Origin of Monstera Deliciosa
Monsteras are native to the wet regions of Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama. Today, the fruit grows throughout Central and South America, Australia, select parts of the Mediterranean such as Italy’s coastline. A handful of garden enthusiasts in Florida grow Monstera deliciosa as well. In Hawaii, it’s considered a mildly invasive species.
Julia Morton claims in her book, “Fruits of Warm Climates,” that Monstera deliciosa seeds came to India in the late 1800s, but others beg to differ. Victor Mair, author of the book, “Contact and Exchange of the Ancient World,” states that India’s medieval sculptures clearly depict the fruit. In his words, temple scenes show not only the plant, but also images of Monstera deliciosa’s edible fruit. This would suggest the fruit came to India even before England received the seeds in the 1750s.
Availability of Monstera Deliciosa in India
Monstera deliciosa is a tropical fruit that flourishes in muggy, humid temperatures with no frost. The book, “Taxonomy of Angiosperms” explains that most members of the Araceae (of which Monstera is included) are found mostly in the southern and western parts of India. Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa are just a few examples of states with weather conditions conducive to growing this fruit.
Where to find Monstera Deliciosa in India
In India, Monstera deliciosa makes for a common houseplant, but not fruit crop. Because they are not grown commercially, they are not sold in markets and are thus quite difficult to find outside of nurseries. However, their large, pre-historic leaves make them fairly easy to recognize if on the lookout.
An already-formed fruit ripens in the summer to fall months, while new fruits begin to form during this season as well. The following year, these newly formed fruits will be ready for harvest.
Checking for Ripeness in Monstera Deliciosa
Waiting for the fruit to grow ripe takes 10 to 14 months, so patience is required. Even if the green stalk—known as the spadix—has its green scales firmly attached, do not eat Monstera. It is unripe. Eating the fruit in this state will cause the mouth to become tingly and severely irritated on account of the raw fruit’s needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals. To describe the sensation, it’s the same painful sensation that occurs from taking one too many bites of an unripe pineapple. For some, the itchy sensation extends to the face, skin and even scalp. It’s possible to reduce the reaction by drinking limejuice mixed with a pinch of vinegar—this concoction expedites the crystals’ dissolution.
Only eat the fruit if the scales fall off with ease. Black, thread-like marks along the scale are perfectly normal. When ripe, Monsteras emit a pleasantly fruity smell. When overripe, the aroma becomes musky and fermented.
Note: a select few have strong allergic-type reactions from ingesting calcium oxalate crystals. For most others, the result is mild discomfort. Toxicity occurs only from eating absurdly large quantities. After all, parsley, eggplant, pepper, corn, squash and cucumbers are just a handful of fruits containing calcium oxalate. Nonetheless, nibble a small bite and wait before proceeding to determine the body’s reaction.
Taste of Monstera Deliciosa
The fruit’s other names give strong indications of its taste: Swiss cheese plant, fruit salad plant, Japanese pineapple, wild honey, and Penglai banana. Monstera deliciosa has a flavor similar to jackfruit, banana, pineapple, and also possesses a hint of strawberry. The fruit is mildly tart, but not sour or astringent. The texture of the cut kernels is fibrous, slightly slimy, and juicy.
Consider eating the fruit over the course of a few days as it progressively ripens from the bottom up. This method will maximize the taste and prevent the unpleasant throat itchiness that accompanies eating it unripe.
Nutritional Value of Monstera Deliciosa
According to the book, “Fruits of Warm Climates,” Monstera deliciosa contains the following values
Health Benefits of Monstera Deliciosa
Monstera deliciosa is healthy in ways that are common among many fruits: it’s low in calories, and high in vitamin C and potassium. Other than these obvious benefits, no scientific studies explore any unique medicinal properties of the plant. In fact, consuming too much of the fruit has been known to cause stomach cramps, diarrhea and gas.
Traditionally, several societies in Mexico and Peru use the roots as rope and basket weaving material. Medicinally, Mexicans have used root infusions to relieve arthritic pain, and Martiniques use the roots to soothe snakebites. In China, parts of the Monstera plant remedy cough, bruises, infections and fever, and Brazilians heat the leaves and mash it to cauterize wounds.
Few studies have been conducted on Monstera deliciosa, though one shows promising benefits:
--Research published in a 2004 edition of “Phytotherapy Research” indicates that the plant extracts have antidiabetic compounds
How to Open/Cut:
Monstera deliciosa’s edible portion is the juicy, kernel-like sections fused to the core. Up close, the fruit resembles pineapple’s shape and texture.
Cut Monstera deliciosa similar to a corn on the cob: Take a knife and cut alongside the length of the fruit. The pieces will come off like kernels of corn. Another method is to cut the fruit into rings like a pineapple’s, and then to eat the kernels from each ring’s core.
If brown specks around the fruit are present, give the Monstera fruit kernels a good wash beforehand—they should come off easily, though washing comes at the expense of losing some juice. The black bits are simply floral remnants and have no adverse effect on taste or quality. In fact, the fruit itself is technically an unripe flower spike.
Monstera deliciosa will continue to ripen if it breaks prematurely from the plant. Simply place the fruit in a brown paper bag with a banana to hasten its ripening. The green “scales” will begin to fall off in the course of a week. If possible, leave the fruit upright while it ripens.
Fresh fruit keeps for a week in the refrigerator, and will keep for up to a year in the freezer.
Monstera Deliciosa Recipe Ideas and Uses:
Monstera deliciosa pulp tolerates heating, thus allowing for use in jams, baked goods, stir fries, syrups and sauces.
--Substitute banana pulp with blended Monstera delicosa pulp in baked goods recipes: banana bread and citrusy cupcakes are just a few possibilities.
--Make Monstera deliciosa jam by adding sugar and lemon—the fruit itself has enough pectin to make a suitable texture.
--Add the kernels to fruit salads and smoothies, especially with ones that share its tropical flavor: bananas, pineapple, strawberry, jackfruit, etc. The fruit also pairs well with papaya, mango, kiwi and other tropical, exotic, acidic fruits.
--Monstera is also called the “fruit salad plant,” in part because of its multifaceted sweet flavor. Add to fruit salads.
--In Europe, Monstera flavors champagne
Banana, pineapple, strawberry, mango, kiwi, lemon, lime, citrus, citron, papaya, mangosteen, orange, grape, custard apple, pear
Herbs, spices, and oil: lemon juice, limejuice, salt, mint, white wine, champagne, vanilla, citrus zest
A leaf from a Monstera deliciosa plant can grow up to three feet wide.
Early explorers of the jungle described the fruit as “a delicious rescue amidst the green hell.”
Split-leaf philodendron: Some botanists take umbrage with this name, citing that Monstera is not a true philodendron based on its ability to produce perfect flowers on account of its male and female organs. Philodendrons, on the other hand, produce imperfect flowers because of its single-sex organs.