Fruit salad plant - is it edible?
Also known as Monstera Deliciosa, Swiss-cheese plant or Cerima
My Mum had one of these as an indoor pot plant. It was quite impressive, for it added a lot of green freshness to our wintery European days. I was fascinated with the intricate shape of the huge leaves. No hope for flowers or fruit though.
In Australia, I saw it growing outdoors in lots of places in Sydney and on the east coast. I approached it with great caution as someone had told me this was a highly poisonous plant.
Our house, on Sydney's North Shore, is drowned in this plant, as well as another one, quite similar to it.
It was time to learn more about the tropical plants in our garden.
Fruit salad plant, (Monstera deliciosa), also known as Swiss-cheese plant
This plant is called a fruit salad plant. Its Latin name is Monstera deliciosa, and it's also known as Swiss cheese plant - for the holes in its leaves remind holes in Swiss cheese. It is a rather fast-growing plant and it will spread both sideways and up if it can find something to climb. Monstera deliciosa is a highly ornamental plant. Due to its large decorative leaves, it contributes to a tropical feel of a garden.
It likes climbing trees. Its seeds lodge themselves in the darkest area available to them, aiming for a trunk of the host tree - smart little buggars! Here we can one of our monsteras climbing a jacaranda tree, with a white flower high up in the tree. On the other hand, if we don't want the seeds to keep planting themselves, we can "divert" them by painting the host tree white or wrapping it loosely with some white cloth. At the same time we can provide a trap dark space for the seeds to aim towards.
The flowers of our fruit salad plant are very elegant indeed. Right from the very bud (see picture) to when the flower is in full bloom, the white flower looks quite spectacular. Hidden among huge leaves, it surprises a passer-by with its pure beauty and classical lines.
I must admit these photos are not as good as they should be. I need to take another picture of the flower of the fruit salad plant once it is in full bloom.
Below is an old flower, with its back to the camera.
Why is it called the fruit salad plant?
The fruit of Monstera deliciosa takes weeks to ripen on the plant. However, when it has reached its full size, you can break it away from the plant and bring it home. At home, put it on a large plate. It then ripens within just days. You know it's ripe once it has started opening up its outer layer (see photo).
The fruit is a large cone that, under the semi-dry layer, it consists of small white segments of fruit flesh. They have a very pleasant flavour of a mix of tropical fruit: banana with pineapple. The little segments are quite smooth in texture but...
Can you eat the fruit of the fruit salad plant?
The little white segments (in my photo I put three of them on the side of the plate) are edible. I have eaten them myself and I have seen other people eat them. But - there's a but. The little segments have some small black bits around them (also visible on the photo). Ideally, you should eat the white segments but not the small black bits. The black bits are a bit annoying and it feels as if they were scratching your mouth and throat for a while after eating them. This however is not the sensation that all people experience. I do find them annoying in my mouth for up to one hour. Some of my friends and family don't get any negative sensations and they quite enjoy this (totally organic) fruit.
According to the Australian poison information centre, All parts of the plant contain calcium oxalate crystals which if eaten or chewed can cause immediate burning pain, and swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue and throat. Swelling may cause copious salivation and difficulty breathing, swallowing or speaking. Nausea, abdominal pain and intense gastric irritation rarely occur. Seek urgent medical attention if lips or tongue become swollen or of there is difficulty breathing or swallowing.
Monstera deliciosa facts
What: large climbing plant, with large leaves and sometimes aerial roots hanging down from the plant.
Names: Fruit salad plant, Swiss-cheese plant, Cheese plant, Ceriman, Monster fruit, Monsterio Delicio, Monstereo, Mexican Breadfruit, Monstera, split-leaf philodendron, Locust and Wild Honey, Windowleaf, Delicious Monster, Balazo and Penglai Banana
Latin name: Monstera deliciosa
Size: it can climb up to 20 metres in height, the leaves are up to 90 cm long and 75 cm wide.
Origin and occurence: It comes from Central America, but it now grows also in sub-tropical and tropical areas on other continents including Australia