After about two years in the ground, the red jaboticaba tree in my greenhouse is now ripening a few fruits for the first time – very exciting. Jaboticaba is in the Myrtaceae fruit family, and is native to Brazil, where it appears to be wildly popular, judging by the way every Brazilian I talk to gets very enthusiastic when I bring up the subject of this fruit.
There are a number of different species and varieties of jaboticaba, and it’s a complex group. Here’s my best understanding of them – if I’ve made any errors, please let me know and I’ll correct them. The genus for jaboticabas is called Myrciaria or Plinia – I believe the two names are interchangeable. The type of jaboticaba that was introduced early on here in Florida is a purple-fruited type, which in Brazil is called Sabarah. According to one of Florida’s leading jaboticaba experts, Adam Shafran of Flying Fox Fruits nursery, that purple type was introduced to Florida under the name Myrciaria caulifora, but is actually Myrciaria jaboticaba, and the more recently-introduced red-fruited type is the true Myrciaria cauliflora.
I’ve eaten lots of the purple jaboticaba before, and I love them, but this is only the second time I’ve gotten to try the red fruited type. The eating experience of the two is broadly similar: sweet and tart, with a texture kind of like a muscadine grape, except instead of musky muscadine flavor, a complex array of tropical flavors, with hints of spiciness, especially in the skin. Both are outstanding fruits. I’m just guessing, but I suspect that red jaboticaba might appeal a bit more to people accustomed to eating temperate-zone fruits – its flavor seems slightly lighter, more grape-like, while the purple has more complex, heavy tropical flavors teasing your tongue.
Reportedly, red jaboticaba comes into fruiting at an earlier age than the purple jaboticaba, and the red is supposed to have numerous crops of fruit per year. I got my red jaboticaba as a three-gallon sized potted plant and stuck it in the ground in my greenhouse in 2015 or 2016 (gotta check my notes on that), and it’s currently about 4.5 feet (1.5 meters) tall at first fruiting. My purple jaboticaba tree is about six feet (2 meters) tall, and it’s been fruiting for a couple of years now.
One distinctive thing about jaboticaba is the extreme speed from flowers to ripe fruit. While most fruits take a number of months to complete this development, jaboticaba fruits race through this process in approximately 30 to 35 days. This year I photographed the flowering of the red jabotica tree on February 19, and the ripe fruits on March 21, just thirty-one days later.
Jaboticaba trees make heavier and heavier crops of fruit as they mature. And because the fruits sprout directly out of the tree-trunk, on a heavy-fruiting jaboticaba tree you can’t even see the trunk, you just see a column of closely-packed fruits. This first fruiting was only a handful of fruits on this tree, but it’s a start. Barring any greenhouse disasters, I should be getting heavy crops of these wonderful tropical fruits in coming years.
Update: As of April 11, just three weeks after harvesting the batch of fruit described in this post, the red jaboticaba has flower buds sprouting out again. This species has been described as nearly ever-bearing – looks like I might be starting to witness that trait.