There's a couple caryodendron sp. lurking in the back that are not at all sick, just freeloaders.
Cocona (Solanum sessiliflorum; Icelandic: none): Thusfar I've mostly had good things to say about plants indoors. Cocona... not so much. It's nearly died on me several times. It'd be a great indoor plant except it's highly susceptible to spider mites. I've taken to power washing the leaves every time I water and treating the leaves it as though it's a given that there's spider mites there. And what do you know, at long last, flower buds! :) Thanks cocona! (If you're a Survivorman fan, you may remember the cocona as the fruit he found in the Amazon, describing it as a flavor explosion cross between a pineapple and a tomato)
Let's move onto the shelves, where the smaller plants are. But before we get there, where do they come from? Well, this box:
And sometimes these trays as well:
Except the shelf on the far right, that's Sóttkví (quarantine) ;) The lemon verbena on the left had scale and the moringa on the right had a nearly-lethal spider mite infestation (it's another highly vulnerable species).
But anyway, new seedlings come to the bottom shelf until they've got leaves out:
Dwarf inchi (Caryodendron sp.; Icelandic: none). You saw some of its fully-germinated siblings in the hospital view. Inchi produces an edible nut, reportedly quite tasty. The tree is rare in cultivation so it's hard to find information about!
Guanabana (Annona muricata; Icelandic: none, but I've seen people sharing "graviola" links on Facebook about its reported cancer-fighting properties so it'll probably end up as "gravíóla"). I first encountered it as a drink in Costa Rica, it's delicious. In order, shelf 1, 2, 4
Rollinia / biriba (Rollinia deliciosa; Icelandic: none). Oh, I can sooo not wait for fruit - it's soft and sweet inside like an apple custard ;) In order, shelf 1, 2, 2, 4
A couple rollinia, a couple Red Strawberry Guava (Psidium littorale; Icelandic: gúava), and a OH MY GOD WHAT THE HECK IS THAT? Lol, I have no clue - sadly, I can't read my handwriting on the label on this one. Well, time will tell if this strange creature survives. ;)
Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus: Icelandic: none). Don't know much about raising them, but they germinate well! :) Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of my larger jacks - oh well! For those who've never had jackfruit, try it several times in a row. My first impression was mango crossed with stir-fry crossed with bubble gum. Very weird! But after a while, it's simply like a fruit candy. :)
Pentagonia (Pentagonia grandifolia; Icelandic: none): Oh, I really hope at least one of these makes it. They produce a fascinating-looking flower/fruit structure, but I've lost more of then than I care to admit to damping off. :Þ
Second shelf: seedlings with newly opened true leaves and otherwise small seedlings.
Bael (Aegle marmelos: Icelandic: none, but I have to keep resist spelling it Bæl with an "æ" ;) ): Good germination rate even though the seeds weren't super-fresh. Some people say the fruit is a seedy mess. Some say it's wonderful, like a rich marmelade that smells like flowers. I guess I'll find out!
Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum; Icelandic: risafura (lit: "giant pine")): Okay, not a tropical, although it does have limited cold tolerance! Biggest tree in the world, in baby pictures. I hope to end up with 30 of them and I'm hoping at least one or two will survive the climate here.
Western Redcedar (Thuja plicatia; Icelandic: rísalífviður (lit: "giant life wood")): Okay, even less of a tropical, but... basically, a fallback plan. Gets to about 2/3rds the height and 2/3rds the width of a sequoia, but still a massive tree, and more importantly, adapted to cold climates. But man, these seedlings are delicate.
And this one is... is... dang, I don't know, because the builder moved these seedlings when they were on the ground and didn't move their label with them! :þ If anyone has a guess, let me know!
Blackberry Jam Fruit (Randia formosa; Icelandic: none). Has little, neat-looking seeds. Supposedly the inside has a look, texture, and taste just like blackberry jam. We'll find out!
Papayuelo (Carica goudotiana): Has neater-looking seeds. Seriously, the seeds are like tiny kiwano melons ;) While the plant is related to papaya, I really hope it tastes better than papaya! ;)
Dabai (Canarium odontophyllum; Icelandic: none): Supposedly tastes a bit like avocado, but you have to soak it first. I'm definitely curious. :)
Third shelf: power converter, gardening supplies, seedlings in oversized pots, and salak.
Red Salak (Salacca affinis; Icelandic: none): Salak (aka, snakefruit because it looks like the skin of a snake) is a really alien-looking plant at all stages of life, but especially when young. Even when they germinate, - they stick a perfectly cylindrical "plug" out of the seed, like removing a cork, and then it grows thin, spindly roots at randomly-changing angles. Then it pushes a column up, then the column puts out a tall spine... eventually it'll become leaves, supposedly ;) And in the long run, if I'm lucky, a visciously-spined alien palm that yields a tasty, bizarre fruit.
Bali Salak (Salacca zalacca var bali; Icelandic: none): I really hope that the "spine" here is supposed to be brown and woody for bali salak, because it's green and lifelike for all my S. affinis, but brown and woody for all my S. zalacca.
Fourth shelf: moderate-sized young seedlings
"SL sapote" (Matisia sp.: Icelandic: none). Supposedly fruits like jaboticaba (which I have also) - along the trunk, all the way to the ground, rather than on branches.
This carnivorous plant was another store purchase. Sadly, they didn't list the species. :Þ
Pomegranate (Punica granatum; Icelandic: granatepli): I treat them so badly but they keep trying ;)
Marang (Artocarpus odoratissimus; Icelandic: none): Oh I so can't wait to try this fruit... same genus as jackfruit, but said to be even better.
Herrania (Herrania sp.; Icelandic: none): A relative of chocolate. Fruits in a similar manner. Another fruit I really look forward to trying. :)
Yoco (Paulinia yoco; Icelandic: none): Both the plants in the foreground and background are yoco - young leaves are reddish. A relative of guarana, with very high caffeine content. Vining, so that'll work out nice for me, it's easy to find space for vines and they're good at intercepting "lost light".
And now, for the top shelf:
Pineapple (Ananas comosus; Icelandic: annanas): Just a rooted supermarket pineapple. But hey, it's a start :)
Guava (like above): I've got an older guava here as well. Started growing slow but has really picked up the pace as of late. Minor to moderate mite susceptibility. I gave it a nice place by an LED light because I'd really like to get it to fruiting to find out just what variety of guava it is!
Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia; Icelandic: vanilla): My prior experience with them says they're quite susceptible to root rot and grow slowly while young. I've got three this time around, hopefully at least one will make it :)
Santol (Sandoricum koetjape; Icelandic: none): First pick is my biggest but weird-looking santol. The next pic is a smller but regular one. And the third is what they look like when germinating - kind of weird, the seed comes up, then stops, then the plant comes out the side. Santol is a southeast asian fruit that looks kind of like a peach, with a widely varied flavor depending on the tree's genetics.
And of course, I've got probably about 10 species which have germinated but not yet come out of the ground (jaboticaba, a couple really lucky miracle fruit, cabelluda, jamun, a number of eugenia and garcinia sp., etc) and another 10 or so which haven't yet germinated (as far as I know) - macadamia, cola, nutmeg, etc.
Finally, just a couple random pics to wrap up :)
1) A view down a banana leaf:
2) My supplies. Though I still need to fetch my container (~10kg) of micro and macronutrients. :)
3) Icelandic hose fixtures are totally incompatible with US ones. It's nice having a spigot in my plant room! :)