(left to right) black sapote, canistel and manzano bananas purchased at the Upper Eastside Farmers Market in Miami on Feb. 21, 2015, photographed in a mangrove thicket on Key Largo

On Feb. 21, I dropped by the Upper Eastside Farmers Market in Miami, managed by Art Friedrich, one of the founders of a nonprofit called the Urban Oasis Project. He and I had engaged in a “conversation” on my blog, Truly Local, over the previous couple of weeks. I had railed against the tendency of “farmers markets” in Florida to more closely resemble flea markets than markets where farmers sell what they have grown. He replied by explaining that small farms are in a more precarious position in Florida than elsewhere, so farmers markets have to supplement the produce directly sold by farmers with produce from other growers, preferably small and local. The Upper Eastside market, which convenes every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., in Legion Park at 6599 Biscayne Blvd., is an outlet for several innovative local producers, he said, including Little River Market Cooperative and an inspiring urban farming operation managed by the Urban Oasis Project called Verde Community Farm Market.

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Friedrich and co-workers from the Urban Oasis Project, selling produce grown on Verde Farm and other farms

On the Saturday of my visit, Friedrich was helping serve customers at a farm stand that carried lettuce, chard and other greens from Verde Farm and an array of produce from other growers, including cranberries grown by his sister on Cape Cod. I was especially intrigued by a selection of tropical fruits that Friedrich gets from a small outfit in town called Possum Trot Tropical Fruit Nursery. I bought (among other purchases) some black sapotes, canistels and manzano bananas

The next day, they survived a kayak trip through the mangrove maze (as seen in the photo above) of John Pennenkamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, about an hour and a half south of Miami. They also withstood the rigors of a flight back to snowy Mt. Airy, my corner of Philadelphia, two days after that. In fact, the fruit was just about perfectly ripe on my arrival back home. The sapote in particular had been transformed from a rock-hard baseball to a squishy sack of jelly.

Black sapotes are said to be ready to eat a day after you’re convinced they should be thrown away. They aced that test. It didn’t look particularly inviting, but the mass of tar-like pulp was a delicious musky pudding. The canistels had also softened en route, yielding a flesh that was creamy but bready in texture. I decided to blend them together in a standard banana bread recipe, substituting the mashed canistels and sapote for the banana. I lightened up on sugar since black sapotes are sweeter than bananas, and doubled up on the egg since the canistel pulp is drier.

Black Sapote-Canistel Bread

2 eggs beaten
pulp of 2 canistels and one black sapote, or vice versa
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbs. melted butter
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
walnuts (optional)
pinch of salt

1. Combine all ingredients and fold into a large buttered loaf pan.

2. Bake in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or so, inserting a toothpick in the center to check whether it is done.

The outcome: outstanding.

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My tropical fruit purchases survived the flight back to snow-covered Philadelphia

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black sapotes are ready to eat the day after you think they should be thrown away

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the canistel, a native of Mexico and Central America, has a pasty pudding texture

Canistel and black sapote pulp

Canistel and black sapote pulp

Canistel-Black Sapote Bread

Canistel-Black Sapote Bread

moist, marbled slices

moist, marbled slices