(Monstera deliciosa – Family Araceae)
Monstera, ceriman, Fruit salad fruit, Swiss cheese plant
piñona (Mexico), ojal/huracán (Venezuela), hojadillo (Columbia), harpón/arpón común (Guatemala)
Most people know the plant better than the fruit – as the split-leaf philodendron, a common houseplant.
Native of Mexico and Guatemala and related to the taro, the plant is a creeping vine of the Arum Lily family and grown as a houseplant for its unusual leaves.
It is the only plant whose leaves are naturally slashed and contain holes. The cause of the holes is a phenomenon known as ‘fenestration’, which affects many aroid plants and explained in various ways. Some need the holes so that rain would reach the roots, others so that they would not be affected by gale force winds. It is now thought that they are a cooling device which operates by creating a turbulence in the air around the leaves.
When the “Swiss cheese plant” first appeared in Europe in the 1830s, it did not create much of an interest. It was only when the plant reached Copenhagen and Berlin, about the middle of the 19th century, that it became one of the “greatest horticultural successes of all time”.
The plant does not usually bear fruit when cultivated in hothouses or indoors in cooler climates; but in its natural habitat, it will grow large enough to bear fruits resembling green cobs of corn.
If left, the fruit takes over a year to ripen and is likely to ripen unevenly. One can tell which parts are ripe when the rind segments become loose.
The flesh under those segments can then be eaten, provided that the fruit is fully ripe and carefully peeled. Unripened fruit does contains oxalic acid and some floral remnants which can cause irritation. Wrapping the fruit in foil or plastic wrap can ripen it in a more uniform way. When the rind is loose the whole way up the fruit, the flesh will come away from the core. At this stage, the fruit can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Like any of the Arum Lily family, the fruit consists of a mass of berries on a spadix (the fleshy central spike first seen in the flower), which reaches lengths of eight to twelve inches.
The flavour is somewhat pleasing, tasting like a cross between a banana and pineapple or pineapple, mango, and banana.
Although the fruit is grown commercially in its native region and in Australia, Florida, and California, it is not well known elsewhere. It has been available since the 1930s in London, where it is used in fruit salads, served with ice cream, or made into preserves.
Besides having holes in the leaves, it is claimed that the fruit was so named because when a piece was cut off and eaten and the rest left in the refrigerator for a while; and later, when another piece was cut off and eaten, it tasted quite different from the first. Thus, it has earned the reputation as a chameleon among fruits.