September 2019 Members Meeting (RFCI) Miami

September 2019 Members Meeting (RFCI) Miami

This month RFCI Miami welcomes Carolina Quijano expert chocolatier who will present “Cacao Seed to Bar” (Exquisito Chocolates in Little Havana, Miami, Florida)

Theobroma cacao pod at The Fruit & Spice Park, Homestead, Florida. 

Theobroma cacao flowers

Photos clockwise: Theobroma cacao flowers on Adolf Grimal’s original specimens at Grimal Grove, Big Pine Key, Florida (2019) / T. cacao inflorescences, Grimal Grove (2019) / cacao pod at Fruit & Spice Park (2019) (Cuni, Lydia)

Kombucha: More art than science?

Kombucha: More art than science?

Kombucha: more art than science?
By: Erin Wilson (RFCI), Miami

Kombucha in process. (Photo: Erin Wilson)

On August 14th, 2019 at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG), the Rare Fruit Council Int’l. (RFCI), Miami had the pleasure of hosting Counter Culture, a boutique kombucha company headquartered in South Florida. Buster Brown, one of Counter Culture’s founders, along with Laura Sutton represented the brand and shared a great deal of information about fermentation, the health benefits of kombucha, and their philosophy on tropical fruit flavorings. As a home brewer myself, I found the discussion particularly enlightening, and it made me wonder if perhaps making kombucha is more art than science.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a fair amount of science in play because kombucha, by definition, is a fermented tea, and fermentation is no simple sport. It is, however, a sport humans have been playing for millenia. So one might say, we’ve got the science pretty nailed down already. Kombucha starts out with three simple ingredients: tea, sugar, and a SCOBY: a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. This SCOBY, also known as a “mother,” is the key to the fermentation magic, and is what differentiates kombucha from other fermented foods and beverages.

Kombucha scoby / mother passed around by invited speakers. (Photo: Jorge J. Zaldivar)

Kombucha mothers have been bred to feed on white sugar, so while many readers might feel inclined to use an alternative sweetener, remember: the sugar isn’t for you, it’s for your mother. Just as your health will decline rapidly in an environment without sufficient food, your SCOBY will struggle to survive if you don’t feed it properly. Luckily, most of the sugar you add to brew will be consumed during fermentation; very little remains in the final product. So use white sugar, one cup per gallon of tea.

Speaking of the tea, when I say “tea” I mean leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Kombucha mothers will consume the caffeine and require some of the other botanical magic found in this particular plant to thrive. As with the sugar, much less caffeine will remain in the final product than enters the brew; kombucha is a low-caffeine beverage. You may brew with any variety of tea you like: green, white, black, or oolong. This is where some of the art starts to come into play. Different brewers using different teas, or blends thereof, will achieve subtly different final products.

Begin with four cups of strong tea per gallon of brew. Eight tea bags is a good place to start. Once steeped, dissolve the sugar in the tea and let it return to room temperature. Transfer the sweet tea to a gallon glass jar, add your mother and starter liquid, and fill with non-chlorinated water until within a few inches of the top. Cover the brew with a piece of cotton fabric and let it sit, undisturbed, out of direct sunlight, and at an ambient temperature between 65°F-85°F for 7-21 days. The starter liquid acts as an insurance policy during the first few days of brewing by lowering the pH so other microbes, like mold, don’t take up residence while your mother works her magic.

Over the next week you’ll see a film form on the surface of the brew. This is your next generation mother. A SCOBY is usually good for 4-6 brews before she should be retired to the compost bin. You’ll know she’s spent when she’s dark brown and tears easily when you handle her. You can brew with one mother, but I usually keep two or three in the jar at a time. Store extra mothers in a separate jar – sometimes called a SCOBY hotel, use them to make another batch, or give them to a friend and spread the kombucha love! Once your brew reaches your desired level of tartness, it’s time to flavor and bottle.

Our friends at Counter Culture only use locally sourced organic produce to flavor their teas. They steep fruit and other botanicals in the kombucha for a couple days before bottling. Personally, I have found it easier to just add flavorings directly to the bottle. There are pros and cons to each. Removing the fruit before bottling certainly makes the bottles easier to clean, but you won’t achieve the intensity of flavor you can with in-bottle seasoning. Just remember what goes in must come out, so chop the fruits small, puree, or use juice.

