Mamey sapote (scientific name Pouteria sapota) is indigenous to Central America and this species is found growing naturally over a place ranging from the southern regions of Mexico to the southern areas of Costa Rica. Currently, this species is cultivated in several regions outside Central America and Mexico such as South Florida and the Caribbean. Mamey sapote trees are basically cultivated for their fruits, which are consumed by people in several Latin American nations. The species is known by different names in different countries. For instance, it is called mamey or zapote colorado in Costa Rica, people in South America call this fruit zapote rojo and nispero. In addition, there are a number of other common or local names of this tree.
Mamey sapote is an extremely ornamental evergreen tree and a mature tree reaches a height of anything between 15 meters and 45 meters (60 feet and 140 feet). Similar to several other fruit trees, grafting is the main technique used for propagating mamey sapote. Propagating the trees through grafting ensures that the original traits of the parent plants are passed on to their progeny, particularly the quality of the fruit. Moreover, trees propagated by grafting not only have a more rapid growth rate, but also bear fruits sooner compared to those propagated from their seeds.
The leaves of mamey sapote trees are somewhat unique - pointed at both ends and growing in clusters in branch terminals. Each leaf is anything between 4 inches and 12 inches long.
Mamey sapote fruit is large, measuring anything between 10 cm and 25 cm (4 inches and 10 inches) in length and between 8 cm and 12 cm (3 inches and 5 inches) in width. The color of the fruit's flesh may differ - it may be pink, orange or even red. The fruit's flavour is akin to an appetizing pumpkin. In fact, the mamey sapote fruit is valued highly and it is available in several varieties.
It is worth mentioning here that mamey sapote is among the three different species of tropical fruits that has a common name - sapote. The other two unrelated fruits having the same name are the white sapote and the black sapote. An important fruit of the tropical and sub-tropical regions, mamey sapote is native to Central America and Mexico. Usually, the size of this fruit bears resemblance to that of a softball or a baseball. The flesh of ripe mamey sapote fruits has a wonderful orange color and tastes mildly sweet.
When grown in favourable conditions, mamey sapote trees grow vigorously and are very ornamental. As these trees have their origin in seasonal dry forest lands, they will grow best when they get a pronounced dry period. Nevertheless, mamey sapote trees also thrive well in hot, humid summer and flower as well as fruit well in this condition too.
Similar to any other tropical fruit, you can grow mamey sapote as a novelty indoors. This species can also be propagated from its seeds, provided you happen to get hold of a ripe fruit. Usually, the trees start bearing fruits after several years and each fruit may take about a year to ripen and be harvested from the trees. It is indeed a big challenge for any home gardener wanting to grow a mamey sapote indoors for its fruits. To grow this species, you need to provide the tree with a favourable location as well as sufficient space for it to expand as it grows. In addition, a mamey sapote tree grown in a home garden will require regular pruning, including cutting back its roots. All said and done, it can still be great fun to propagate a mamey sapote tree from its seed and grow it as something unique in your home.
The mamey sapote fruit has a brown skin whose surface is something between sandpaper and the fluff on a peach. You can confirm whether or not a mamey sapote fruit is ripe by removing a small portion of its skin. When ripe, its flesh will have a pink or orange hue. The flesh of this fruit is somewhat similar to that of a ripened kiwi.
People in Central America, which happens to be the place of the mamey sapote, use the plant as well as its fruits for various purposes. This is often grown in the form of a shade tree in coffee plantations, as the mamey sapote trees shed their leaves just when the coffee plants require plenty of sunlight. The heartwood of mamey sapote is not only reasonably durable, but also easy to work on. Hence, it is generally used in construction sites and also for making furniture and carts. The bark as well as the fruits of mamey sapote ooze milky latex that is used therapeutically in the form of an emetic and anthelminthic to eliminate warts as well as treat fungal shin infections.
