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

Pouteria campechiana - Eggfruit, 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.

Eugenia stipitada - Araza

Thought to be native to the Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon, still not very widely cultivated. Araza is typically consumed fresh, used to prepare excellent juices. The flavor and texture is considered to be superior to the guava. The most notable benefits of this species are, A) that it is shade loving. Unlike most fruit trees, Araza prefers at least partial shade. I have seen it growing and producing fruit in the dappled shade of understory, below two canopies. B) Given the right conditions the tree can bear fruit within a year and a half or two years of growth. Once a tree begins bearing it can be depended up on to flower and fruit fairly consistently. C) Fruit are large, seeds are easy to separate. D) The fruit is versatile. Excellent as a base for sauces, juices, and so forth. Usually used for juices. Consumed with Miracle Fruit it is almost disgustingly sweet. Araza is extremely rich in carbohydrates (7%) and vitamin B1.

The tree thrives in humid tropical climates, adapted to at least 2,000 mm annual rainfall and to poor, acidic soils.

Lecythis elliptica - Mini-Brazil Nut, Monkey Pot

This is a fantastic tree. I found it in a stand of three in a somewhat neglected Summit botanic gardens outside of Panama City. I have collected seed from these trees for years. Today all of the other Lecythis spp. were flowering profusely, this one was full of ripe pods. I already have about ten very healthy trees going in my nursery. Inside the baseball size capsule (a miniature version of L. zabucajo), there are numerous nuts packed together. A cream colored aril is attached to the end of each nut, the aril tastes like anise but I'm not entirely sure if its edible. The nut itself is one of the best tasting tropical nuts I have eaten, identical in taste to its close relatives, perhaps superior to Brazil Nut, although maybe that's because I was eating them fresh.The nut can be eaten fresh or roasted. In Brazil, an oil is extracted from the nuts to make soap.

The Pili nut (Canarium ovatum) is another great tropical nut.

See related info in entry for Lecythis zabucajo, Sapucaia Nut

Eugenia uniflora - Suriname Cherry

Suriname Cherry originates in Brazil from Bahia to the south; along with jaboticaba, it is one of the most common fruits in the country.

In humid tropical climates the tree can surpass 7 m in height. In subtropical regions it typically doesn’t get much taller then 2-4 m.

The foliage is very decorative, bright green with various hues of red in new leaf growth.

The fruit has many uses, but is typically eaten raw. There exist red and purple varieties, which can be either sweet or acidic. It is considered to be one of the best Myrtaceae fruits. The tree bears abundantly, its fruits typically used in preserves, ice creams, syrups, wines and liquors.

The leaves of the tree emit a pleasant aroma when crushed, the smell is employed as a deterrent for flies and mosquitoes. To this end, it is Brazilian custom to scatter crushed leaves on the floors of ones home. The flowers attract honeybees, considered to be a desirable species for apiculture.

The fruit contains 6% sugar, 1% protein and is very acidic, and rich in vitamin C, 25 – 43 mg per 100 g.

Trees are adapted to the humid tropics and subtropics, from sea level up to 1,700 meters altitude, but they thrive in lower elevation, hot, humid tropical climates. In dryer regions the tree benefits from irrigation, which enables it to produce more abundantly. The tree can adapt to all kinds of soils, from sandy to clay.