Whichever approach you choose, first remove your mothers from the brew and set aside in another glass vessel. Reserve a cup per gallon of liquid that you will use as starter liquid for your next batch. If desired, flavor your kombucha with an ounce of fruit, juice, or herbs per sixteen ounces of tea. Transfer to swing-top bottles. Let your Kombucha sit on the counter for a few days to allow a second fermentation to carbonate your tea before transferring it to the fridge. Refrigerated, your tea will easily keep for a few months.

With so many options for teas and flavorings it’s easy to see how much art goes into a perfectly balanced bottle of ‘booch. Fear not friends, for your tastes are your own. Big fan of ginger? Dial it up! Like sweet drinks? Add more juice or fruit at bottling. Want super fizzy original flavor tea? Bottle earlier, allow for a long second ferment, and skip adding anything else. At the end of the day it’s your tea; experiment until you find a blend you like.

I’ll leave you with one more interesting fact we learned from the Counter Culture crew. While all kombucha likely has a single ancestral “mother,” not every SCOBY contains the same bacteria. Over time SCOBYs change, they evolve. Storing a SCOBY near other fermented foods may cause some cross contamination. This is not said to scare you; it’s just part of how your mother and her lineage will become uniquely yours over time. But perhaps do keep her away from your meat grinder, just to be safe.

Hopefully you now find yourself excited to join the ranks of homebrewers all over the world. The science of brewing kombucha is no match for the variety yielded through the art of flavoring. Enjoy this new hobby of yours. Experiment with different teas, fermentation times, and seasonings, and occasionally – whether for inspiration or biodiversity – consider sampling someone else’s brew; the multitude of flavors available from Counter Culture are a great place to start.

Happy fermenting!

More info about our invited speakers can be found at their website:

August 2019 Members Meeting (RFCI) Miami

August 2019 Members Meeting (RFCI) Miami

Our monthly Rare Fruit Council Int’l. (RFCI), Miami members meeting will be held Wednesday, August 14th, 2019 at 7:00pm in the Science Village Classroom next to the Butterfly Exhibit at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG) in Coral Gables, Florida. 

BusterBrown will be discussing “Kombucha Fermentation with Tropical Fruits”

(Counter Culture, Miami, Florida)

Please remember to bring a dish, fruit, seeds or a plant for our tasting table & plant exchange. Non members, we ask that you please RSVP via email or the CONTACT form on our website menu so we may accomodate seating arrangements..

JULY 2019 Members Meeting (RFCI) Miami

JULY 2019 Members Meeting (RFCI) Miami

Our monthly meeting is this Wednesday July 10th, 2019, 7 pm at FTBG in the Science Village Classroom. Manny Wong will be speaking about “Putting Sprouts on Your Table” (Fullei Fresh, Miami, Florida). Please remember to bring a fruit, a dish and a friend.

Manny Wong was born in Havana, Cuba, the son of Chinese immigrants. He came to the United States as a child and grew up in the food industry. His father grew bean sprouts in Cuba and then in Miami, FL established a popular Chinese restaurant.

Upon graduating from Pace University in 1978, Manny established Fully Inc. They grew bean and soy sprouts to serve the Asian community in Miami. For some time they also produced tofu, soymilk and rice noodles. The product line later expanded to include “green” sprouts such as alfalfa, broccoli, clover, snow pea, sunflower and wheatgrass. In 1997 the name Fully was changed to Fullei Fresh. Currently they grow over 20 varieties of sprouts and shoots.

Fullei Fresh uses state-of- the-art hydroponic, vertical farming techniques. Among the varieties grown are alfalfa, bean, beet, broccoli, clover, daikon, soy, snow pea, sunflower, wheatgrass and unique combinations like a Crunchy Mix, Garlic Sprout Blend and Rainbow Mix.

Manny has been a pioneer in the sprouting industry by helping to develop procedures for food safety. He was one of only two sprout growers to be involved with the formation of the United States’ Food and Drug Administration’s Sprout Safety Alliance, which developed the regulations for the sprout industry. Fullei Fresh was the first facility to be in compliance with their requirements. Manny is also a lead instructor for the Sprout Safety Alliance. He teaches sprout growers and government regulators about the protocols for the safe production of sprouts.

Manny believes in community involvement. He is a current board member of the Miami-Dade County Asian American Advisory Board and International Sprout Growers Association (ISGA). He is also a past board member of other organizations.

