From the Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia, inc.
by Christine Gray

Seasons in Australia are opposite to those in the US.  Summer is Dec. Jan. Feb. Autumn is Mar. Apr. May. Winter is June July Aug. Spring is Sept. Oct. Nov.

A Sweet Delight, the Jaboticaba
Myrciaria cauliflora

Black, shiny grape-like fruit clinging to the trunk, limbs, small branches of a tree, can be hard to believe to anyone who is newly interested in rare fruits.

But it is for real. It is a wonder why more people are not growing the Jaboticaba.

We have found the Jaboticabas, a fruit from the jungles of Brazil, a tree one tends to plant and forget, as at first for at least 3 years, it is slow-growing (but is recorded to grow to 40 feet).

We have planted two types of Jaboticabas, a small-fruiting, small-leaf variety and the giant-fruiting larger-leaf variety.
It was December 1978 when we planted our first seedling small-fruiting type Jaboticabas. Later in May 1980 we added four more seedlings of this variety and in January 1979 we planted two giant-fruiting type Jaboticabas. One was planted down on the creek flat and the other near the vegetable garden beside the house.

It took four years before our first Jaboticaba fruited. The giant type took seven years.

The small-leaf Jaboticabas are hardy trees. We have planted one down at 'Treat Park'. It has no water except from the rain and the tree is slow, but growing well. The Jaboticaba is true from seed and does not need to be grafted: it is a heavy cropper, bearing at least two crops from September to December.

The giant-fruiting Jaboticaba has a larger leaf than the small-fruit Jaboticaba - at least twice as big. The small-fruit type has a leaf averaging about 3°cm x 1cm and the giant-fruiting type leaf averaging around 6cm long x 3cm wide.

The flowers of the Jaboticabas form as little bumps on trunk and branches and a fluffy, creamy blossom about 1 cm across emerges. As the tree grows, the smooth bark seems to flake off, much like a crab dropping its shell.

I was walking past the Jaboticabas about 6 p.m. (normal time) one September evening and realised this beautiful, sweet perfume was coming from the Jaboticaba flowers. The perfume is overpowering.

The fruit take up to six weeks to form from bud to green fruit, turning maroon, then black, to shiny black. I have seen bees pollinate the flowers but other insects may help also.

Eighteen months ago Don gave the Jaboticabas an application of zinc. Light applications of chicken manure and watering only when the fruit are forming is normal yearly procedure, but since the applications of zinc, the small-fruiting type have had abundant fruit, the fruit so tight one beside the other that a pin would not fit, while the giant fruiting type have gone into heavy green foliage and have had only a very sparse crop of only 30 fruit. The giant type growing near the vegetable garden could be feeding on the mulch and could account for this - but the other on the creek bank only had two fruit. Because of all the new growth, it may have stopped the tree from fruiting.

The giant-fruiting type is normally a lighter cropper anyway, but the fruit is about ping pong ball size, much the same flavour as the smaller type, but a delight to eat.

I love to cut them in half and suck the white juicy sweet flesh away from the thick skin. The flesh tends to stick to the seed and if one is patient, one can eventually clean the seed smooth with tongue and teeth.

Don loves popping them into his mouth, giving the fruit a munch and swallowing the seed, flesh and juice and then removing the skin.

I think the Jaboticabas are going to be a winner. We have been selling a few. We find the less they are handled, the longer they keep.

One way of not handling the fruit too much is to hose the fruit while on the tree. Remains of old flower petals and leaves stick to the fruit, and hosing them down before picking removes all the debris.

The Jaboticabas must be picked when the fruit is really round and shiny black (the birds will not eat them until this stage). Picking takes nimble fingers, but by taking time to select only the shiny black fruit pays off, as one may get another 3 to 4 subsequent pickings. Don prunes branches out to make it easier to pick the fruit.

Just a suggestion for packing: the Jaboticabas could be packed straight into punnets like strawberries to further reduce handling.

One other thing before I end - the Jaboticabas do not get stung by fruit fly or fruit sucking moth because of the thick skin. But the birds do love the ripe shiny fruit. Netting could reduce damage by birds or you could be like Don and get up early and beat the birds!

Well, if you haven't got a Jaboticaba tree - get one - it is a sweet delight.

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Gray, Christine. "A Sweet Delight the Jaboticaba." Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia. Jan. 1992. Web. 15 Jan. 2015

Published 15 Jan. 2015 LR
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