The Mamey Sapote is a rare fruit species that deserves greater recognition than it has received to date. Pouteria sapota belongs to the family Sapotaceae. Other fruits in this family are the Caimito, the Sapodilla, the Canistel, the Abiu and the Miracle Fruit, so it is an important family of tropical fruit species. The Mamey is native to the tropical lowland forests of Central and South America and the West Indies. It is now grown in Australia, Florida and other tropical countries. In its native range, it can be confused with a tree called the Mamey Apple (Mamey americana), which is in the Guttiferae family and is a relative of the Mangosteen. The Mamey Apple often grows in the same areas as the Mamey Sapote.
The fruit of the Mamey Sapote is roughly the size of an apple up to the size of a grapefruit. The skin is leathery and brown, the creamy flesh is orange in color and the fruit contains one large seed. The flavor is a bit like a combination of an apricot and a peach or has been described as tasting like spicy pumpkin. The fruits are picked while hard and can take several days before they are soft enough to eat. Once soft, they can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week with no loss of flavor. They can be eaten like a peach or chopped up into small pieces to add to a salad or blended to make a delicious milkshake. They can also be used to make jams and jellies. Unripe fruit can even be cooked as a vegetable.
Mamey trees can handle a wide variety of soil types as long as there is good drainage. They cannot tolerate frost and are listed as a strictly tropical tree, although they may grow in subtropical climates with protection. They are slow-growing and take five years at least before they flower and fruit. Fruit set is also slow, taking up to 18 months from flowering to maturation.
Mamey have been cultivated for centuries in Central America, where they are still very popular. It is the fruit that kept Cortez and his army alive on their march from Mexico City to Honduras. Central Americans also use it for medicinal purposes, and it is believed to have a number of health benefits. Eating Mameys is reputed to protect one from bowel cancer, to lower blood pressure and protect against heart disease. The fruit is high in vitamin C and calcium and so can protect against osteoporosis. In southern Cuba, Mamey Sapote is used to treat headaches and venereal diseases.
This is definitely a fruit that should be made more available in stores. It can be picked hard so there is time to ship it to markets. It is a good-looking fruit with a beautiful taste. It deserves to be better known.