As one of the warmest and sunniest states in America, California offers unique opportunities for growing all kinds of crops that wouldn’t work elsewhere — including several fruit crops from other parts of the world.
Exotic fruits do especially well in California due to the sunny climate and coastal temperatures and can present a lucrative option for small-scale growers. Learn about exotic fruit trees being grown in California to consider if growing exotic fruit might be a good option for you.
A citrus fruit that is native to Australia, finger lime, or Citrus australasica, is an exotic fruit that can be cultivated in California. This caviar-like lime fruit grows in the shape of a finger and is filled with sticky pearls that are green, yellow, or pink in color. When you chew on the pearls (they go great with sushi!), they burst open in your mouth and release an exquisitely tart and juicy flavor.
To cultivate finger lime in your orchard (US hardiness zones 10 and 11), purchase a grafted plant and plant it in full to part sun in well-draining soil with a pH between 5 and 7. Within a few short years, you should have dozens of finger limes ready for sale at the market!
Another tropical citrus fruit among exotic fruits in California is the Chinese hybrid Citrus × meyeri or Meyer lemon. Currently grown only in California, the Meyer lemon is a little sweeter than a traditional lemon and is becoming a favorite among chefs for use in lemonades, cocktails, and for flavoring sweet and savory dishes.
If you would like to grow exotic fruit trees in California, consider adding this popular cultivar to your collection. Meyer lemons are in season from October until early April, and are sure to become a favorite in your kitchen as well as your customers’ kitchens!
Purple and Yellow Passion Fruit
Native to Southern Brazil and the Northern parts of Argentina and Paraguay, passionfruit or Passiflora edulis is a tropical vine that produces hard round fruits filled with crunchy seeds and a sweet gel-like juice. Ranging from yellow to purple, these exotic fruits grow in California with minimal maintenance and fertilizing and only need to be weeded from time to time like any other plant.
You can easily grow passion fruit over fences and trellises in the garden to beautify your property, or set up dedicated rows for your passion fruit plants. Depending on the cultivar, passion fruit should grow well in US hardiness zones 6–11 with sprouts in early spring and ripe fruit around August until the beginning of the frost season.
Cherimoya is another South American native that is known in Spanish as chirimoya and among botanists as Annona Cherimola Mill. As a high-value specialty crop among exotic fruits in California, this oddly-shaped green-skinned fruit requires skilled management and well-cushioned, secure packing to ensure the fruits reach the consumers in perfect shape.
Suitable for growing on the coast of California around the San Francisco Bay Area to Lompoc, this relative of soursop and atemoya requires a sunny position and regular fertilization. This fruit can become easily sunburnt, so be sure to water regularly using a drip-irrigation system during the active growing months to avoid leaf-drop and spoiled fruit.
With a creamy custard flavor similar to that of cherimoya, white sapote or Casimiroa edulis La Llav. et Lex. is becoming progressively more popular among exotic fruits in California. This large, tropical fruiting tree produces round, green fruits with a smooth and sweet pulp on the inside, surrounding its one to five narcotic-like seeds that have also been found to contain pharmacological compounds.
As far as growing conditions, white sapote adapts well to the warmth of California where it can tolerate frost as well as seasonal dry periods and a variety of soil types. The evergreen exotic fruit trees grow quickly in California to a height of 15 to 50 feet and provide dense shade as well as abundant fruit.
Selling Your Exotic Fruits in California
When you’re hoping to break into the market for exotic fruits in California, there are several things you need to be aware of:
- The first is that specialty fruit requires specialized marketing, as most consumers won’t buy something they don’t recognize. Consider visiting ethnic fruit markets and talking with the greengrocers to learn as much as you can about your chosen fruit. Cooking with these fruits at home will also help you develop an appreciation of their flavor and quickly identify signs of the fruit’s peak point of maturity.
- Second, developing exotic fruits in California’s consumer market requires knowing how to manage your crops so that you can turn over a profit at lower prices. This will ensure stability while you build up your reputation and gain a following in the rare fruit market.
- To learn more about exotic fruit trees in California and source healthy grafts and seedlings, consider joining a group such as the California Rare Fruit Growers society. Groups such as this provide the support and information you need to succeed, as well as offering local insights into ideal growing conditions, cultivars, and marketing techniques.
Maximize Your Yield with Fruit Growers Supply
Established in 1907 in partnership with Sunkist Growers, Fruit Growers Supply has spent over a century developing the strongest and most specialized packaging for transporting fruit safely and preventing damage to produce during transportation.
As a California-based company, we have also developed extensive expertise in sustainable irrigation systems that can help you boost your farm’s productivity even when water resources are limited. Contact us for a quote and to discover how FGS can make your exotic fruits in California a success!