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Babaco

Carica x heilbirnii var. pentagona
CARICACEAE

DESCRIPTION

Growth Habit: The babaco is a small, herbaceous shrub, which grows to about 2.5 meters in height, with a form similar to that of a small paw paw.

Foliage/Flowers: The moderately large, palmate leaves have prominent ribs and veins and are on long hollow leaf stalks that radiate from the trunk. Flowers form on the newly developing trunk during the growth phase of the tree. The flowers are all female.

Fruit: The fruits range in size; the largest are 30cm long and 10cm wide. The skin is thin and edible, the flesh white to yellow, fragrant and juicy.

CULTURE

Adaptation : The babaco thrives in a cool subtropical climate, free of frost.  Babacos like a warm location protected from winds. They will grow and fruit in shady locations but prefer a sunny spot, protected from hot afternoon sun. The babaco is ideally suited to container culture.

Soils : Babacos prefer a light, fertile soil. It must be very well-drained as it is susceptible to root-rot. Mulch well and apply frequent additions of compost throughout the year.

Irrigation : Will grow and fruit in Wollongong without additional irrigation, but respond well to additional irrigation during its growing and fruiting period.

Pruning :Prune the stem back to 20cm above the ground level after harvest each year, and allow one or two shoots to grow up as next season’s fruiting stems.

Propagation : The old trunk when pruned off can be cut into 30cm pieces; the leaves removed, and planted out 10cm deep into potting mix. Leave the cut stem to dry for a few days first though.

Pests and diseases : Root rot is the main problem with the babaco. 

Harvest: Babacos ripen progressively and are picked when almost fully yellow and throughout most of the year. Even without cool storage the fruit has a shelf-life of four weeks. Best eaten fully ripe or juiced.