|Fig. 4: The ceriman (Monstera deliciosa) in flower and fruit at Palm Lodge Tropical Grove, Homestead, Fla. In: J.F. Morton, Some Useful and Ornamental Plants of the Caribbean Gardens, 1955.|
The plant is a fast-growing, stout, herbaceous vine spreading over the ground and forming extensive mats if unsupported, but climbing trees to a height of 30 ft (9 m) or more. The stems are cylindrical, heavy, 2 1/2 to 3 in (6.25-7.5 cm) thick, rough with leaf scars, and producing numerous, long, tough aerial roots. The leathery leaves, on stiff, erect, flattened petioles to 3 1/2 ft (105 cm) long, are oval, cordate at the base, to 3 ft (90 cm) or more in length and to 2 3/4 ft (82.8 cm) wide; deeply cut into 9-in (22.8 cm) strips around the margins and perforated on each side of the midrib with elliptic or oblong holes of various sizes.
Several inflorescences arise in a group from the leaf axils on tough, cylindrical stalks. The cream colored spadix, sheltered at first by a waxy, white, calla-lily-like spathe, develops into a green compound fruit 8 to 12 in (20-30 cm) or more in length and 2 to 3 1/2 in (5-8.75 cm) thick, suggesting an ear of corn. The thick, hard rind, made up of hexagonal plates or "scales", covers individual segments of ivory-colored, juicy, fragrant pulp much like diced pineapple. Between the segments there are thin, black particles (floral remnants). Generally there are no seeds, but sometimes, pale-green, hard seeds the size of large peas, may occur in a dozen or so of the segments.
Origin and Distribution
The ceriman is native to wet forests of southern Mexico, Guatemala and parts of Costa Rica and Panama. It was introduced into cultivation in England in 1752; reached Singapore in 1877 and India in 1878. Specimens of the fruit were exhibited by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in 1874 and 1881. It has become familiar as an ornamental in most of the warm countries of the world and is widely used in warm and temperate regions as a potted plant indoors,especially in conservatories and greenhousesthough it does not bloom nor fruit in confinement. In Guatemala, it is raised in pots in patios to prevent too rampant growth, as it is apt to become an aggressive nuisance.
The fruits are marketed to some extent in Queensland and, in the past, were sometimes shipped from Florida to gourmet grocers in New York and Philadelphia.
The ceriman is strictly tropical and cannot tolerate frost. It does best in semi-shade and has a high moisture requirement.
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.
In some European nurseries, the ceriman is raised from imported seed. Rapid multiplication has been achieved through tissue culture in Denmark. Generally, propagation is by means of stem cuttings, which may be simply set in beds or pots in the ground where the vine is intended to grow. Suckers or offshoots, with or without roots, can be separated from parent plants and transplanted successfully. Mulching is desirable as well as watering until new roots have become well-established.
Suckers will fruit in 2 to 4 years; cuttings in 4 to 6 years, depending on the location, soil and attention given. Out-of-doors, the ceriman requires little care. If it is desired to expedite growth and fruiting, a complete fertilizer may be applied 3 or 4 times a year. Indoor plants need frequent repotting to accommodate the root system, and they should be set outside at least once a year in direct light.
Flowering and fruiting overlap because it requires 12 to 14 months from the opening of the inflorescence to the maturity of the fruit. Therefore, there are often unopened inflorescences, immature fruits and ripening fruits together on the same plant. The current year's crop is ripening through summer and fall while the following year's crop is forming beside it.
The rind is always green though it assumes a lighter shade as the fruit matures. The fruit, with at least an inch (2.5 cm) of stem, should be cut from the plant when the tile-like sections of rind separate slightly at the base, making it appear somewhat bulged. At this state, the fruits have been shipped to local or distant markets. If kept at room temperature, the ceriman will ripen progressively toward the apex over a period of 5 or 6 days. The flesh should be eaten only from that portion of the fruit from which the rind segments have so loosened as to be easily flicked off. To ripen the whole fruit at one time, it should be wrapped in paper or plastic, or possibly aluminum foil, as soon as cut from the plant and kept at room temperature until the rind has loosened the entire length of the fruit. At this stage, it will be found that the flesh also falls easily away from the inedible core. Once ripened, the fruit can be kept in the refrigerator in good condition for a week or a little more. Rinsing off the floral remnants improves the appearance of the flesh, but it does cause some loss of juice.
Pests and Diseases
When grown indoors, the plants are subject to infestation by scale insects, mites and mealybugs. Outdoors, they are usually pest-free. However, in dry seasons in Florida, the lubber grasshopper (Romalea microptera) has rapidly consumed entire leaves, leaving only the base of the midrib and the petiole. In India, wire cages are placed around developing fruits to protect them from rats, squirrels, monkeys and other creatures.
The following diseases have been recorded in Florida: leaf spot caused by Leptosphaeria sp., Macrophoma philodendri, Phytophthora sp., and Pseudomonas cichorri; anthracnose from Glomerella cingulata; bacterial soft rot from infection by Erwinia carotovora; and root rot caused by Pythium splendens and Rhizoctonia solani.
Fig. 5: Compound fruit of the ceriman fully ripe, with loose segments of rind removed and flesh separated for eating. Black specks are floral remnants.
Fully ripe pulp is like a blend of pineapple and banana. It may be served as dessert with a little light cream, or may be added to fruit cups, salads or ice cream. Some people cut cross-sections right through the core, creating wheel like disks that can be held with the thumb and fore finger pinching the "hub" while the edible part is nibbled from the rim. To make a preserve, rinsed segments can be stewed for 10 minutes in a little water, a cup of sugar and a tablespoon of lime juice is then added for each 2 cups of fruit, the mixture is simmered again for 20 minutes and preserved in sterilized jars. Some cooks substitute honey for sugar.
Philippine analyses show the following values for the edible portion: calories, 335/lb (737/kg); moisture, 77.88%; protein, 1.81%; fat, 0.2%; sugar, 16.19%; fiber 0.57%; ash, 0.85%.
The oxalic acid, and possibly other unidentified principles, in the unripe fruit, the floral remnants of the ripe fruit, and all parts of the plant, cause oral and skin irritation. Some sensitive individuals claim that even the ripe fruit irritates the throat. It would be well to avoid eating the ceriman in quantity until it is determined that there are no undesirable reactions. Some individuals have experienced urticaria and anaphylaxis after eating ceriman. Some children and adults have reported diarrhea and intestinal gas after consuming the flesh or products made from it.
The aerial roots have been used as ropes in Peru. In Mexico, they are fashioned into coarse, strong baskets.
Medicinal Uses: In Mexico, a leaf or root infusion is taken daily to relieve arthritis. A preparation of the root is employed in Martinique as a remedy for snakebite.