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What is Babaco Melon
Babaco [Pronounced Bab-co] is believed to be a naturally occurring hybrid of Papaya. It is native to Ecuador, Chile and Peru where it grows in clusters on the babaco tree stems. The tree reproduces via shoots which take slightly over a year to mature and produce fruits.
The Babaco trees average in the vicinity of 6 feet tall, but can be domesticated to lower heights. The tree is also somewhat hardy for a tropical species as it can survive temperatures into the mid 20s. A healthy Babaco tree should be expected to yield 20 - 30 one - two pound fruits per season. The fruits and tree are very aromatic and are known to attract pollinators, even though they are sterile.
The Fruits are elongated, 8 to 12 inches long like a cucumber, but star shaped. Sliced crosswise, they have a pentagon shape. When ripe it is yellow like a banana and tastes sweet like a cross between strawberry and Papaya, some say pineapple and banana. It will continue ripening when removed from the tree.
Growing Babaco Melon
In the US , they are grown in California and the southwest but are also adaptable to the southern US , as well as for container growing just about anywhere. They do not produce seeds, the only way to propagate babaco is via cuttings or shoots.
Babacos fare best in warm locations sheltered from heavy winds. Full sun is best , but partial shade is tolerable. Adequate moisture, either via natural rainfall or irrigation is absolutely essential during the babaco trees growing stage and during fruiting.
Do not drown them, they are susceptible to root rot and excessive moisture water will only increase the odds in favor of the root rot. Trees that have been subjected to frost are also more susceptible to root rot.
Well drained fertile soils are best . Babaco will not grow in seaside or salty locations.
Apply high nitrogen fertilizer during the growing season, and switch to a more balanced fertilizer just prior to fruiting.
For an optimal quality yield the tree should be pruned to allow only the healthiest single trunk to grow and produce. If you do not prune it - you will still get a fruit yield - probably more so far as quantity is concerned - but a much lower quality of smaller fruit.
New shoots will periodically form around the plants base, these should be removed during the plants fruiting season. At each seasons end the shoot that produced this years fruit should be cut down to a stump, and a new shoot permitted to mature to take its place. Don't trim back the producing stem till a new shoot emerges.
Babaco is susceptible to fungal diseases , not the least of which is root rot - as was previously mentioned. It is also susceptible to powdery mildew.. Insects such as mites and slugs are known to feast on this plant - precautions should be taken.
Even though it is not not a native species, deer for whatever reason, are very fond of babaco and will devour any plants they come across.