As part of the food safety standards, Fullei Fresh is inspected yearly by a third-party and must receive at least an excellent rating to be in the program. They pride themselves in continuing to set the standard for the sprout industry. The mission at Fullei Fresh is to set the standards for food safety, while providing our customers with the highest quality products and the best service we can. It is our continuing goal to provide wholesome dietary alternatives which enhance cuisine and protect against disease.


The Rare Fruit Council Intl. lost a longtime supporter last week. We mourn Jose M. Trabanco, who coordinated the RFCI Plant Exchange in the 1980s. His legacy will be forever remembered by the hundreds of flowering & fruit trees which he planted in his neighborhood. Photo: El Nuevo Herald, Miami Herald (1990) & RFCI’s Tropical Fruit News (1980s-90s) via the #RFCIArchives

Tropical Fruit News #RFCIArchives




Mango: The King of Good Health

Mango: The King of Good Health

 Photo: Jorge J. Zaldivar

Mango: The King of Good Health ~ Mangifera indica

It’s mango season and we just can’t have enough of them. Small, big, yellow, green, mango comes in all sizes and is regarded as the king of all fruits. Mangos originated some 4,000 years ago in India and are considered as the symbol of life and why you should include this pulpy, delicious fruit in your diet. 

Traditional Uses
In Chinese medicine, mangos are considered sweet and sour with a cooling energy and are known as a yin tonic. They are used to treat anemia, bleeding gums, constipation, cough, fever, nausea, sea sickness, and weak digestion. 

Vitamin Powerhouse
Mangos are a storehouse of vitamins. Starting from Vitamin A, B, C to being richly supplied with minerals like phosphorous and calcium, mango is one fruit that lends maximum nutritional benefits. They also contain vitamin K and magnesium.

Mangos are particularly rich in potassium which can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Mangos are one of the best sources of Betacarotene, Quercetin and Astragalin. These are powerful antioxidants that neutralize free radicals.

Pectin Lowers Cancer Risk
Mangos contain phenols that are powerful antioxidants and have anti-cancer properties. They also contain pectin, which lowers blood cholesterol level.

Studies have shown a strong link between eating lots of fiber like mangos and a lower risk of cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. It effective in relieving clogged pores of the skin and acidity and poor digestion.

Other Benefits
It cures kidney problems including nephritis. Mangos treat respiratory problems and cures constipation. It is fruit recommended in fever. 

Mango is also a rich source of vitamin A (beta-carotene), E, and selenium which helps protect against heart disease and other ailments. 

Mangos are a perfect fruit to be consumed after exercise as it replenishes the salts and energy. So, gorge on the king of fruits and make eating healthy a delightful experience this summer! 

 Health Benefits of Mangos:

Photo: Maurice Kong

1. One cup of sliced mangos supplies 25 percent of the daily value of vitamin A, which promotes good eyesight 

2. Mangos contain glutamine acid which boosts memory. 

3. A 100 gram of mango contains about 75 calories and helps in gaining weight.

4. Eating mangos regularly makes complexion fair and skin soft by reliving clogged pores.

5. Vitamin E found in abundance in mango regulates sex hormones and boosts sex drive.

Photo: Mary Widel

Join us at The RFCI, Miami tent for Fairchild’s Mango Festival JULY 13 – 14 SAT – SUN – 9:30am – 4:30pm.

RFCI Miami Fruit / Plant List
Mango Festival, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG) 

Black sapote, ‘Excalibur’ seedling, Diospyros nigra
Breadfruit, Artocarpus altilis ‘Ma’afala’
Carambola ‘Arkin’, Averrhoa carambola
Guava, pink / red, ‘Ruby x Supreme’, Psidium guajava
Jakfruit , ‘Katie’ seedling, Artocarpus heterophyllus
Loquat ‘Champagne’, Eriobotrya japonica
Lychee ‘Mauritius’, Litchi chinensis
Longan ‘Kohala’, Dimocarpus longan
Malay apple, Syzygium malaccense
Mango ‘Glenn’, ‘Keitt’, ‘Cotton Candy’, Mangifera indica
Papaya ‘Caribbean Red’, Carica papaya
Persian lime, Citrus x latifolia
Sugar apple, Annona squamosa
Wax jambu, red, Syzygium samarangense

Pagoda flower, Clerodendrum paniculatum 

Fellow RFCI member Jorge J. Zaldivar will be giving the final talk of the event, Sunday at 3:00 PM at the Arts Center, his program is titled, “The Colorful History and Botany of the Mango in Florida”. More info via this link – 

If you are a member and have yet to sign up to volunteer, please contact us by using the form below.

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