Monstera deliciosa

Monstera deliciosa plant growing along the edge of our lawn.
Monstera deliciosa plant growing along the edge of our lawn.

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.

white lily-like flower and tall green bud
Monstera flower, showing the white hood, with a large bud (almost ready to open) just in front of it

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:

monstera fruit
Monstera fruit on my now-standard chopping board – an almost-ripe whole fruit and ripe cut fruit with a few fallen scales.

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.

white monstera flower close-up
A recently-opened flower, with tiny flies and (out of focus in the lower right) a native bee (sweat bee)
monstera flower growing green and tiles separating
The lower part of an older monstera flower showing the separation of the hexagonal ’tiles’. The hood dries up and falls off as the fruit begins to mature.

 

37 thoughts on “Monstera deliciosa”

  1. They are beautiful !!!
    When I was a kid I had to sit and wait until dad had had too much, more than he wanted, before I could have any. It is good that several ripen at the same time, making it too much for him. Also if he tried eating too much before it was really ripe he got prickles in his tongue. He had been through the depression and had done it tough, so food was precious to him, extra special, good tasting delicious food.
    Now I am grown up I have my own and they are ripe now. I love them, the secret is knowing not to go too far and get the prickles. Deeeelicious.
    Regards, Steve.

    1. We have had a plant growing for 40+ years. Only recently decided to eat the fruit. Taste is a mixture of pineapple banana mostly. Definitely leaves a tingly light burn sensation on lips. Tastes ok but still prefer standard fruits. John S.

  2. For years I had an enormous creeping plant with the strangest huge green raggedy leaves. As it was growing between my house and an elderly date palm in a street 20 miles from Melbourne, I just kept it as a curiosity. One morning, I noticed a flower, like a large lily growing from it Later, a passing florist told me that the leaves were used by florists in large floral arrangements and asked to buy some off me. I cut a few, but noticed some ‘things’ sticking up from the root/stem of this creeper. They looked like a combination of large zuchinis with skin resembling an unripe pineapple but looked as if they were related to an unripe pine-cone. I left them to be displayed to the curious gaze of friends. A Hungarian friend told me that they were a tropical fruit referred to as a ‘fruit salad plant’. In trepidation, I tried eating the fruit (which was sweetish and softer than pineapple segments). Nice, but one couldn’t be in a hurry when preparing it for the table – not unlike de-constructing a pomegranate. Does any one know of other ways of using these please? Yes, they do make the tongue and lips tingle a bit after consumption!

    1. Hi, Maureen, and congratulations on your progress with your monstera so far.
      If you had trouble de-constructing it, you may have tried eating it a bit before it was ripe, because the scales fall off easily, as in my third photo, when the fruit is fully ripe.
      Incidentally, my own monsteras are flowering at the moment, after a long gap. I have never been quite sure about the fruit’s seasonality but I suspect both flowering and ripening occur in our wet season, with the fruit taking a whole year to develop.

    1. I believe* that the reason the brown paper bag is supposed to help fruit ripen is that ripening fruit gives off a gas that speeds up the process. Putting the fruit in a bag increases the concentration of the gas, so it helps. Putting ripe fruit (usually bananas) in the bag as well is sometimes recommended and would make sense.
      None of this is specific to monstera fruit but it’s worth a try.
      Good luck!
      Malcolm

      * It is something I’ve heard but I haven’t tried to check whether it’s true. Your favourite search engine might be able to confirm it.

    2. It’s about 40 years since I last got my hands on a monsterio. But from what I remember I wrapped it in plastic to keep the fruit flies off and that helped it ripen quicker.

  3. Thanks everybody for your answers. Well one of my fruits was lying on the soil below across a surface growing Root/creeping stem? and the Ants got into it The other four are coming along nicely and another just broke off in my hands I am going to try the paper bag trick as it isn’t ripe at the top yet so I’ve stood it in a long glass with the stem in an inch of water with the brown bag over it. Should I pick out the little black bith? I jutht tried a couple of nearly ripe thegmenth. – Maketh a good converthation piethe even if not for ravenouth fruit eaterth! LOL

    1. Good to hear you’ve got a fruit, and thanks for the laugh.
      As for ripening the fruit, I wouldn’t worry about putting the stem in water because I think there’s enough moisture in the fruit to stop it drying out.
      And no, don’t pick out the little black bits – they won’t hurt you and you will die of starvation or frustration if you try.
      Incidentally, two of my creepers have new fruit on them now.

  4. Hi people. I’m a New South Welshman and we’ve had one of these monstera in the backyard for years. We tried the fruit but found it too fiddly for what you get.
    However, I found a use for the sheath that surrounds the fruit – I waited until it dried out, painted it with clear Esterpol and my wife puts potpourri or rose petals in it with a little fragrant oil.
    Just thought I’d pass that along.

