Monstera deliciosa is commonly grown in northern Australia as an ornamental creeper, and it is great in that role: the huge leaves are dramatic in their sculpted form and the whole plant will grow for many metres up a tree or along the ground. It is a member of the Araceae family which includes the Arum lily. The flower is impressively large and its similarity to arum lilies is very obvious once the relationship is considered.
But the species name ‘deliciosa’ means ‘delicious’ and the fruit is, in fact edible. Wikipedia describes it concisely as, ‘up to 25 cm long and 3–4 cm diameter, looking like a green ear of maize covered with hexagonal scales.’ (I reckon ours grow beyond 30cm but, hey, this is Queensland.) It also notes – and this is an important warning – that, ‘the unripe green fruits can irritate the throat and the latex of the leaves and vines can create rashes in the skin, because both contain potassium oxalate.’
The fruit takes a very long time, perhaps as long as a year, to mature and is ripe when the hexagonal plates fall off. That happens slowly, from the base of the fruit upwards, and the fruit may be eaten in stages for this reason. We picked some fruit recently after (frankly) not bothering for years:
The flavour and texture were quite pleasant in a banana-pineapple kind of way but a bit ‘grippy’ on the tongue, and it is a bit fiddly to eat; those facts, in conjunction with the long wait for each fruit to ripen, probably explain why we haven’t bothered harvesting them for so long. A friend told us that local people used them in jellies so we tried that, too; it was pleasant enough and suggests that fruit segments would go well in fruit salad.
After all that, would I ever grow the plant just for the fruit? No, but but I will keep on growing it as an ornamental and if I spot another ripe fruit I will pick it.
If you want to investigate further, the NSW Agriculture Agfacts brochure gives such a great summary of its growth, and how to treat the fruit, that I suggest you download their pdf. Boston Food and Whine (that’s not a typo!) was quite challenged by it; their post doesn’t add much but is quite entertaining.
Finally, close-up photos of the developing flower. As usual, click on them for larger versions.