Mamey sapote seeds enclose white-hued partially solid oil that is locally called zapoyola or sapuyulo. Earlier, people used this oil to bind paintings on gourds and fix other handicrafts. Even to this day, mamey sapote seed oil is used in the form of a sedative when treating problems related to the ears and eyes. In addition, the oil is used as a hair revitalizer and skin tonic by many. In fact, clinical trials have confirmed that this oil possesses the ability to stop hair loss due to seborrhoeic-dermatitis. Therefore, it is believed that this oil has great potentials in the pharmaceutical, soap and cosmetic industries. After extracting the oil from the seeds, the residue is employed in the form of a poultice to treat skin problems.
Consumption of mamey sapote fruit is said to augment the functioning of the immune system, while lessening the chances of developing colon cancer. In addition, this fruit is also beneficial for preventing heart ailments and treating high blood pressure (hypertension).
It has also been found that mamey sapote is useful for preventing osteoporosis. Many believe that mamey sapote possesses antiseptic properties. There are others who consume this fruit to treat stomach disorders. People in the southern regions of Cuba use this fruit to alleviate headaches and also treat venereal diseases.
An easy way to lose surplus weight or treat obesity is to consume more foods that are packed with nutrients and, at the same time, are filling. This way you add up very few calories and remain satiated for long. Mamey sapote is one fruit that not only keeps you filled, but also prevents hunger. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that about 30 percent of the carbohydrates contained by mamey sapote come from starch. As these are complex carbohydrates that are digested longer, they help one to remain filled for a long time.
What is more significant is that mamey sapote has very high dietary fiber content, offering soluble as well as insoluble fiber. The insoluble fibers in mamey sapote occupy much stomach space, thereby helping one to feel fuller even when he/ she has not consumed too many calories. On the other hand, the soluble fiber prolongs the period taken by the stomach to digest the ingested foods.
Mamey sapote is one fruit that is extremely beneficial for the health of our heart. The soluble fiber in this fruit helps to keep the levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, also called "bad cholesterol", in the bloodstream in check, which, in turn, reduces the risks of developing heart diseases. Mamey sapote also contains high amounts of potassium, an essential mineral, which is useful for keeping the blood pressure in check and also promote the normal functioning of the heart.
This fruit is also a wonderful source of vitamin C and this nutrient is useful for maintaining the health of the blood vessels, including capillaries. It also contains significant amount of vitamin E, which is effective in preventing the accumulation of plaque inside the blood vessels, thereby reducing the risks of stroke, heart attack and coronary artery disease. Antioxidants, vitamin C and vitamin E are effective in neutralizing the harmful free radicals and protecting the heart from several diseases, chronic ailments and other damages caused by the free radicals. In fact, vitamin E is especially useful for the health of our cardiovascular system. This nutrient aids in putting off oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which damages the arteries.
Mamey sapote is packed with antioxidant poly-phenolic compounds, which work to put off heart diseases and even cancer. This fruit also possesses anti-inflammatory properties that not only help in promoting our health, but also keep the body additionally alkaline. Mamey sapote is beneficial for people enduring health conditions like gastric reflux, gastritis and irritating bowel syndrome (IBS). Several people also claim that mamey sapote possesses aphrodisiac properties.
Apart from its several therapeutic attributes, mamey sapote fruit is also used for culinary purposes. The flesh of this fruit is soft and has an enjoyable and fragrant flavour. The pulp also does not contain any fiber or acidity. Mamey sapote fruits can also be consumed fresh. Many prefer to spoon out the delectable pulp from the hard rind. Some people also add the pulp of mamey sapote to ice creams.
The fruit usually appears in the markets between June and September and is widely found in the southern regions of Florida. If you do find mamey sapote in your area, opt for the firm fruits and keep them at room temperature for ripening. When ripe, mamey sapote becomes very soft and perishes very quickly. Ripe fruits should always be consumed immediately or you can even store them in a refrigerator for a brief period.
