Jaboticaba has some tasty cousins

Jaboticaba cousins. Clockwise from lower left: trunciflora jaboticaba (Myrciaria trunciflora), red jaboticaba (Myciaria cauliflora hybrid), Grimal jaboticaba (Myrciaria spirito-santensis), yellow jaboticaba (Myrciaria glazioviana).

Purple jaboticaba is a rising star in the fruit world in Florida. This Brazilian tree which sprouts delicious grape-like fruits directly out of the trunk used to be grown here only in the yards of a few rare fruit collectors and Brazilian expats, and it is now slowly working its way towards the widespread cultivation in Florida.

There are a number of good-tasting cousins of jaboticaba which are still at that early stage of introduction, apparently well-known in parts of Brazil, but at this time in the US grown they are grown mainly in the yards of a few immigrants and tropical fruit enthusiasts. I got to taste some of these species this week.

I visited my friend Larry Shatzer in Winter Garden, Florida (Orlando area, in the middle of the Florida peninsula). Larry has been collecting species in this group for many years, and planting them out on his property. Fortunately I visited just in time for the fruiting season for some of these jaboticaba cousins.

The purple jaboticaba (Myrciaria jaboticaba) was the first one introduced to Florida, and is the most widely grown here.

First I need to say something up front about this group: the botanical names are a mess. Seems like each plant taxonomist who’s tried to figure out how to categorize these species has sliced and diced things in different ways, so various species have at times been moved into and out of genus Myrciaria, Plinia, Marlieria, Eugenia, and probably some others. To keep things simple, I’m going to use the botanical names that jaboticaba expert Adam Safran of Flying Fox Fruits uses on his website.

First there’s the (relatively) common purple jaboticaba (Myciaria jaboticaba). Called variety ‘Sabara’ in Brazil,  this one seems to be the most popular jaboticaba in its home country, and with good reason: they are outstanding. Tasting something like a good muscadine grape, except without the muskiness, and with a whole symphony of tropical flavor notes in the flesh, and a slightly spicy, piney flavor to the skin, they are a fantastic eating experience. (I just heard that they also make excellent jelly – fellow Florida blogger Suwannee Rose just wrote a post about it, looks wonderful). I’ve had a plant of this species fruiting in my greenhouse for a couple of years now. Larry said his purple jaboticaba plants had only a very light fruiting this year – he’s not sure why, but suspects the erratic swings between warm and cold earlier this year might have played a role. Last year, those same purple jaboticaba plants produced an extremely heavy crop.

 

‘Grimal’ jaboticaba, Myrciaria spirito-santensis

‘Grimal’ jaboticaba (Myrciaria spirito-santensis). Larry has had this species fruiting in central Florida for some time. Named after the late legendary fruit collector Adolph Grimal, who collected this variety in South America and brought it back to Florida, this one has purple-black fruits that are slightly larger than those of the ‘Sabara’. I thought they tasted similar to ‘Sabara’, except with a few additional flavor notes, reminding me a little of the flavor of Concord grape.

Grimal jaboticaba has a more upright growth habit than Sabara, and some people consider it to be a particularly atractive plant.

 

Red jaboticaba (Myrciaria cauliflora hybrid). This one has fruits slightly smaller than purple jaboticaba, and tastes roughly similar to it, with an excellent balance of sweet and tart flavors and grape-like fruitiness, except to my taste has a slightly reduced symphony of what I call tropical flavors. This might actually make it more appealing to people more accustomed to temperate-zone fruits, so it might actually be more marketable in places like North America and Europe.

Red jaboticaba ( Myrciaria cauliflora hybrid). These have a delicious flavor, and produce multiple crops a year.

Red jaboticaba comes into bearing at an earlier age than the purple, and can produce multiple crops a year. I recently wrote a blog post about how the red jaboticaba plant in my greenhouse was having its first-ever fruiting, and now just a month after it produced that (small) crop, the tree has flower buds again, getting ready for another fruiting this spring.

 

 

 

 

Yellow jaboticaba (Myrciaria glazioviana). Called cabelluda or cabeludinha in Brazil, this one has yellow fruits, with a bit of fuzz on the skin. I’ve heard that some people consider this one the best-flavored of the group. This was my first time trying them, and I was impressed: they do indeed have a wonderful fruity taste, sort of like concentrated apricot-peach flavor, mixed with a bit of tangerine.

Yellow jaboticaba (Myrciaria glazioviana). Called cabelluda or cabeludinha in its homeland of Brazil.

Unfortunately, there’s not a huge amount of flesh on each yellow jaboticaba fruit, and the skin is slightly too tough, with a bit of a weird resinous flavor in the skin. I think this one has a lot of breeding potential, if someone could develop forms with more flesh, and perhaps a thinner, less resinous flesh.

But even as it is now, based on the extremely fine flavor, I consider this species worth growing as a fruiting plant in my own collection.

 

Trunciflora jaboticaba (Myrciaria trunciflora) I don’t know what the common name is for this one is in Brazil, and American tropical fruit collectors have taken to calling just by its species name. This is the tallest growing of the jaboticaba relatives that Larry has growing. His tallest trunciflora tree is about twenty five feet (8m) tall, compared to about fifteen feet (5m) for the biggest of the other species.
The trunciflora fruits I tried had been sitting in Larry’s refrigerator for a number of days, so they weren’t at the perfect peak of ripeness. But they tasted pleasant and mild to me.

If you’re looking for a source for fruits, plants, or seeds of any of these, here are a couple of sources. If you’re in the Central Florida area, look up Larry Shatzer in Winter Garden (Larry sells only locally). If you’re outside of the Orlando area, Adam Safran of Flying Fox Fruits sells seeds, cuttings and plants by mail. I don’t have any of these available for distribution, but I did plant all the seeds from these fruits I tasted.

 


8 thoughts on “Jaboticaba has some tasty cousins

    1. It’s great to be able to give a shout out to such a terrific blog as yours. I’m really enjoying reading your posts. Yeah, there’s so much great potential in the jaboticaba group. I look forward to having yellow jaboticaba fruiting at my own place…one day.

      Like

    1. Probably. Although when I tried rooting cuttings of red jaboticaba, it took them almost a year to make roots. I have heard jaboticaba expert Adam Shafran say that if you graft mature, fruit-bearing twigs from a jaboticaba tree onto a seedling, that grafted plant will fruit earlier than an ungrafted seedling. So presumably the same effect would occur with a rooted cutting. In any case, red jaboticaba fruits at a younger age than other jabos.

      Like

    1. Isn’t that growth habit fun? The technical term for having flowers/fruits which sprout directly out of the trunk that way is cauliflory, and for some reason it’s way more common among tropical trees (including cacao) than in trees adapted to cold-winter areas. It’s one of the things that make tropical fruit trees seem so magical to people from colder areas. The only temperate zone tree I know with a cauliflorous flowering/fruiting habit is redbud, Cercis canadensis.

      Like

  1. I put a lot of time into a comment here with some constructive information about Jaboticaba taxonomy. I hope you didn’t purposely fail to approve it because you’re immune to criticism.

    Like

    1. Hi Joe, thanks for commenting. I currently have the blog’s settings so that comments are not subject to moderation – they go right up. Sorry if you made a comment and it disappeared. I never saw it. I do find WordPress a bit glitchy at times. I’d love to get updated info on jaboticaba taxonomy.

      Like

Comments are part of the fuel that keeps bloggers going! If you enjoyed reading this post, please leave a comment to let me know you stopped by. Thanks.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s