Jabuticaba, also known as Brazilian grapetree, is a delicious fruit that grows on the trunk of the jabuTicabeira tree. The fruit has a purplish-black color and white pulp, and it can be eaten raw or used to make various products like jellies, jams, juice, or wine. This type of tree belongs to the Myrtaceae family and is originally from states like Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, Goiás, and São Paulo in Brazil. Additionally, there are other species of the same genus, Myrciaria, that share the same name and are native to countries like Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Peru.
Another morning was spent fighting off the wild grape that had taken over my rock wall border. I didn’t mind grapevines, especially those that produced fruit like these vines did. In fact, I even collected bunches to make jelly. However, when the grapevines began to climb the rock wall and aim for my lush tree line, I knew it was time to take action. If left unchecked, the wild grape would eventually kill my trees, so it was a choice between keeping the grapevine or my beloved trees.
The grape tree, which is indigenous to the southeastern parts of Brazil, has been cultivated since pre-Columbian times. Its name, jabuticaba, was given by the tupi people and is a combination of two words: jabuti meaning tortoise and caba meaning place. It is called so because it grows in areas where lots of Tortoises can be found. As the fruits ripen and drop to the ground, the Tortoises enjoy a sumptuous feast amidst the cool mulch beneath the trees.
Growing a Brazilian grape tree from seed is a time-consuming process, but the end result is worth it. These trees can reach heights of up to 15 meters and are considered evergreens because they have the ability to produce leaves and fruit year-round. Thanks to the warm climate in southeastern Brazil, these trees can even produce 2-5 crops per year as long as they are well-watered. When in bloom, the trees are covered in white blossoms that almost resemble snow hugging the trunk.
Back in 1904, the Brazilian grape tree made its way to California, but unfortunately, it didn’t survive the climate. Although a smaller type of this tree can be found in southern Florida, it still only thrives in tropical areas. Other variations of this tree can be spotted in countries such as Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay. As a member of the Myrtaceae family, which also includes myrtle trees, allspice, and guavas, this tree is closely related to eucalyptus. It’s quite a unique tree and is even grown into miniature versions by bonsai enthusiasts in Taiwan and some parts of the Caribbean.
This tree sure stands out with its distinct features, but what makes it truly special is the fruit it bears. The trunk and branches are adorned with grape-shaped bumps that measure around 1-2 inches across. These fruits resemble the muscadine grapes found in the southern parts of North America, except the Brazilian grape has bigger seeds – usually about 1-4 per fruit. Once they ripen, the grapes come in various hues ranging from vibrant green to shades of purple-black, red-purple, and burgundy-purple. They boast a tangy, slightly acidic flavor with a hint of spiciness.