I’ve had a few babacos now: small, cool climate papayas that are said to fruit prodigiously, and in the shade too. My first expired very quickly, probably from root rot, to which they are apparently quite prone. I kept the second in a pot for a while, for drainage reasons, and it clung on despite my peripatetic watering habits. The third plant I put in the “food forest” part of the garden, and it seemed to grow pretty well, on a sandy slope with filtered summer sun and not a lot of light at all in winter, so I popped the one from the pot into the ground nearby, in a slightly brighter spot. The second plant has had two torpedo-shaped green fruits hanging on for quite a while, during which time it has slowly but steadily shed all its leaves, possibly encouraged by the possums. I began to think it might croak before the fruits ever ripened, given the seasonal gloom. Eventually one of its paps started to turn a patchy lemon yellow. After some bad guessing with custard apples last year, I wouldn’t have been game to pick it but the fruit dropped off the tree of its own accord and pleasingly, ripened up quite well inside, sitting next to a banana in the fruit bowl.
Apparently the ancient Greeks had a tradition of offering the first fruit of the new season to Demeter, goddess of the harvest. I suspect Demeter might have turned her nose up at my first babaco. It’s been called the “champagne fruit“, and others suggest it tastes of strawberries and pineapple… it certainly has a citrus tang along with that strange slightly off taste of papaya and something else… the odour of freshly laid carpet? the plasticky inside of a new car…? Not something I would be super eager to eat anyway. That said, it’s a good looking plant which seems to grow reasonably well in a tricky spot and apparently propagates easily too. I’m fairly sure the taste of slightly curdled carpet offcuts will be the least of my problems after the zombie apocalypse so I think after Number Two’s second torpedo has been launched I might have a go at growing some cuttings. I have to drum up plants for the school fete this year (yes, we will be running a cake stall while the government spends $12 billion on jets) and it is always possible that there are fruit-growers out there in Berowra that like the taste of new cars.