Many of us remember Johnny Appleseed’s love for sharing apples, and know about Captain Bligh and the mutiny on the Bounty for his collecting fruits of the world and bringing them to the Caribbean. Well, both those fables (if you want to call them that) live on in another man’s dream not far from Rio Dulce.
As a young man, being a farm boy from Minnesota, Dwight Carter joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Guatemala to educate. After visiting Wilson Popenoe Botanical Garden in Honduras, his life as a farmer raising only vegetables, was inspired by all the strange tropical fruits. So much so, that he and a friend bought 10 hectares of clear cut land here in Guatemala in 1987 and began “Frutas del Mundo” with the intention of introducing rambutans to Guatemala. This is when Frutas del Mundo or "Fruits of the World" began and has metamorphosed into another hidden jewel here.
With that ambition of introducing rambutans to Guatemala, Frutas del Mundo was a pilot project started by reforesting with fruits of the world. With the understanding that the earth is a living thing and needs the respect and nurturing that any living thing requires, a wholistic approach of living with the land was adopted from the inception of this project. Also understanding natural balance and with an education in modern technology that applies within those parameters this damaged land was to get a new chance.
Anyone who knows the delicate nature of soils
in the rainforest, knows that this is no simple undertaking because the nutrient poor quality of the soil
makes growing anything difficult. The second obstacle was that the plants require various amounts of light and water to
provide an ideal environment in which an ecosystem can be created. All of this Dwight has discovered and mastered here on
this one location in amazingly short period of time. Solar powered, composting toilets, bio-sand water purification, totally organic farming, the land lives on.
In order to introduce a marketable fruit like rambutan to Guatemala, Dwight first had to grow sprouts and learn how to graft them so they would produce fruit in a shorter time in lieu of what is sometimes a human lifetime. When that was accomplished, he found non productive, clear cut pieces of land and offered families owning them young trees, fertilizers and counseling up to the first harvest. At that time they would repay him and he could do it again. Now rambutan is becoming a recognized exportable fruit for Guatemala. To me, that says volumes about the man and his character. I am confident that one day his name will go down in the history books in relation to his efforts here. It should also be noted here now that rambutans have become successful, he is growing other marketable fruits to introduce new species to help bring more commerce to Guatemala as well as livlihoods to needy families.
Along with the rambutans, Dwight saw a bigger vision. Along with the many indigenous fruits of Guatemala, many of which were rapidly becoming extinct, Dwight has introduced over 50 species from around the world here. Some of which are so naturally large, he is busy “domesticating” some of them for families who don’t have much land to produce all these amazing plants themselves by creating dwarf versions of the giants. When he is not doing that, he is in demand and travels to ranches throughout Guatemala and Honduras to consult other farmers. He also keeps busy conducting internships for Guatemalan farmers some are funded by the government to learn his wisdom. For him it is obviously his passion which shows in the amount of love and dedication he has put into his farm and in sharing his wisdom with others. He has also provided counseling with small trees to poor farmers to begin a new productive livelihood and gets his payment upon the harvest of those crops. Today Frutas del Mundo has over 10 full time workers and their families employed to be able to maintain this project. Dwight has also trained hundreds of people through his internships which have in turn taught others what they learned.
There are also many sub-species of all these various plants too. Many of which I had never seen nor tasted until now. One in particular that caught my fascination is called a “Miracle plant” (Synsepalum dulcificum) which produces a small berry with a large seed. He gave us one to try and it was good, but it didn’t appear to be anything particularly miraculous. But soon after giving us the berry, he walked off and returned with a juicy lime which he cut and gave us a piece to try. When we sucked on the lime expecting bitter, instead a sweet aromatic flavor burst into our mouths that was one of the most unique, sweet things we had ever tasted! It turns out that the little berry leaves a residue in your mouth that is not noticeable, but it changes bitter to sweet. So indeed, it IS a miraculous plant.
Most recently, Kevin Lock has had the opportunity to join forces with Dwight to open new avenues of promoting his proven methods to modern day property owners in introducing them in ways to transform their lands into eco friendly, self sustaining paradises as well as to seek donations to provide clean water, school and medical supplies to local villages and schools. In this climate, even tropical fruits, vegetables, spices and medicinal plants can be incorporated in ornamental ways that enhance the lives and land of those living with it. Kevin is a self taught naturalist who has studied this land and its people for the past six years. His work can be seen at his website Did You See That? OK, so I'm the one writing all this. Let me just say that I'm excited and honored for this opportunity to learn and share all the amazing accomplishments done at Frutas del Mundo. I am also developing totally organic health products including essential oil insect repellents, renewable resource gift packs for tourists, bamboo products and much more. Daily, new things come to my attention that I never dreamed of or tasted. The largest fruit in the world, the largest fruit bearing, flowering plant, the hottest chili in the world, the miracle fruit that turns bitter to sweet, a fruit that mimics peanut butter exactly, and many many other rare and unusual plants. This is SO cool!