Jabuticaba – Brazilian Grape Tree

You may have heard the idiomatic phrase, “Sour Grapes” but the grapes that we are talking about are definitely not sour. They are the most easily accessible grapes ever, because no jumping or climbing the tree is required. Now where would you find one? As the name suggests the Brazilian Grape tree is found in the states of Minas Gerias and Sao Paulo, in the south of Brazil. Other areas where similar species of the tree are found are Argentine, Bolivia and Paraguay.

The most common name used for the tree is Jabuticaba. The other known names are Jaboticabeira, Jabotica, Guaperu, Guapuru, Sabará, Hivapuru and Ybapuru(Guarani). Its scientific name is Palinia Cauiflora and belongs to Myrtaceae family. “Jabuticaba” derived its name from the word Jabuti meaning tortoise in Tupian language and Caba meaning place. The other name, Ybapuru has been derived from Guarani language and means fruit producing a crunching sound when bitten.

Ordinary Jabuticaba Tree with no Flowers or Fruit

Ordinary Jabuticaba Tree with no Flowers or Fruit

So what do these trees look like? They are usually tall trees with a height ranging from 12 to 45 feet. Jabuticaba leaves are salmon-colored when young; as they mature they turn green in color. The white colored flowers are grown directly from the trunk of the tree just like all other cauliflorous plants. The tree usually bears flowers and fruits once or sometimes twice a year, but if it is irrigated continuously, flowers and fruits are borne all year round especially in tropical regions. It is a slow growing tree that requires moist and slightly acidic soil to ensure its best growth. However, these trees are adaptable to almost all kinds of soil; it can even grow satisfactorily on alkaline soils like beach-sand.

The tree can tolerate mild frosts and some of its species are more tolerant to cold temperatures. Most of the commercial cultivation taking place in Northern Hemisphere may result in very slow growth because the temperature requirements are not fulfilled. As mention before that Jabuticabas are slow growing trees, it may take 10 to 20 years to bear fruits if seeded and in case they are grafted the fruits may take 5 years to grow. Due to their slow growth they are often used as bonsai. The trees are highly intolerant of soils containing salt and even salt sprays may affect their growth. Though the trees can grow in conditions like droughts but would result in reduced fruit production and extensive irrigation would also be required in such areas.

The fruits grown on Jabuticaba tree can easily be mistaken with plums or red grapes; that’s how it got its name Brazilian Grape Tree. They are 3 to 4 cm in diameter usually with four large seeds. The fruits grow directly on the branches and main trunk that gives a distinctive look to the tree. The fruits have thick, purple skin that protects the sweet, gelatinous flesh that is pink or white in color. The fresh fruits only last for 3 to 4 days after being harvested. This tasty fruit is commonly available in the fruit markets of Brazil and are usually eaten fresh because of their short shelf life.

Jabuticaba Tree with Flowers

Jabuticaba Tree with Flowers, notice how the flowers are attached directly to the trunk

What are the health benefits of Jabuticaba fruit? The fruit has been able to gain as much popularity as grapes in the U.S. Since ancient times the sun dried skins of the Jabuticaba fruits are used for the treatment of various diseases such as asthma, hemoptysis, chronic inflammation of tonsils and diarrhea. The fruit is also believed to contain antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. The sweet tasting fruit is now commonly being used in tarts and other baked products, jams, strong wines and other liqueurs. It is also used to make a refreshing summer drink which has a medicinal importance as well.

Jabuticaba Tree with Fruits

Jabuticaba Tree with Fruits which are also growing directly on the truck

Jabuticaba Tree with Ripened Fruits

Jabuticaba Tree with Ripened Fruits

The most amazing fact about this tree is that its fruits can be picked up straight from the trunk and eaten. You wouldn’t find fruits hanging on small branches but it would seem as if they are glued directly to the trunk and the big branches of the tree. Some viewers say that the fruits look like tiny insects crawling all over the tree. Also it is believed that it took thousands of years for the tree to evolve into the way it is today, enabling the small animals who were unable to climb the trees to have access to the fruit. These animals helped in increasing the population of the tree by scattering the seeds all over the forest.

If you ever get to visit South America make sure you take some time out to see these amazing trees. You can grow one too if you have a well heated greenhouse, though it will take a lot of years to grow but your effort would be worthwhile.

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