Foods Indigenous to the Western Hemisphere


Monstera deliciosa

Swiss Cheese Plant, Monstera, Mexican Breadfruit, Pinanona, Window Leaf

By Scott Sheu

A member of the arum lily family, the Monstera deliciosa (or monstera) is a beautiful plant that bears the ceriman, an unusual and sometimes frustrating fruit.  It is sometimes referred to as the “Swiss Cheese plant” in reference to the holes in its leaves.

Geographical description

The monstera plant is native to Mexico and Guatemala.  It can be found growing in the wet, dense forests of the region.  The fruit is not commonly consumed outside the Central American region, though the plant has gone as far as England, India, Singapore, Queensland and the United States.  It is often grown as an ornamental plant in warmer parts of the world due to its beautiful leaves.

Biological description

            The monstera is a creeper vine that can grow to a large size in its natural habitat and reach up to 70 feet.  They can grow on the floors of tropical jungle as well as wind their way around trees.  The stems are thick, green, and have numerous roots growing out of them that reach down to the ground.  The leaves are glossy green and grow up to 3 feet.  The individual leaf is separated into strips and has holes throughout it.

            The plant bears beautiful, white flowers that resemble calla lilies.  It surrounds the ceriman fruit, which has been described as resembling a “green corn cob” because of the green scales covering the cob-shaped spike (Davidson).  The fruit is divided into segments corresponding with the scales.  The fruit takes a full year to ripen; until then, any attempt to eat it will result in a mouthful of oaxic acid, which can be quite irritating.  As it ripens, the fruit will “peel itself” by loosening the scales and its fruit from the core.

Culinary Usage

            The aromatic taste of the ceriman has been described as cross between a banana, pineapple, and mango.  When fully ripened, the fruit can be served in a fruit salad or with a little cream (Morton).  The ceriman is also frequently cooked with lime juice and sugar to create preserves.

Other Usages

            The monstera is a popular decorate plant and is commonly grown as such throughout the world.  The plant itself is poisonous (besides the fruit) is therefore rarely used, though the most common usage includes weaving the roots into baskets in Mexico.  Leaf or root infusions are used to treat arthritis in Mexico while the root is also used to treat snakebite in Martinique.



Duke, Jim. "Tico Ethnobotanical Dictionary." GRIN National Genetic Resources Program. Web. 16 Apr. 2010. <>.

Janick, Jules, and Robert E. Paull. The Encyclopedia of Fruit and Nuts. Cambridge, MA: CABI North American Office, 2006. Google Books. Web.

"Monstera Deliciosa - Swiss Cheese Plant." Tropilab Inc. Web. <>.

Morton, Julia. "Ceriman.” Fruits of Warm Climates. Miami: Florida Flair Books, 1987. Web.

National Geographic. Edible: An Illustrated Guide to the World's Food Plants. Washington D.C.: National Geographic, 2008. Print.