Have you heard of Jaboticaba trees? (If you just said, “Jaba what?! Then you’re in the right place. And, it’s pronounced “jah-bow-chew-cah-bah”) Jaboticaba is a fruit tree native to Brazil that produces grape-like fruits that make excellent jams or juices, but the real appeal of this tree is its part in a permaculture forest.

Another name for Jaboticaba is ‘Brazilian Grape Tree’, which aptly describes the fruits grown on this interesting tree. Jobitcaba is slow growing fruit trees that prefer warmth,  a lot of water and shade.  They are the perfect understory tree for any Permaculture Food Forest.

The fruit of the Jaboticaba resemble grapes in appearance, however, the fruits grow very differently than what you might expect.  Instead of growing on a stem at the end of branches (like apples or peaches) or in bunches (like berries or grapes), these fruits grow against the tree branches and the tree trunk. 

Honestly, it looks a little weird, but in this case, weird is a good thing.  Letʻs learn a bit more about how we can grow a Jaboticaba tree of our own.

Where Does Jaboticaba Grow?

Jaboticaba is native to the country of Brazil, South America. Trees have been successfully grown in a number of tropical climates. Jaboticaba trees like warm weather, shade, and plenty of water. 

Hawai’i is one such tropical location where they grow very well, even to elevations of 4000 above sea level. Farmers in Kona have been very successful with growing jaboticaba trees that produce fruit several times per year.

You can grow Jaboticaba in almost any tropical climate, as long as you provide plenty of water and don’t have long, cold winters. These trees are not very picky about the type of soil they grow in, but don’t like too much nitrogen (so don’t add it to your fertilizer).

Jaboticabas are one of the 12 best (uncommon) fruit trees to grow in Hawaii. Visit this article to learn about a few more uncommon fruit trees to grow in the tropics.

How Jaboticaba Fits Into A Permaculture Food Forest

If you are designing a permaculture food forest or simply trying to plant more fruit trees, the jaboticaba is ideal because of its big production and small stature.

Now, when I say big production, I mean it: when jaboticabas finally begin producing fruit, you can expect an average of 1000 pounds or more of fresh fruit every year! That’s a huge pay-off (but you do have to wait a while until they produce – read on for more about that).

Despite how much fruit they can produce, Jaboticabas don’t take up much space. These trees have shallow roots and grow very slowly. Even if they only reach a height of 15-20 feet, they will still produce a lot of fruit, but not compete with your other fruit trees for soil or root space. 

They prefer plenty of shade, making them great options to pair with taller trees in your food forest.

Some examples of companion planting with Jaboticaba trees in Hawai’i include macadamia trees, coffee plants, taller fruit trees like mangoes, java plums and lychees.

Planting And Caring For A Jaboticaba

A key factor in planting jaboticaba is patience. When I say these trees are slow growing, I mean they can take anywhere from 8 – 18 years in Hawai’i before they produce fruit.

Now, if you are in another location, you might be able to wiggle that 8 years down to 5 years. Also, you can try to find a seedling or a potted Jaboticaba to plant, instead of planting from seed for a little faster production, but don’t hold your breath. Slowly, slowly this tree will establish itself, and when ready, produce an average of 1000 pounds of fruit each year!

Plant your Jaboticaba tree near a source of water, if possible, as they are originally from the rainforests of Brazil, so they love water. 

It’s been suggested that it is impossible to over-water these guys, I wouldn’t try to test it, but make sure that the soil around your tree is always moist and that the skin of the tree trunk is able to be easily pulled away (that’s how you can determine if it is healthy or not).

Finally, give your tree shade. A bit of dappled sun is okay, but if you’re worried, plant taller trees around it. Remember – Brazilian rainforests have a canopy, providing plenty of shade, and this is what Jaboticabas prefer.

Pruning A Jaboticaba For More Fruit

Jaboticaba fruits don’t grow like other tree fruits; they grow against the trunk and branches. That means pruning isn’t going to be the same as other fruit trees. In most cases, pruning is discouraged, and instead, it’s advised to increase water.

However, if you do think your tree is really not producing enough fruit and you want to try pruning, what you need to do is ensure that more sunlight reaches the tree’s base, where the fruits grow. 

Get yourself a good pair of Felco Pruners from Amazon, prune some of the smaller branches to expose the tree trunk to more sunlight, but donʻt go overboard. Just open it up lightly.

If you want to learn more about pruning tropical fruit trees, I wrote this post that will help you become more knowledgeable in how to do exactly that.

Potted Jaboticaba Trees For Cooler Climates

If you want to try growing Jaboticaba, but your climate has cooler winters, don’t give up! Jaboticaba trees planted in pots have yielded excellent results. 

You can plant a jaboticaba tree in a large pot, and because the tree produces shallow roots and prefer shade, they usually do just fine going indoors during cool winters and being brought back outdoors (in a shaded area) when the warm weather returns.

If you’re interested in planting a permaculture food forest, definitely look into the amazing jaboticaba trees!

They do take a long time to grow, but once they start producing fruit you will be well-rewarded for your patience. These trees grow slowly, but they grow well in tropical climates, making them an excellent choice for homegrown fruit on your tropical homestead.

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