The cassabanana fruit doesn’t look, smell or taste like a banana, and your guess is as good as anyone else’s about how it got its common name. It looks like an off-color cucumber and tastes like a melon, a sweet delicious fruit well worth growing in your garden. Read on for more cassabanana information.
Cassabanana Plant History
The cassabanana (Sicana odorifera), also known as Melocoton, is native to Brazil, and most of these heirloom plants are cultivated in Central and South America and the Caribbean. What do all these locations have in common? A warm climate, yes, but even more important, a very long growing season.
Historians claim that the fruit was cultivated in Ecuador even before the Spanish arrived there. Europeans mentioned it in writings by 1658. Some peoples “” including Venezuelans and Brazilians “” grow it as ornamental, while others – Cubans, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans – grow it for the fruit.
Don’t let the common name or melon-like taste fool you. The cassabanana is a member of the gourd family, yet still proves a delightful ornamental. The vine alone will wow you – it grows fast and goes far, requiring an extra-strong trellis. It can scale a 50-foot tree. It grips its support with tendrils equipped with adhesive pads. The vine is hairy, as are the 1-foot-wide leaves. The white or yellow flowers look like little urns.
Fruits ripen to shapes like oversize cucumbers, some 24 inches long and 5 inches wide. The skin ranges from orange to brilliant red to deep eggplant purple to black. Unlike cucumber skin, the cassabanana skin is thick and tough. You have to hack it open with a large knife, but the flesh is soft and sweet. The cassabanana fruit has a very attractive fragrance too. The smell lasts so long that the fruit is used as a moth repellant in some regions.
Growing a Cassabanana
The hardest part about growing a cassabanana is not the weather. The vines are hardy to zone 6. However, the fruit needs a very long growing season to ripen. Since the growing season comes to a screeching halt with the first frost, you want to get those seeds started early. Soak the seeds before planting them in pots indoors. Pick a bright, sunny location and the seeds should germinate quickly.
Move the seedlings outside once all danger of frost has passed. Plant them in a very sunny site in the garden. Provide regular irrigation and keep the cassabanana soil moist.