Aug 162011
 


(Syn: Champagne Fruit) Carica pentagona

A versatile and remarkably easy to grow subtropical: the quiet achiever of the Carica genus, there is the papaya, but then there is the babaco – the champagne fruit – which will thrive in Melbourne and delight you with its wonderful fruit.

The attractive golden torpedo shaped fruit have a light refreshing effervescent flesh giving it the name ‘Champagne fruit’. The subtly tangy flesh has hints of strawberry, pineapple and papaya flavour, is white to yellow, fragrant and juicy. The fruit is easily made into a fabulous tropical fruit smoothy, a chilled fruit cocktail, or added to a fruit salad (there are no seeds and the thin skin is edible). Slice (so they look like stars), sprinkle with sugar, leave in fridge for a few hours and serve – too easy. The unripe green fruit is delicious used as a green vegetable in curries and chutney. The whole fruit, skin included, can be used in jam, or added to fruit pies. Add to all this the excellent keeping qualities (4 weeks on the shelf, longer in cool storage) of the babaco and it is verging on the perfect fruit.

Growing

Babaco is an herbaceous shrub growing to approximately 2.5m, large palmate leaves on stems which radiate around the trunk, a distinctive and attractive look. Useful if you want to get that subtropical look in your garden. The average life of a leaf is 4 months, they will be start to look shabby over winter and will shed.

It can tolerate mild frosts (-2ºC), but will need protection from heavier frosts. It may lose some leaves in frosts, but will recover. Also protect from wind and the hot afternoon sun.

Babaco is susceptible to root rot, so good drainage is non-negotiable. It is very well suited to container growing with a good free draining potting mix. A fast growing, heavily producing shrub, therefore you will need to fertilise well. For optimal results use a good quality fertiliser, mulch and water well during the growing and fruiting seasons, but keep water, mulch and fertiliser away from the stem. Composted chicken manure makes a good mulch. Babaco has no tolerance for salinity, and as a precautionary measure, avoid gray water as well.

Shoots form around the base of the trunk and should be removed. Around September allow one of these shoots to develop (it will become the trunk for the following year). This shoot will grow rapidly but will not flower and interfere with the current season’s fruit set. After harvest, prune the main stem back to 20cm and the remaining shoot will now develop and become the next main stem/trunk. Allowing only one stem to grow gives maximum trunk size to a single trunk which in turn leads to maximum fruit size.

Fruiting & Harvesting

The flowers are all female (hence no seeds) and form on the developing trunk during the growth phase of the tree. The fruits set immediately after flowering, and start to expand fairly rapidly. The fruits are 5 sided, pointed at the apex and rounded where they attach to the stem (often referred to as ‘torpedo’ shaped). As they ripen yellow patches will appear over the green skin and these will spread until the whole fruit is yellow and ripe. Fruit can be picked when still patchy and they will fully ripen off the plant. The lowest fruit ripen first and then ripening progresses up the trunk.

Babaco sorbet
Paul made this for the nursery, he reckons he is still to ‘perfect’ the recipe. The rest of us thought it was pretty perfect already.

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 babaco

Add water and sugar to a saucepan and gently heat till sugar dissolves
Put sugar water in fridge to cool
Peel babaco and cut into pieces
Once sugar water has cooled, add babaco pieces and blend together
Add mixture to an ice-cream maker and churn till at desired consistency

Babaco daiquiri
There is a babaco almost ripe and ready in the driveway bed, am hoping it is ready this week in time for Friday night drinks…

90mls rum
1 1⁄2cups frozen or fresh Babaco, cubed
3tablespoons fresh lime juice
30mls triple sec
4 teaspoons sugar
2cups ice cubes
Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth

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