Jaboticaba: A Backyard Superfood

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Although not native to Hawaiʻi, jaboticaba is a common backyard fruit found in our ma uka communities.

Jaboticaba arrived in Hawaiʻi in the 1900s from South America. Many keiki grew up enjoying this grape-like fruit, plucking it from the tree trunk, popping it in the mouth, and sucking out the white jelly-like flesh before spitting out the seed. Those who haven’t had this pleasure may be able to buy it fresh or as jam at local farmers’ markets.

Jaboticaba is more than just an ʻono local treat. An online search of “superfoods” repeatedly places berries at the top of this list, as they are rich in nutrients and antioxidants. Although absent from this list, jaboticaba has similar disease-fighting nutrients as do other deep-colored fruits, especially in its peel.

Jaboticaba contains a powerful chemical called anthocyanins, shown to prevent cardiovascular disease, and has anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-obesity effects. In a cup-to-cup comparison, jaboticaba has more anthocyanins than blackberries, cherries, cranberries, raspberries, and strawberries, and only 20% fewer than blueberries.

One study showed jaboticaba to lower blood pressure, naturally causing the blood vessels to relax and allow more circulation. Having increased circulation is important because it allows blood, nutrients, and oxygen to travel throughout your body.

Most of the jaboticaba’s anthocyanins and other beneficial chemicals are found in its peel. Try eating some skin while eating the pulp. It is slightly bitter tasting and so may not be easy for some. Using the fruit to make tea or jam may be the most pleasant way to consume it.

To make tea, add one cup of mashed jaboticaba peels to every two cups of water in a pot. You can also blend the jaboticaba fruit, instead of mashing, which allows more chemicals to be released into the tea. Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Feel free to add other dried teas or herbs while simmering for different flavors. After it’s done, turn off the heat and add another cup of water to the pot. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes before straining. You can add stevia or another sweetener of choice, lemon, and more water if desired.

Making jaboticaba jam is just as easy. Place a colander in a bowl and mash about two pounds of jaboticaba. Remove the peels and set aside. Squeeze the seeds to get as much pulp and juice as you can. Add the freshly squeezed jaboticaba pulp/juice, two cups of water, half the jaboticaba peels, and the sweetener of choice (2.5 teaspoons of stevia or 2.5 cups of monk fruit sweetener – these measurements are equal to 2.5 cups of sugar) into a pot. Heat until the mixture thickens then blend until you reached the desired consistency. Cool the jam before eating, as this results in a better flavor.

Get the same benefits of imported air-flown fruits from our locally grown fruits – they cost less and have more nutrients.