  5. I have a question and I hope someone can help me.

    I have a friend who is fighting cancer and the drugs are making her constipated. someone suggested that the fruit of the Monstera Deliciosa would help. She tried it with a fruit that was given to her and it seems to help. The person who gave her the fruit said that the bush doesn’t have any more fruit on it. My question is… Where can you buy some of the Monstera Deliciosa fruit? I have tried many fruit shops on the Sunshine Coast Qld to no avail. Can you help me find a place or internet site that can sell me some of these fruits.

    Thanking you in anticipation… Mary

  6. Hello! I have a monsteria and it has about 5 fruit budding at the moment. I’m unsure when to pick them though…I’ve seen 2 of them open and then close up again! When they open the fruit looked very pale so I didn’t pick them. What should I look for to know when to harvest?
    Many thanks
    Chris

    1. It sounds like the hood has opened, and then withered and dried in place around the immature fruit. If so, it will eventually fall off, the fruit will darken and then – months later – ripen. (If this doesn’t make sense to you, perhaps you could send a photo?)
      They do take a very long time! The fruit I mentioned in February (see earlier comments) are still on the vine and still not ripe; my guess of a year between flowering and ripening looks pretty right.

  7. I have a plant that is 20 years old, and has lots of fruit, but they gecome soggy before I can get close to hardest, and then collapse.
    I live in Kiama, high rainfall area.
    Any advice?

    1. Hi, James,
      I can’t help much, I’m afraid. My guess (and that’s all it is) is that the plant would prefer warmer and drier conditions. Can you give it more sun?
      My best advice would be to ask your local nurserymen.

  8. G’day all.

    I live in the dark brick house that I grew up in, I’m 35 now. My Monstera is probably about 25 yrs old, will have to ask mum. A few years ago I noticed a black bird was eating something one day in the court yard and investigated, it smelt amazing and tasted good. I learned pretty quickly that you can’t try to eat all at once, at least only the ripe bits…..sore tongue and lips. It was worth it though.

    My plant is growing in a court yard at one end, has about 6 fruits. Never fertilised, other than when my mates were here drinking at a BBQ and looking for relief. The other plants nearby in the courtyard are tree ferns. The Monstera doesn’t have much soil to grow in because the middle of the courtyard is paved, it does have long tough tendril roots that will seek out and grow in minimal composting leaf litter.

    I have been watering mine more regularly lately, as it is under a small 60cm eave. I noticed a flower sheath wrap around part of a fruit/flower stalk, as the sheath drys it shrinks and wraps around the fruit, particularly if on top of the fruit. Just keep an eye on the sheath, you can slightly dislodge the sheath away from the fruit without breaking off the living sheath. I would suggest to remove the old dead sheath to prevent causing damage to the fruit as the sheath shrinks before the flower has a chance green up if the soil isn’t moist enough very often (like hot days).

    You can noticed if a sheath will be a problem early on from the partial pale white/yellow portion of the fruit where the sheath was partly covering from the sun, while the other (side) is green. This seemed to slow down this individual fruit from greening up as quickly as the others that had all flowered together. I considered this will reduce the photosynthetic rate of that fruit, because the green in the fruits themselves indicates they have these properties (heads of wheat also do).

    I wait until the flower sheath goes brown and remove, I noticed as the sheath hardens it can ‘blemish’ or cause some damage to the fruits 5 sided (pentagon) sections and those sections of the fruit didn’t seem to develop properly. The green/yellowing flower sheath also has photosynthetic properties that will transfer energy into the fruits and the plants development, they will slowly go from yellow as they wither. So don’t remove them before they have died, these plants are hardy and the sheaths can be carefully manipulated away slightly from the fruit if needed

    While my current green fruit are still attached to the tree, I am going to wrap the fruits individually with newspaper (like the chinese do with plums) plus a large ziplock bag (maybe one with just a ziplock bag so I can watch the ripening progress) and secure to the stem with a rubber band and maybe tie a stick to the stem to keep the fruit from falling off on the ground if I miss inspecting over a couple of days. Maybe I might leave one fruit uncovered for comparison.

    I’m in Melton Victoria on the top of a slight hill, the last 2 weeks weather have been quite mild for this time of the year and will be interesting to see how the fruit develop.

    Jesse

    1. Thanks, Jesse.
      Removing the sheath when it’s dead seems like a good idea but I’m not so sure about covering the fruit. The fruits do take months to ripen – I’m still watching some of mine which formed last summer! – and I think you would have problems with moisture, mould and insect attack.
      Let us know how you go.

  9. One thing to note about this fruit is that the black bits are crystals containing Oxalic Acid. I have not fully read the comments as to whether or not this has been raised. It is best to try to avoid these black bits as the acid will attack the calcium in your bones, and i would hazard to guess this black crystal is what is causing the oral tingles. A bit of consumption is not a bad thing but long term and in excessive amounts may cause long run health problems.

