Sapotaceae

Pouteria sapota - mamey sapote

Originating in Central America, Mamey has become common in the throughout Caribbean, Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador. It is widely cultivated in the American tropics, sold in produce markets and, to a lesser extent, supermarkets. Historical records indicate that the Mamey served as the principal source of food for Cortez and his soldiers during their march to Honduras in 1524. The fruit was a very important food source for the Mayan and Aztec civilizations.

Depending on weather it is grown from seed or grafted, and depending on the variety, the Mamey tree can take on a variety of forms. Larger seedling varieties can grow up to 30 m tall, grafted trees can be managed at a relatively low height. The fruit is large, 10 – 20 cm long, either round or oblong with a thick, rough peel. The bright reddish pulp surrounds a large shiny seed. The photos below show an exceptionally large fruit, the largest I have ever seen.

Good Mamey varieties can be very sweet and aromatic, eaten fresh, or used in fruit drinks and ice creams. In Central America the large seed kernel is traditionally toasted and ground with cacao to make a hot beverage. Medicinal properties are attributed to both the fruit and the seed. The fruit is rich in carbohydrates, vitamin A and C, calcium and phosphorous.

Synsepalum dulcificum - miracle fruit

The Miracle Fruit is native to West Africa where it is cultivated in backyard plantings. Today it has been introduced to Florida, California and numerous tropical areas of the world, however you will find most people have never heard of it. The fruit is more of a novelty then a significant source of food or nutrients, however there appears to be increasing interest in the berry and the incredible sweetening effects it has when eaten in conjunction with sour and acidic foods.

The taste of the fruit itself is nothing spectacular to speak of. There is relatively little fruit around the shiny seed. The pulp tastes somewhat like a cherry. However, due to a substance in the fruit called ‘miriculine’ it has the power to inhibit the receptors of sour and acidic flavors on your tongue, thus rendering certain foods sweet when normally they are sour, such as lemons, tomatoes, beer, some cheeses, hot sauce, vinegar, wine, and so forth. Miracle fruit changes the flavor of foods and beverages that you wouldn’t typically consider to be sour or acidic, and some foods are not affected at all.

There is growing interest in this fruit looking into its potential applications in cancer and diabetes research.

The tree is small, with attractive foliage, and, when in fruit, covered in bright red berries. I have a huge number of these trees in urban nurseries, they are great for container growing and seem to produce more fruit when its roots are somewhat contained.

Article from the New York Times: A Tiny Fruit That Tricks the Tongue

Manilkara zapota - Chico Sapote, Nispero

Indigenous to Mexico and Central America, Sapodilla (or Chico Sapote) is a traditional food plant of the Mayan and Aztec cultures and the source of chewing gum, or chicle, chewed by the Aztecs in pre-Colombian ties, still used in some commercial gums. The tree has spread to other parts of the tropical world, becoming a minor fruit crop. Although grafted varieties can be managed low, larger trees can reach a height of 20 m. The tree is evergreen and produces round or egg-shaped fruits, which vary in size. Good varieties can be truly incredible. A good Sapodilla tastes like brown sugar, very sweet and slightly gritty like pears.

Pouteria campechiana - Eggfruit, Canistel

egg-fruit-canistel
egg-fruit-canistel

Canistel originates in Mexico and Central America where it has been cultivated since antiquity. It is now very common in Cuba and tropical America from Florida to Uruguay, it can also be found in the Philippines and Malaysia. The tree is typically managed between five and eight meters high. The fruit is five to ten centimeters long and round, or in the form of a egg with a point. The pulp is firm and almost powder, likened to the texture of a hardboiled egg yolk. It has a very rich flavor and texture. A fantastic fruit, in my opinion. I have heard that cheesecake made out of the fruit pulp is exceptional. Due to its almost powdery texture, the eggfruit is highly versatile and can be integrated into virtually any kind of blended drink or dish.

The fruit contains up to 40% carbohydrates, 2.5% protein, and is  great source of Vitamins A, B3, and C.

Canistel is adaptable to a wide variety of soils and can be grown in both tropical and subtropical climates, as long as there is no freeze. It is very drought tolerant.