I have a question: does anybody know what is the best place (in the world) to grow the most varieties of fruit? It should be tropical climate I suppose?

This question was recently posted in the “World Frugivore Tribe” group on Facebook. It is a great question that people often ask when they first start to explore the idea of starting a fruit forest. So, I set out to answer this difficult question – difficult because there are so many different tropical climate zones, and many fruits will grow well in somes zones but poorly or not at all in others. 

There are many different types of tropical climate zones, with varying factors such as: Amount of annual rainfall, rainfall distribution throughout the year i.e. length and intensity of wet v dry seasons, number of seasons, elevation above sea level, distance from the equator, frost risk over decades (in sub-tropical zones) and even geology. 
The question then becomes, what fruits do you want to grow? If you want more avocado, mango, coconut but don’t mind not having so much durian, marang, mangosteen, then a dry coastal climate with a short rainy season might be good. If you really want a lot of humid-loving supertropicals but don’t mind having less dry-loving fruits like sapodilla, coconut etc, then a humid rainforest climate might be better – but there are even big differences between humid rainforest climates. I’m in the Ecuadorian Amazon and if I go 10 hours north the climate (and other factors) changes significantly despite still being in the Ecuadorian Amazon; some fruits will do better than others in each zone. All zones will grow some fruits and not others. No zones will grow all fruits, there is no single tropical zone that will grow all tropical fruits, and there are thousands of tropical fruit varieties so there’s not even a zone that will grow “most,” though you can probably grow the most varieties of fruit by staying away from hot desert-like tropics (for example northern Peru coastal region), as those would be the most limiting.

Black mulberry: Mulberries generally grow in subtropical and some temperate climates. The everbearing black mulberry grows well in the tropics as well, which is surprising to some people. At Fruit Haven our black mulberries are prolific and taste great, but other varieties of mulberry that we have tried do not produce sweet fruits; the white mulberry fruits grow on the tree but do not mature to sweetness. This is a climactic limitation. 

Cherimoya: Many people think of the cherimoya as an exotic tropical fruit. However, it will not produce fruit in most tropical climates, preferring the cooler and dryer subtropics. The tree will grow but will never give fruits. It is produced in subtropical regions of southern California, but not in South Florida. In Ecuador, its minimum elevation is around 1300 meters, and it grows well in the climate of the Andes (think Vilcabamba and Cuenca) where the elevation above sea level is around 2500 meters. Fortunately at Fruit Haven we have many other annona species planted such as spanish cherimoya, rollinia, atemoya, and soursop. 

And with each climate zone and region comes its own set of other factors such as: Amount of mosquitoes, prevalence of parasitic diseases such as leishmaniasis, malaria, and yellow fever, crime rate, temperature (whether it’s comfortable, way to hot, way too told, way too humid, way too dry, has a minimum annual temp below the tolerable range for some fruits, etc) … even ease of getting a visa.
Another example: If you want to be able to grow things that like it a bit cooler and dryer, like white sapote, mulberry, cherimoya, and citrus fruits, then you can’t really grow those so easily in a humid climate with high rainfall, so you might for example choose Vilcabamba, Ecuador, a subtropical zone with moderate climate, where you can grow those things very well, but the climate will also be tolerated by some mangos and avocados and other things. However you will probably never be able to get durian or marang to fruit there, certainly not pulasan, langsat, cempedak, etc.
So the short answer is there is no good answer to this question because there is no one climate that will grow “all the fruits,” and everyone has different fruit preferences.

In Conclusion

Being in a zone that “is not good for” a certain fruit, is not such a bad thing. It just means you have to accept your limitations and work with them.

For example, being in a climate zone where the dry season is not long enough for mangoes, does not necessarily mean that you can’t grow mangos or coconuts. It just means that if you do grow them, they will produce much less than they would in a dryer climate. Trying to grow durian in a dry climate could be achieved by installing misters around the foliage of the tree.

You can also look for varieties of fruits that do better in certain regions. Trying to grow durian at a high elevation? Look for durio graveolens or graveolens x zibethinus hybrid, or other high elevation durian varieties. If you are not in prime mango-growing country, you can look for mangifera odorata, maha chanook, or nam dok mai mangos, which can do better in your wetter region. If you are not in a cool enough area for white sapote to grow well, you can get the redlands variety of white sapote which does well in warmer climates. If you really want to grow raspberries but you are not in a subtropical climate, you can still grow mysore raspberry, the only raspberry variety that fruits well in the tropics. Planting dry-loving trees on steep hillsides or adding sand to the soil will help them do better in wet climates. 

There are some hard limitations (like cherimoya growing in USDA zone 11) but many climate limitations are soft and you can work around them to some degree. Happy planting!