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The Peculiar Peanut Butter Fruit of Tropical Hawaii

I go to the Hilo orchid show each year. There's hardly any more room for orchids in my house but I can’t help myself from getting more!

Peanut butter fruits on tree.

Peanut butter fruits on tree.

What Is Peanut Butter Fruit?

Peanut butter fruit (botanical name Bunchosia grandulifera) is a small tropical fruit tree native to South America. It's grown in gardens and farms in Hawaii, mainly as an attractive ornamental plant.

A distant cousin of the acerola cherry, this tree is known for its unusual characteristic: its fruit has the taste and texture of peanut butter!

This exotic fruit is easy to grow and requires little maintenance, although it’s not widely cultivated in Hawaii because it doesn’t have any commercial or agricultural value. The fruits attract a variety of tropical birds like finches and cardinals, so it's a must-have garden plant for all bird lovers and birdwatchers in Hawaii!

The fruits look like a cluster of cherry tomatoes.

The fruits look like a cluster of cherry tomatoes.

Pulp and seeds.

Pulp and seeds.

Can You Eat Peanut Butter Fruit?

A peanut butter fruit is about the size of a grape, and it tastes delicious when eaten fresh. Because it is highly perishable, these fruits should be eaten as soon as they are ripe.

How to Eat It

  1. Pop the whole fruit into your mouth (no need to peel).
  2. Spit out the hard seeds. Each fruit usually has 1–2 seeds.

You may also separate the pulp from the seeds and freeze it to make smoothies, ice cream, or sherbet. Just like acerola cherry, peanut butter fruit is rich in fiber and antioxidants.

Does It Really Taste Like Peanut Butter?

The dense, creamy pulp has a distinct peanut butter flavor, and it gets stronger as you eat more of the fruits. Besides the unique nutty taste, it also has a hint of sweetness and a pleasant fruity smell like jam or jelly. (Perhaps it should be called the “peanut butter and jelly” fruit!)

Where to Find the Fruit for Sale

Unfortunately, you will not find peanut butter fruits in grocery stores in Hawaii. If you’re lucky, you may see them for sale at some farmers markets around the islands.

In Hawaii, the season for this fruit is usually June–July, but some trees may produce another fruit crop as late as October.

How to Grow This Unique Fruit Tree

Peanut butter fruit is a prolific self-seeding plant. Fruits that have fallen to the ground or seeds scattered by birds will sprout little seedlings within days! Some nurseries in Hawaii sell young peanut butter fruit trees in 1-gallon pots.

It’s an easy-to-grow and low-maintenance plant; however, it does prefer well-drained soil and a full-sun location. Planted in a row, it makes an excellent “green” fence or hedge because it maintains its lush and bushy foliage year-round.

How Big Does It Grow?

It’s a fast grower! A young plant can grow into a healthy shrub within the first year of planting and start flowering. A mature tree may reach 6 feet high or taller. Occasional trimming is necessary to keep the tree at a desirable height, which makes fruit picking easier.

Young seedling sprouts from seed.

Young seedling sprouts from seed.

Peanut butter fruit flowers.

Peanut butter fruit flowers.

When Does It Bloom and Bear Fruit?

Clusters of yellow flowers appear around May, and they will soon turn into strings of fruits that are green. Gradually, the fruits change into bright orange and then a deeper red as they become fully ripe.

Like acerola cherry, this tree often produces a second wave of flowers when there are still ripening fruits on the branches.

When Should You Pick the Fruit?

Pick the fruits when they are still orange in color and hard (birds don’t touch them yet!). Leave on the kitchen counter for a couple of days, and then the fruits will become red and soft, ready for eating.

Can You Grow It Indoors?

In cooler climates, peanut butter fruit can be grown in a greenhouse or as a houseplant. However, like all tropical plants, it needs plenty of sun and warmth to thrive, and will not survive freezing temperature.

Unripe green and orange fruits.

Unripe green and orange fruits.

My Experience

I planted a peanut butter fruit tree in my garden as a novelty item. I love the surprised look and reaction from visiting friends and family when they taste the fruit for the first time!

Such a unique and unusual fruit!

Such a unique and unusual fruit!

Note: All photos were taken in the author’s garden with an Olympus Stylus TG-630 iHS digital camera and iPhone6.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Can I eat the seeds of a peanut butter plant?

Answer: The seeds are not edible! Only the soft pulp around the seeds are ok to eat.

