Being one of the most striking and interesting fruit trees, Jaboticaba is perfect for our first Fruit Feature.
The fruit, also known as the Brazilian Tree Grape, Jabuticaba, or Jabu, is native to Brazil and has several qualities in common with grapes. Most notably, they share a small size, refreshing yet very sweet taste, and a very soft jelly texture of their inner pulp.
To eat Jaboticaba, most people throw one of the shiny spheres into their mouths, pop the tough outer skin with their teeth, and then gently work their teeth around the skin and seeds to suck off all of the sweet juicy pulp. The tart skin and crunchy seeds are then spat out.
The flavor of the pulp is unique, yet reminiscent of a milky, subtle red grape with additional subtle notes of pomegranate and mixed berries. The most dominant taste is the sweetness along with a slight tang at the end.
What is most awe-striking about Jaboticaba however is the way the fruit grows on the trees.
The trunk and branches of the tree are covered in a lovely pattern of alternating beige and dark brown sections. After flowering occurs, the branches become ornamented in glossy, jewel-like round fruits with a bold, purple color that deepens into indigo-tinted black when fully ripe. Each fruit is attached directly to the tree trunk or branch via a minuscule stem.
Harvesting the fruit couldn’t be easier. When ripe, you walk right up to the tree with a large bowl, cup a section of grapes with your palm and gently pull them off their stems, allowing the bowl to catch them. The stems loosens more and more as the fruit ripens, so if you find a fruit needing a stronger yank than the rest, it’s better left on the tree for a bit longer anyway. Underripe Jaboticaba have underdeveloped sweetness and flavor, resulting in a tart and more acidic fruit ― somewhat similar to just sucking on a lime.
The fruits grow all throughout the branches, all the way to the top which may be out of reach. Because the buds grow directly on these branches though, it is best to bring a ladder to harvest the fruits that are too high up, as opposed to climbing tree (as tempting as it may be!)
Peak season for Jaboticaba is typically late March through April, though the trees often have additional, smaller bouts of production throughout the year. Trees are very fruitful, with the potential to produce around 100 pounds a season for a mature tree.
The two rows of Jaboticaba trees that line the front driveway of Kanekiki have also naturally created a beautiful arch to walk and drive under. Because there were already trees creating shade a little further away from the path, the Jaboticaba trees seem to have formed the arch in an attempt to obtain enough sunlight during growth.
While other grapes may be more adaptable and usable in recipes such as salads and smoothies, Jaboticaba tend to be eaten as a stand-alone snack due to the skin and seeds. After harvesting them here at Kanekiki, we like to keep a large bowl full of them at the center of the kitchen counter for anyone to grab at as they please throughout the day.
Jaboticaba pack a nutritious punch that we very much appreciate at the farm. They contain several anti-inflammatory antioxidants, including high doses of vitamins C and E. Traditionally, they have also been used to treat asthma and other respiratory conditions. This is because Jaboticaba has astringency, meaning that it can cause tissues such as muscles in our bodies to contract or tighten up. Therefore, when we have sore throats, eating Jaboticaba can shrink the sore throat tissue and make it difficult for bad bacteria to survive. By helping to clear our bronchial pathways of viruses and bad bacteria, our respiratory systems can feel more open and effective overall.
Up next for Fruit Feature is Ackee, a savory and slightly nutty-tasting fruit which is just blooming now on the farm. Thank y’all for reading and we’ll see you again soon!