    For the record i have many plants on my property steming from two 40+ year old plants i divided. These guys will grow from small lengths of stem so if you want more: a bit of stem (preferably with roots but not required) in a container of soil or water and you have a fairly bulletproof houseplant.

  10. I have bought a monstera deliciosa about a year ago, does anyone know long does it take to start producing fruit… And do you need a male and female plant to produce fruit

    1. Hi, Barbara,
      We seem to have established that it takes a year to go from flower to fruit but not how long it takes for the plant to start flowering. My guess would be about three years, just going by new plants establishing themselves in my garden.
      The answer to your second question is clearer: no, you don’t need male and female plants.
      Good luck!

  11. Hi everyone, I am looking to buy a Monstera Deliciosa plant and don’t seem to find it anywhere.
    Can someone help me? I live in Sydney and would be willing to drive around town find a potted plant or even a cutting if someone is willing to part with a bit of their plant. :-)

    1. Hi
      just saw your question & just wondered if anyone let you know where to buy the plant as I’m also after the same plant /fruit -if they did would you mind letting me know too?
      thank you !!! (hopefully !)
      Gina

  12. Got a major plant growing at the school at which I teach. Probably a 100 fruits on at present. Trick is to get one just as it is shedding its outer covering before the possums do. Just eat as the ‘scales’ shed.

  13. Wow, all these comments are wonderful! I simply was after the food values of this fruit – & so much info (never done this ‘BLOG’ thing before). We live just out of Kempsey mid north coast NSW, & have had our plant, now many plants, for many many years. Plants are in shade of taller plants & no care no nuffin & at this time May – June, lots of fruit. Knocked a few off when felling some palms, wrapped ’em in some newspaper & after a week or so the green shell bits fall off & eat as you go ie gradually down the fruit. I find he fruit very rich tho can’t handle too much of it. Didn’t know most of the plant was poisonous tho. But I do know one waits for the ‘scales ‘ to fall off!

  14. I have a few plants in my backyard in Wollongong, there must be about 30-40 fruits at least on the big one, they grow in clusters of 5 or 6 by the looks of it.
    We don’t do a thing to it except mow over it when it encroaches on the lawn (it shoots up from the ground). The other couple of plants we have haven’t produced any fruit that I can see.
    If you get some root section with a leaf you are guaranteed to have a happy transplant.
    Lola if you are ever in Wollongong you are welcome to take a bit of one of our plants.

  15. Hi there,
    My Monstereo was in a pot from my mother. We planted it about 2 years ago and it is now fruiting. The only problem is that the pods are not opening into the white flower with the fruit in the centre. The pods are staying closed and then the fruit is rotting inside.
    Anyone have an idea of why this is happening? Not enough water? A nutrient missing?
    Thanks,
    Claire

      1. I have been driving around Newcastle NSW and every time I spot a monstera i write down its locatioin. Some are in private yards, and at friends houses while others are in public spaces, eg on footpaths, laneways, public gardens, hospitals etc etc. I came across a monster growing well over a fence into a laneway in Lambton. It had lots of fruit in yellow ( and some green) pods. I picked three massive yellow pods. At home I opened the top of the first one and the fruit was brown and rotten and stank. All three were like Claire descibes above. However they are in full sun all day, So malcolm’s idea about lack of warmth doesn’t hold. In fact it seems the other way round. Plants I have found that are growing in filtered light all have healthy green fruits. When it’s time I’ll harvest the ones in public places, and if that’s not enough I can ask people who own them if I can have the fruit. That way I should be able to get a good variety of fruit ripening over a period of time.
        It does concern me about the oxalic acid as I have kidney issues already. But I’ll try not to eat too much. If anyone wants a cutting , or some fruit, contact me
        (astrallaa60@gmail.com) and we’ll see what I can arrange.

  16. Hi, l have one of these plants its around 35 yrs old its huge and produces the lily flower and it also produces l think its the fruit your talking about. Looking at these pictures though mine are same size and shape but with a smooth covering. I just always thought they were more flowers going to come out. L
    I have just opened up one that had fallen to the ground and I reakon it is the fruit.

  17. Just out of interest to those mainlanders of Australia that think Tasmania is a cold place!!!!! I’ve one Monstera in Devonport Tasmania that I’ve had for well over 25 years that we obtained a couple of fruit off it in its later years that was inside our glass patio with a N-Westerly orientation
    As a window tinter I treated the glass with a solar film that helped to reduce the excessive direct sun “burning ” the plant plus the added insulation Improves the glass insulation and warmth when the out side temp. is colder, plus the clothes dryer in use mainly during the winter months has no doupt helped a lot with the added warm high humidity moisture content during the winter months.
    This info may help those in the colder regions to grow this plant and offer a chance to gain some fruit off them.

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