The Jaboticaba tree is found all over Hawaii. It produces a unique grape-like fruit that can be enjoyed picked fresh from the tree, or used to make a range of jams, jellies and syrups.
Jaboticaba is a Brazilian fruit tree that is also common in Hawaii. The name jaboticaba is derived from the Tupi (indigenous Brazilians) term ‘jabotim’ which translates to ‘like turtle fat’ meaning the flesh of the fruit. It can take years for the jaboticaba to fruit (our tree took 12 years to produce fruit!), but once it reaches maturity it will fruit about once or twice a year. If the tree is watered on a regular basis it may flower more often than this.
The fruit resembles a grape or berry. The skin of the fruit is purple while the inside is a whiteish flesh. The skin has a strong, almost herbal flavor due to a high tannin component. You can eat jaboticaba fresh from the tree, although it is more often used to make syrups, jams, jellies and even wine.
The skin can be used medicinally. It has a long history of being used in Brazil to treat dysentery and asthma. Cutting a hole in the skin and sucking out the flesh is the best way to consume the fruit raw. Unfortunately, due to the short shelf life of the fruit (it starts to ferment soon after its picked) you will almost never see it for sale at local markets. Look out instead for homemade jams and jellies!
There are two types of jaboticaba grown in Hawaii. The first is called Murta, which is about an inch long, and the other is called Paulista, which is approximately two inches long. The trees are related to the Surinam cherry, java plum, and guava. The jaboticaba tree is a cauliflorous tree. This means that the flowers and fruit grow directly out of the trunk and branches. The tree is also a popular bonsai tree in parts of the world where the temperature causes the tree to grow slowly.