The jaboticaba is a thick, purple-skinned berry that grows in abundance in sub-tropical climates. Native to Brazil, they are exceptionally popular with their local people. Although eating out-of-hand is the preferred method of consumption, they also have a slew of uses in the kitchen.
These exotic trees are also cultivated in Southeast Asia and the backyards of many homes in the United States. If you've never tried them, you may be wondering what do jaboticabas taste like? In this article, we provide an in-depth look at their flavor and if they’re worth your money – whether it's buying them from a store or growing them at home.
Describing the jaboticaba flavor
The edible part of the jaboticaba berry consists of light pink or white flesh, which has a fruity sweet flavor, similar to a grape, although more flowery and aromatic. There is a subtle hint of acidity which doesn’t detract from the delicious sweetness.
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The texture of the inside is gelatinous and embedded with a light-brown seed. Discard this seed as it has a tannic flavor with a very bitter aftertaste. Dark purple skin encases the berry, which is edible. In some varieties, it can be unpleasant to eat as it is much thicker than grape skin. It has an astringent, harsh flavor.
How tree variety affects the flavor
Like many fruits, the flavor, texture, juice levels, and color can vary depending on the variety of tree. Here are some of the common types:
1. Purple jaboticaba
Known as the “sabara” or Myrciaria, this is the most common type of jaboticaba grown on Brazil soil. It’s also the most popular thanks to its impressive taste, which is a lot like a tropical version of a muscadine grape. The skin, while usually discarded, has a mildly spicy flavor with a pine undertone. The name sabara is a city in Brazil that is so obsessed with this fruit they hold an annual celebration in honor of this revered berry.
2. Red jaboticaba
This variety produces a lot of fruit and, after planting, will produce within 3-4 years – several years faster than most of the other tree types. The fruit is relatively small but offers a perfect balance of fruity sweetness and tart flavor.
3. Grimal jaboticaba
This fruit is named after Adolph Grimal, a well-known botanist. The grimal is larger than the sabara and has very dark purple skin, almost black. This species is a popular eating choice and has a flavor profile similar to a concorde grape with a little more acidity. Some enthusiasts compare their flavor to grape candy!
4. Yellow jaboticaba
The yellow jaboticaba is referred to as cabelluda in Brazil and is a yellow-skinned berry. Although they don’t have as much meat on them, they make up for it with superior flavor. A fascinating combination of tangerine and peach rolled into one flavor-packed, fruity bite.
Culinary uses for jaboticaba
Although it isn’t a common fruit in most parts of the world, there is still an abundance of jaboticaba recipes available online. Here are some common uses in the kitchen:
Eaten out of hand
Ask any local in Brazil, and they’ll tell you the best use for the ripe fruits is to eat them out of hand. Although some varieties have edible skin, you may find yours unpalatable. This problem is an easy fix. Split the skin, suck out the insides, and toss away the skin. Remember to spit out the seeds as they don’t taste good. Be thankful there is only one seed instead of the hundreds founds on the kiwano melon.
Expert tip: you may want to eat this fruit outside as things can get messy fast.
Jaboticabas make excellent marmalade, jam (jelly), or even chutney and relish. If you make any of these it is essential that the skins are removed during the cooking process. The tannin flavor on your morning toast won’t be appreciated. To make your own Geléia de Jabuticaba, aka jelly, visit this website for a yummy recipe.
The berries are loaded with juice that makes for an excellent start to the day. To juice them, wash 4 cups of fruit before blending with a half cup of white sugar, and enough water in the blender so that it covers the fruit. Once it’s well combined, strain the mixture into a bowl or jug and discard the pulp.
The jaboticaba is a lovely addition to a wide range of desserts such as ice cream, sorbet, or cheesecake. You can also crush the fruit then heat it in a saucepan with sugar and water to make a syrup that is delicious poured over pancakes or fruit salads. The syrup can be added to water to make a refreshing cordial.
The caipirinha is Brazil’s national cocktail, a refreshing combination of cachaça, lime, and sugar. Why not replace the lime with our friend, the jaboticaba? Use a muddler, or spoon, to break up 6-10 berries in the bottom of a glass, then add a teaspoon of sugar and a shot of cachaça. Stir then add some ice before drinking.
If you enjoy DIY food projects, then another good use for the berries is making wine and liqueurs.
Are jaboticabas good for you?
The berries provide a rich source of anthocyanidin, which is rich in antioxidants. They are also high in iron, phosphorus, vitamin C, and niacin. However, much of the nutritional benefits come from the skin. So if the skins on your fruit are inedible, you won’t get the full dietary goodness.
- After picking jaboticaba from their trees, they quickly ferment, making it challenging to sell anywhere other than local stores.
- Jaboticaba fruit are nicknamed tree grapes by the Brazilian people. The tree produces stunning white flowers when in-season.
- Some use the skin from the plant for medicinal use, such as treating asthma or dysentery.
- It is easy to identify an overripe jaboticaba as it will have a fermented aroma.
- The jaboticaba, or Brazilian grape tree, is cauliflorous. This means the fruit grow directly on the trunk of the trees rather than on the branches.
- Fruit that mature in the warmer months are sweeter, and the skin isn’t as thick.
Jaboticaba (aka jabuticaba) trees grow in abundance in Brazil and other countries with a warmer climate. But they’re not so prevalent in countries with colder weather. In the United States, you could find them in the back gardens of homes in warm states, like Florida.
It’s unlikely that this fruit will ever become mainstream produce found across the country in supermarkets - not because of the taste, but rather because they don’t store well. Within hours they’ll start to ferment, and the flavor will go down-hill.
If you ever have the opportunity to try these fruit fresh off the tree, then you should give them a try. Their sweet, grape-like flavor with an added hint of tropical essence is delicious. Don’t be put off by the skins. If the variety you try is too intense, then simply spit them out and focus on the flesh inside.
Have you tried eating these fruit before? What did you think of them? Let us know in the comments below.