The Fruit-Man Passes
Do you know who William F. Whitman Jr. is? Honestly, until today I had no idea either. According to The New York Times he was responsible for popularizing many exotic fruits in the United States, but sadly, he has died at the ripe-old age of 92—no pun intended. David Karp reports:
Among rare-fruit devotees, Bill Whitman, as he was known, was hailed as the only person to have coaxed a mangosteen tree into bearing fruit outdoors in the continental United States. Native to Southeast Asia, mangosteen is notoriously finicky and cold-sensitive.
That did not deter Mr. Whitman, whose garden is propitiously situated between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, minimizing the danger of catastrophic freezes. (Mangosteen is the most prominent of the exotic “superfruits” like goji and noni, which are made into high-priced beverages from imported purées.)
Mr. Whitman managed to cultivate other fastidiously tropical species like rambutan and langsat, and he was recognized as the first in the United States to popularize miracle fruit, a berry that tricks the palate into perceiving sour tastes as sweet.
In pursuit of rare fruit, “Bill was a monomaniac,” said Stephen S. Brady, his doctor and friend, who traveled with him. “He’d hear about a fruit tree, and pursue it like a pit bull to the ends of the earth.”
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