Grow Your Own: the Home-Grown Fruits on My Personal Menu

Friday Nov 1 | BY |
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“Papaya is considered one of the healthiest fruits on the planet.”

I was raised on an old-fashioned working farm in New England. Food was simple, fresh, mostly organic, and nearly all of it home grown or traded from another local farm. I got up before sunrise every morning and tended the animals. In the summer, we gardened. In the fall, we put up hay. In the winter, I pruned fruit trees. I learned a lot about plants.

Since then, I’ve kept the tradition of growing my own whenever I could. After high school, I left the farm and went west. After 30 years in southern California, I now live in Southwest Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico. We have a 365-day growing season. However, different plants have their own cycles, which you have to respect and become familiar with in order for them to produce.

Summer is tropical, so fruits grow best between June and October. Winter and spring is time for the kind of garden vegetables I grew up with in the northeast including lettuces, squash, and tomatoes.

Here are some of this year’s summer harvest from trees I planted. I live earth to table to mouth! It’s a good philosophy and the way of life I believe in.


When tree ripened, mangos are sweet and juicy. They come in shades or yellow and orange. I have three varieties.

Mangos contain over 20 different vitamins and minerals, enough to make them a super food. Phytochemicals in mangoes have anti-cancer, anti-diabetes, and cholesterol-lowering properties. Be careful: some people are highly allergic to mango peel. Contact with oils in mango leaves, stems, sap, and skin can cause skin rashes and even anaphylaxis in susceptible individuals.

Drw1Dragon Fruit

Dragon fruit—or pitaya—seeds contain essential fatty acids. The fruit is lower in fructose than other fruits, and contains many vitamins and minerals including vitamin B2, vitamin B3, iron, phosphorus, vitamin C, vitamin A, and calcium. Antioxidant levels in dragon fruit are high, especially a class of compounds called phytoalbumins. It’s the peel that contains most of this class of polyphenols. Though it’s not eaten, it has the potential to inhibit cancer.


Guavas are native to Mexico, Central and South America. They are easy to grow in Florida and bear abundant small fruits with a sweet aroma. They are comfortable in large pots and love the sun. If it gets too cold in the winter, they can be brought indoors. Guavas are rich in fiber, vitamins A and C, folic acid, potassium, copper, and manganese. A single guava fruit contains four times the amount of vitamin C as an orange. The one I grow has a rough outer peel with a brilliant pink inside filled with high fiber crunchy seeds.

drw8Star Fruit

You can eat the entire star fruit. The skin is waxy but easy to chew, and inside it’s super juicy with a sweet, yet tart flavor. Because they start off the same color as the leaves around them, star fruits can be difficult to see against the foliage. They ripen fast to a bright yellow. I pick them right off the braches where they hang in clusters.

This low-calorie, prolific fruit contains an impressive list of antioxidant nutrients. It has lots of vitamin C, as well as quercetin, epicatechin, and gallic acid. Star fruit is a good source of B vitamins including folate, riboflavin, and pyridoxine. It’s low in sugar, sodium, and acid—a perfect inclusion in an alkaline smoothie. It is also a potent source of polyphenolic compounds.

Extracts demonstrated antimicrobial activity against E. coli, and other bacteria. Don’t eat too much, because star fruit, like dragon fruit, contains oxalic acid, which can be harmful to individuals suffering from kidney failure, kidney stones, or those under kidney dialysis treatment.

drw3Persian Limes

These green jewels garnish nearly all my dishes and drinks. I pick them as needed right off the tree. The rind is rich in volatile oils. Cocktails made from rum with fresh mint (grown in my garden, of course) and fresh limes make for a pleasant end of a hot summer’s day.

Some health gurus consider limes an anti-aging super food. Topically, they improve skin health and reduce hyperpigmentation. The limonoid compounds in limes prevent stomach and colon cancer. The citric acid reduces kidney stone formation. Limes may even lower cholesterol. Warm limewater improves digestion, stimulates healthy liver function, and adds electrolytes.


Seagrape is native to the coastal areas of South Florida, the Bahamas, the West Indies, coasts of Central America and northern South America. It’s an extremely hardy, fast-growing shrub that gets to the size of a small tree. The leaves are roundish and leathery. Fruit is only produced on female plants and ripen in the fall. They are slightly sweet, with little juice or pulp.

Though mainly used as an ornamental plant all over south Florida, the fruit makes tasty jellies, jams, or wine, or may be eaten out of hand as a fresh fruit. Caribbean native healers value seagrape for its medicinal properties to stop diarrhea and lower fevers. There are patented extracts of seagrape leaf used for to treat diabetes and cancer. French researchers found seagrapes to have more powerful antioxidant value than Goji berries. Extract of seagrape is used in cosmetics for skin tightening and as an anti-cellulite gel. Why aren’t seagrape used as a super food concentrate for medicinal wines or health beverages?


Papaya is considered one of the healthiest fruits on the planet. The fruit, as well as the other parts of the papaya tree, contain papain, an enzyme that helps digest proteins. It’s mostly concentrated in the unripe fruit. In traditional Chinese medicine, green papaya is slowly simmered with ginseng to make a medicinal tea that restores digestion and improves energy. Papain is extracted from the fruit to make digestive enzyme dietary supplements.

Papayas are rich in antioxidants like carotenes, vitamin C, and flavonoids; B vitamins like folate and pantothenic acid; and minerals including potassium and magnesium. They’re also a good source of dietary fiber. Eating papaya protects against colon cancer, reduces inflammation associated with cardiovascular disease and arthritis, and supports the immune system. Papaya is considered a lycopene-rich food, and like green tea and saw palmetto berries, can protect against prostate cancer.

I took all the photos in this blog with my iPhone, from trees I planted when I moved to the Gulf Coast of Florida, and fruit I pick this summer.

Dr. J. E. Williams


Dr. Williams is a pioneer in integrative and functional medicine, the author of six books, and a practicing clinician with over 100,000 patient visits. His areas of interest include longevity and viral immunity. Formerly from San Diego, he now resides in Sarasota, Florida and practices at the Florida Integrative Medical Center. He teaches at NOVA Southeastern University and Emperor’s College of Oriental Medicine.

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  1. Ryan says:

    Great article! I’m a big lover of fruits and vegetables. I don’t think people consume enough! I too, own a tiny garden where I grow some simple vegetables like tomatoes, herbs and stuff like that. I want to expand it, once I own a bigger garden. Thanks for sharing

    I also write regularly at where I help people lose weight the all natural way, no harmful diets or chemicals.

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  3. Rebecca says:

    I would LOVE to live in Florida, or some lovely tropical location, but HOW DO you people live with mosquitoes!?!?!
    How do you keep from itching ALL the time from their bites!? ESPECIALLY when you love to be out doors and garden etc?
    I won’t use Off, or anything chemical, but there HAS to be a better way! I do NOT like to have oily icky goopy ANYTHING on my skin that I have apply and then wash off every time I re-enter the house. What have people done historically in those regions? What do people who are naturally minded do now?!? If I could get past this hurdle, I just MAY move to a tropical climate again!

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