When consumed fresh and on its own, this fruit is a simple and healthy snack. Mamey sapote is very popular among people in Cuba, Mexico and several other countries. Traditionally, they have been using this naturally smooth fruit to prepare sapote ice cream. You can prepare a revitalizing dessert containing no added sugars by blending mamey sapote with low-fat milk, vanilla, ice and a smidge of cinnamon or nutmeg. You can also make an excellent tropical fruit salad by tossing chopped sapote with sliced mango, diced kiwi and pomegranate seeds.
Mamey sapote is also consumed raw or used to make smoothies, milkshakes, fruit bars and ice creams. Many people describe the fruits flavour differently. Some say that the flavour of mamey sapote is akin to that of a mixture of sweet potatoes, pumpkin and maraschino cherries and having the consistency of an avocado.
People in Mexico mill the mamey sapote seeds and use the flour to prepare various confectioneries. The milled seeds are also used individually or along with cacao for preparing a type of bitter chocolate.
Mamey sapote is indigenous to the low altitude regions located between northern South America and southern Mexico. Currently, this species is cultivated extensively in several other areas, including many places in the Caribbean, Central America and south Florida.
Several mamey sapote trees are also seen flourishing in places having tropical climatic conditions with more than 75 inches annual rainfall. These trees, however, cannot tolerate long periods of drought and shed their leaves quickly in such situations. On the other hand, mamey sapote succeeds well in areas receiving sufficient sunlight. Therefore, it is important that you expose the young mamey sapote plants as well as the seedlings to maximum light possible, counting full sunlight.
Generally, the most excellent varieties of mamey sapote are propagated by means of grafting. Trees propagated by this method may start bearing fruits in just one to four years of their planting. On the other hand, trees propagated by their seeds usually take as long as 10 years to bear fruits.
However, most people more often than not grow mamey sapote from their seeds. It has been found that most people usually eat the fruit and use its seeds to propagate the species. In order to grow mamey sapote from its seeds you must take the fresh seeds, allow them to dry and sow them in moist soil in a container. Alternatively, you can also propagate mamey sapote by means of air layering - a method that is widely used by people growing the species commercially. When grown from cuttings, the plants usually do not develop proper roots. Therefore, it is advisable that preferably you do not propagate mamey sapote by this method.
Mamey sapotes require normal watering, but ensure that you don't water the plants so much that they are left water-logged. These plants thrive better when there is a distinct dry period. While the plants have a loathing for extreme cold weather conditions, they can tolerate cooler winters. Mamey sapote can be grown successfully on a variety of soils varying from heavy sandy clay, to heavy clays and even on light limestone soils. These plants cannot endure even slightest water logging. It is advisable that you provide the plants with a diluted liquid citrus fertilizer all through their growing season.
Mamey sapote trees grow at a very slow pace. However, they have an exceptionally long life span and several trees keep bearing fruits for more than 100 years! Usually, the mamey sapote fruits take about a year to mature. As a result, you can often see young as well as ripening fruits on the same tree at the same time.
The fruit is an excellent source of vitamin B6 and vitamin C, and is a good source of riboflavin, niacin, vitamin E, manganese, potassium, copper, carbohydrates, proteins and dietary fiber. Research has identified several new carotenoids from the ripe fruit.
It is quite hard to determine the precise time that is ideal for harvesting mamey sapote. Sometimes you can pick the fruits when their color starts changing to red; while, on other occasions, you may be required to collect the samples of the fruits to examine the color of the soft tissues or flesh. It is important to remember that you should never harvest the mamey sapote fruits when the shoots of the plants are still growing actively. This is because the fruits will not be completely ripe while the shoots are in active growth mode. Usually, harvesting poles and harvesting baskets are used to collect the fruits from tall trees. Once the fruit is picked, harvesters trim the stalk and pack the fruits in baskets or boxes. Mamey sapote fruits are climacteric and it may take a few days even for mature fruits to ripen completely.