Native to Brazil, the quirkiness isn’t just in the name, oddly enough the Jaboticaba fruit grows on the actual trunk of the tree! When you see this at first, it would appear that someone has glued little dark decorative bulbs in clusters around the tree trunk and branches but this is not the case! You can literally pull the fruit straight off the trunk.
Other names for the Jaboticaba include Brazilian Grape, Jabotica, Guaperu, Guapuru, Hivapuru, Sabará and Ybapuru. Similar to a grape in both taste and texture, only the japoticaba is bigger and dark purple to almost black in colour and the skin is astringent and quite tough. To get around this, using their teeth, locals pop the jaboticaba skin in their mouth and squeeze out the white flesh, discarding the skin and the cherry like seed.
Jaboticaba has been given the privileged label of a superfruit due to its bioactive compounds which have significant health benefits in humans. In particular the fruit contains high amounts of flavonoids and anthocyanins which when consumed, protect the body from oxidative stress, inflammation and allergens.
Traditional medicine practices in Brazil include using the dried skins and making jabuticaba tea for the treatment of asthma, diarrhea or even gargling to help alleviate sore throats. It is the dried peel that is now being researched for its medicinal properties and will no doubt find its way into supplements like açai has.
If you see Jaboticabas in markets, fruit stores or being pushed around the streets in wheelbarrows, make sure you try some as they are not only hard to come across, but the fruit only lasts 3-4 days after harvesting before they begin to ferment, so your window to eat them fresh is very narrow. If you miss out on finding the fresh versions and you don’t come across one of the fabulous trees, it is also common in Brazil for the fruit to be fermented in to wines and liquors and added to the traditional capirinha cocktail or made into jams and tarts. It may not have quite the same health benefits but you will be sampling a unique and up and coming superfruit in one form or another!
And good news for Australians, the Jaboticaba tree has been introduced into northern, tropical parts of Australia so hopefully we will be utilizing this wonderful fruit in our culture soon.
Recipe for Jaboticaba juice
In a saucepan, cover your quantity of fruit with water
It is optional to add sweetner
Gently boil until the skins split
Let cool slightly then transfer the Jaboticaba to a colander or sieve over another pot. Use a potato masher to squash the fruit, capturing the juice in the pot underneath
Pour into a bottle or jug and put into the fridge.
Serve chilled on its own or half and half with mineral water for a refreshing summer spritzer