Question: What kind of food can I give my peanut butter plant? I got a plant from the Florida Keys last year and it’s not doing very well in my house in Pennsylvania.

Answer: The peanut butter plant is a tropical plant, it needs PLENTY of direct sunlight as well as a hot and humid condition for it to grow. You are in Pennsylvania, in the middle of a cold and dark winter season, of course, the plant is not happy! Food/fertilizer alone doesn't make any plant grow. It also needs light, water, and the right temperature. Hopefully, when warm weather arrives, your peanut butter plant will do better.

Question: Are there any uses for the seed of the peanut butter fruit?

Answer: I'm not aware of any other use with the seed besides planting it to start a young peanut butter tree! The seed will sprout quickly and soon you will have a whole new plant.

Question: What is the best type of pot for growing a peanut butter tree?

Answer: Depending on how big you want to grow your peanut butter tree! Bigger pot (i.e., more soil, more space for healthy root growth) will make a bigger tree. I would start with at least a 10-gallon container. The tree may not produce fruits if it gets severely rootbound in a small pot.

© 2018 Viet Doan


Viet Doan (author) from Big Island, Hawaii on October 12, 2019:

Hi Alice! Transplanting your young trees into bigger pots is a great idea. It will be easy to move them to your new place. Peanut butter is a fast growing plant, even when they are just small seedlings. I often have to weed out the forest of seedlings that sprouted up (from falling fruits) around the base of my trees!!!

Alice on October 11, 2019:

Thanks for the info. I have seen and tasted the peanut butter tree, growing huge in Ft. Pierce, Fl.

I have started 3 trees (8 leaves already). Transplanted to larger pots but hope they survive as I am moving 170 miles north. I will try to keep them in larger pots as they grow and hopefully plant outside in the spring.

Loved he info

Viet Doan (author) from Big Island, Hawaii on April 26, 2019:

Sorry yumeshan but I don't have an answer for your question regarding diabetic diet. All I know is that Peanut Butter fruit is rich in fibers and antioxidants like many other fruits and vegetables. And it tastes delicious!

yumeshan on April 26, 2019:

is there any healthy benefits of this fruit ? because my grandma says it reduces sugar level and good for diabetic patients ....

slu on February 23, 2019:

have any other value in this plant

ginah sta barbara on October 10, 2018:

I love this fruit i have one in my rooftop garden. The birds like to eat the flowers fortunately when rainy season comes they left some flowers to bloom so i was able to taste these fruit.

Aaron on September 27, 2018:

The fruit looks delicious. I bought 1 last year, but it died. Looking forward to see if I can successful grow another one her in San Diego. Thanks for sharing this post.

Viet Doan (author) from Big Island, Hawaii on September 12, 2018:

Thanks Rajapaksa for your question. Peanut butter fruit does not relate to apricot at all! The fruit looks somewhat like an apricot but is much smaller and belongs to a completely different genus. I'm sure you also have many other fruits in your garden in Srilanka that we grow here in Hawaii. Aloha!

Rajapaksa Piyatilake on September 10, 2018:

I have this fruit in my garden ,Srilanka. Is it another verity of Apricot? Pl. explain.

Sherry on May 20, 2018:

I would like to get your permission to use this article on our community garden blog site. We have a peanut butter bush and your article is more informative than I could ever write about the bush. Thanks so much!

Viet Doan (author) from Big Island, Hawaii on January 26, 2018:

Aloha Linda, I wish you could taste this fruit! May be one day in the near future, we can touch a picture of fruit, flower, or food on our computer screen and instantly get a taste or smell of it! Would that be fantastic?

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 26, 2018:

This fruit sounds unique and delicious. I've never heard of it before. I'd love to taste it!

Viet Doan (author) from Big Island, Hawaii on January 26, 2018:

Aloha K S Lane! I haven't tried to spread this fruit on toast! What a good idea! Next time when it's in season, I will try that and post an update.

Viet Doan (author) from Big Island, Hawaii on January 26, 2018:

Thank you Kristen for your comment. So glad you find the article (and the fruit!) interesting.

K S Lane from Melbourne, Australia on January 25, 2018:

This is awesome; I wish they'd grow in my backyard! Great Hub, but unfortunately you forgot to answer the most important question- can you spread this fruit on toast?!

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on January 25, 2018:

Viet, I never heard of a peanut butter fruit. I sure looks interesting and tasty enough to eat. Thanks for sharing.