BABACO
(Carica pentagona)

 

  

A tree of babaco

Family: Caricaceae

Other names: Champagne fruit, mountain papaya.

Babaco is presumed to have been originated in the central south highlands of Ecuador and is believed to be a naturally occurring hybrid of Carica stipulata and C. pubescens. It has been cultivated in Ecuador since before the arrival of Europeans. It has effervent flesh, so it is also sometimes called champagne fruit.

            It was later introduced into New Zealand, Israel and other middle eastern and it is now being grown on commercial scale.  Babaco has been introduced to southern California only three decades back.

Description 

A small unbranched or sparsely branched tree reaching 5-8 m.

           Leaves moderately large, palmate having prominent ribs and veins.

           Flowers solitary on the end of a long, pendulous stalk, all female.

           Fruit is about 30 cm long and 20 cm wide, distinctly five sided, yellow at maturity. 

Utilization:

As babaco has no male flowers, so the fruits are set parthenocarpically and are therefore seedless.  The skin is thin and edible too.  The fruits taste a pleasant blend of sour and sweet and are juicy.  These also have a characteristic flavour, mixture of strawberry, pineapple and papaya.

Fruits of babaco

            The fruit is best to eat when fully ripe.  Babaco fruits also make a pleasant drink when processed alongwith little sugar in blender.  It can also make an excellent preserve.  The green unripe fruits ar used as a vegetable. 

            One very advantageous feature of babaco fruit is its long shelf life.  It can easily keep upto four weeks even without refrigeration.  Even damaged fruits keep well.  Refrigeration extends the storage life even further.

Cultivation

Babaco trees thrive best in cool subtropical climate.  These can also withstand mild frosts and will stand a temperature upto -2 C.

            As there are no seeds, so babaco is propagated by one feet long cuttings made from the trunk.  The cuttings root easily and also grow quite fast.  If all goes well, a cutting planted in situ will come into bearing in 15 months.  The productive life of a babaco tree is 7-8 years.

            There are no recognized varieties in babaco so far though some variation does exist in size and quality.

            On an average a babaco tree yields 60 fruits in a year.

            Babaco is grown on a full commercial scale in Ecuador.  It cultivation is picking up in New Zealand.  Absence of seeds has probably hindered its spread to other parts of the world.

            Babaco deserves to be promoted as a new orchard crop elsewhere too. 

 

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