It was thrilling it was so good. The taste – a medley of flavors I already knew but which, when spun together in a soft bite, were new to me – banana, chermoya, vanilla, strawberry. There isn’t much I find that is unobtainium. I’ve been fortunate. I’ve conquered. I’ve achieved. I’ve found success in many measures. I’ve even found love.
But when my produce buyer Fabrizio Casini walked into my office with a long green scaly plant and flicked off the ripe-as-ever scales with a fork, I had no idea what I was in for.
The first kiss. The anticipation of what comes next. The explosion of flavors and the realization that there is a whole world of which I am not a part.
Soon, my stores will sell monstera deliciosa, a tropical fruit whose peculiar look insists that it must be as delicious as it is weird.
It is not often that I encounter something I’ve never known before in the kingdom of produce. Having faced foes on battlefields and in boardrooms, I am a man steeled for situations, always carrying the hope of peaceful discovery and true exploration but ready to face the worst at a moment’s notice.
This fruit comes from a mundane house plant found in the lobbies of hotels in warm-weather destinations. Its flat smooth green leaves decorate the yards of homes near the Equator. It is not a plant that will garner your attention or even call to you as you walk past.
It takes monstera three years to flower and then another year for its fruit to ripen. The plant creeps toward the rainforest canopy, on a masterful vine that can reach more than 70 feet in length if it is allowed to grow untended.
Long like a cucumber and green as the forest, the fruit is aromatic and sweet, with hints of banana, pineapple, mango. I don’t troll the jungles of Central and South America so it’s not a plant I would encounter on my own – and if I did, I would be unwise to eat it. Before it’s ripe, monstera is as poisonous as the wind from a volcano. The plant contains oxalic acid, which, if ingested, causes painful blistering, immediate irritation, swelling, itching, even loss of voice.
It takes a full year after flowering for the fruit to ripen. This fact is worthy of repetition. How can a plant be omnipresent and yet pose great danger? Toxic and also luscious?
If you pass a monstera fruit on the street, fallen from its creeping vine, you would not take notice. It is odd-shaped and phallic, green and scaly like a pine cone. When the scales fall away, it is no prettier – it is a secret how tasty its flesh will be upon eating at the absolute right moment, if you can pinpoint when that will be. Otherwise, its sweet gift of flavors remains hidden along the concrete paths of development, a secret pleasure for discovering only at the right time, with enough knowledge and wisdom to endure its inherent dangers.
Of course, you can find it at Hiller’s.
Monstera will be available at Hiller’s at the end of May.