Monstera plant. Monstera fruit.
Left: monstera plant. Right: a half-consumed monstera fruit

Monstera, also called Ceriman, Swiss Cheese Plant, Fruit Salad Plant.

Monstera deliciosa

Origin:

The tropical rainforests of Mexico and Central America. Now spread throughout the warm regions of the world.

Climate:

Sub-Tropical and Tropical up to 600m elevation. It grows best between temperatures of 20–30°C, >1000mm annual precipitation and requires high humidity and shade. Growth ceases below 10°C and it is killed by frost.

Plant Description:

The Monstera is a large, vigorous, climbing vine. The leaves are large, heart-shaped and deeply lobed, with patterns of holes, hence the name 'Swiss Cheese Plant'. As the plant grows, it extends long, rope-like roots for long distances in all directions.

Relatives:

Araceae (Arum) Family: Spathiphyllum, Amorphophallus, Alocasia, Colocasia, Dieffenbachia, Philodendron.

Soils:

The plant grows vigorously in almost any soil, including limestone but flourishes best in well-drained, rich loam. It is not adapted to saline conditions.

Propagation:

It is easy to propagate with stem cuttings and offshoots. In Europe, it is propagated by tissue culture or imported seeds.

Cultivars:

There are some cultivars selected for their ornamental value such as variegated leaves. Otherwise, fruits from different unnamed cultivars vary in size, flavour and edibility.

Flowering and Pollination:

Seeds are usually only produced in tropical areas. Flowering is in summer and insects are the pollinators.

Cultivation:

Monstera prefers shade and will sprawl on the ground or climb any nearby tree, wall, rock, structure or building. If possible, plan in advance what it will be allowed to climb on. Mulch and fertiliser may be applied to outside plants several times a year.

Wind Tolerance:

Reasonably good, although the big leaves may become tattered.

Pruning:

Prune to limit the size of the plant and encourage new growth.

The Fruit:

The fruit has the form of a long cylinder perhaps 30cm long, covered with a thick green rind of hexagonal plates. It contains 16-19% carbohydrates and as a major acid component, oxalic acid occurring as raphides which are sharp-pointed, sometimes barbed crystals. Sensitive individuals may suffer minor or more serious side-effects from these raphides. Unripe fruit should not be eaten, but fully ripe fruit have reduced problems for most people.

Fruit Production and Harvesting:

Large plants can be very productive. It takes several months to a year for the fruits to ripen after flowering. When the fruit is approaching ripeness, the fruit stem bends down, the colour becomes subtly lighter and more yellow and the fragrance becomes apparent. Pick at the first signs of plates near the stem starting to lift and detach from the fruit.

The fruit ripens sequentially from the stem to the tip; the plates fall off, revealing the white-fleshed segments inside. The ripening process can be helped along by keeping the fruit in a paper bag in a warm room. The uncovered segments can be eaten as they are revealed. They frequently have fragments of a thin, black membrane attached; some people find these irritating in the mouth. If so, just brush them off.

Fruit Uses:

The ripe fruit has a delicious aroma and flavour. Many people describe it as a blend of pineapple and banana. It is eaten fresh, added to fruit salads and ice cream. It can be made into a preserve.

Pests and Diseases:

Usually pest-free. Possibly scale insects, grasshoppers, rats and possums. They can be subject to various viral and bacterial infections.

Comments:

It can be a little tricky to find the ripening fruits amongst the luxurious foliage. The period of ripeness is quite short, and the fruit will simply fall off within a few days if you haven't found it. If you are a newcomer to eating Monstera, be cautious at first until you know how it agrees with you. It is also a popular landscaping and indoor pot plant.