Mr. Vernon Hart, Program Chairman, was happy to introduce Chris Howell, fellow member who spoke on "Rare and Tropical Fruits from the American Tropics, Part II." The speaker planned for this evening was unable to make it and therefore Mr. Howell most kindly agreed to take us on another slide jaunt to Brazil where he travelled last April.
Mr. Howell said that travel to Brazil has been relatively expensive until recently, primarily because of air fare. Package tours have now been introduced making it worth while to visit there. Rio de Janeiro is a relatively interesting area - it is in the tropics and has one of the most extensive Botanical Gardens in the world. Few people realize that Brazil is the largest country in the southern hemisphere. Two-thirds of the country is made up of the Amazon region, and that two-thirds is as large as the United States. Many of the fruits are found in the Amazon region but there are quite a number of others found in southern regions, along the coastline.
When one speaks of Brazil one usually thinks of Rio which is one of the most picturesque cities in the world. Two of the most scenic views and most photographed sites are Sugar Loaf with its cable car, and Christ the Redeemer which overlooks the city. Rio is built along the water's edge with a backdrop of gorgeous mountains. It is also a city of contrasts having ancient aqueducts that were built by the Portuguese, and many modern high rises. Some of the world's foremost architects have designed many of Rio's buildings.
One of the most interesting places to visit, of course, is the Botanical Gardens which were started in the early 1900s. The Royal palms growing there have been pictured in many books about the tropics. The Gardens are just a little above sea level and contain many rare plants, 70% of which Crafton Clift said he was not familiar with! The early Portuguese explorers brought in many of the plants. Due to the age of the Gardens the growth is very lush. There were slides showing huge, gnarled trunks on old mango trees. The Gardens are divided into areas where plants from different regions of Brazil are represented.
There were slides showing plants from the Amazon region, such as the Victoria regia, the largest water lily known, with leaves 5 feet in diameter, and able to support weights up to 40 pounds. There were many species of Theobroma which of course is used to make chocolate. There were Cannon Ball trees, Brazil nuts, Paradise nuts, Mangosteens, Rheedias, Eugenias, yellow and red Jaboticabas, white Malay apples, etc. The Gardens also contain many beautiful flowering species, as well as all kinds of timber trees.
Mr. Howell commented that his chief interest in visiting the Botanical Gardens in Rio was to see the cloves that are grown there. The clove is a Eugenia, closely related to the jambolan plum and Malay apple. The trees were brought in (as seeds) during the early 1800s by the Portuguese. They seem to fruit all year round. The only other area in the new world that contains large clove plantings is on Grenada, and they are very touchy about allowing propagating material to be taken out. The one other area where cloves are found is in Puerto Rico and its tree is not very accessible; it is in the jungle. Mr. Howell explained that the clove is actually the unopened flower bud so that when cloves are used as a spice there is no fruit produced. The clove tree is most valuable; an Indian man can provide for his family of four on the production of just one tree.
The fruits themselves are relatively large, about the size of a jambolan plum. The seeds apparently have a short viability. Chris and Crafton wonder if this is true because they believe the Dutch might have invented the fiction in order to dissuade others from bringing seeds back from the southeast Indian Ocean area where the Dutch had a monopoly on this very expensive spice. Apparently they are rather slow as those brought back by Chris and Crafton have not yet germinated.
Rio is a city built on the edge of the water and cannot expand inland because of the mountain ranges; the north too is bound by mountains so development can only go southward. The beaches along Rio's coast are very turbulent and excellent for surfing. It is a city of six million inhabitants. It differs from most other Latin cities in that it doesn't have a permanent central market. Instead, it has what is known as 'Fairs' that are held at different locations in the city, on different days.
There is a strong Japanese influence in Brazil as may be noted from the produce displays all so artistically arranged. Temperate fruits are brought to the markets from areas near the Paraguayan border and also from Argentina and Chile. Many of the tropical fruits are not found in the Rio markets but rather have to be looked for in specialty shops.
Throughout the country there are large plantings of jakfruits which were introduced early by the Portuguese. There are so many varieties, some with crisp flesh and others very soft and mushy. It would be worthwhile to try some of them in Florida.
In many of the slides showing the markets there were to be seen canned and bottled juices which Mr. Howell said were Dutch products, or those of NesTea, Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola. Many of the products are made of passionfruit, papaya, some of lime, etc.
While in Rio, Chris took a side jaunt to Sao Paulo, the largest industrial city to the south. While there he visited a local market where there were fruits from all over the country. Sao Paulo is the major agricultural state in the country and most of the Brazilian coffee is produced there. Brazil is the largest producer of coffee in the world although it is not as good as Colombian coffee. Also the largest producer of sugar cane which is turned into alcohol to run their automobiles.
In closing, Mr. Howell said that Brazil is a fascinating country to visit. There are many areas other than Rio de Janeiro and the Amazon regions that should be explored. The Bahia coast and the north eastern area around Belem; also near the Peruvian and Colombian borders. However, Brazil is a vast country with considerable distances between the various areas. Recently the Varig Airlines issued a travel pass permitting travel anywhere within Brazil once a ticket to Brazil has been purchased (in United States).
DATE: September 1984
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