What is a Mamey Sapote?
Mamey sapote (Pouteria sapota) is an extraordinarily versatile tropical fruit that has been cultivated in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Central America since the days of the Aztecs. It looks quite dramatic when ripe, with its red-orange skin and bright pink flesh, yet it is no surprise as to why it is so beloved by people who have grown up with it in their diets. Mamey sapote is incredibly sweet and juicy, with a lightly spiced flavor that can be likened to almond, apricot and pumpkin custard, or the combination of marzipan and banana.
The Mamey Sapote tree can reach a height of 40 meters and is primarily grown in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and throughout the Caribbean. It is most popularly used in desserts or eaten fresh, but is also canned or frozen for longer shelf life. The seeds have also been used to extract oil for cooking. Despite its delectable flavor, the Mamey Sapote is also exceedingly nutritious and is abundant with essential vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A and C, iron, and calcium, making it invaluable in many traditional diets.
A mature Mamey Sapote tree can yield over 15 to 20 edible fruits each year, with each fruit typically weighing from 2 to 5 lbs. The fruit matures from late summer to early winter when it is harvested and can then reach maturity in 4 to 8 weeks if stored properly. Once ripe, the fruit will easily yield to finger pressure and can be peeled by peeling away its tough skin, revealing the smooth, pale orange flesh beneath.
Mamey Sapote has a unique flavor that some compare to prunes, cinnamon, or cherries. This smooth, creamy texture allows it to be used in all types of dishes, from savory to sweet. It is also an important base ingredient in traditional and modern drinks, such as milkshakes, smoothies, and fruit cocktails. For those looking to take advantage of the nutrition packed into one fruit, Mamey Sapote can be the perfect addition to extend meals and snacks.
The most popular way to eat Mamey Sapote is raw, right off the tree. If stored properly, it can be kept for up to 3 weeks at room temperature or up to 6 months in the refrigerator. Frozen, it can last for up to 1 year. Nutritional content is highest when eaten raw, as heat can destroy certain vitamins and minerals in the fruit.
In Central America and the Caribbean, Mamey Sapote is traditionally served as a syrup for ice cream, ices and other desserts, but can also be boiled and served sweetened as a side dish, boiled and mashed as an ingredient for dips, or pureed and mixed with crushed ginger candy for a popular cold drink. In Mexico it is blended into milkshakes known as "mamimel” and is often seen in popular Mexican Mole dishes as well. Mamey Sapote is also a key ingredient in several jams, jellies and sauces, and its powdered version is used to make sweetened desserts such as flan.
When buying Mamey Sapote, opt for fruits that are firm to the touch, with the bright orange skin. Any blemishes or dark spots on the skin indicate damage, so avoid these. It is also wise to purchase fruits that are larger, as they are more established and contain more flavor. Finally, store fruits in a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight.
In conclusion, the Mamey Sapote is an incredibly versatile and nutritious fruit that has been enjoyed for centuries in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Central America. Its sweet and fragrant flavor combined with its nutritive value make it a great choice as an ingredient in both sweet and savory recipes, while its rich color and texture make it an impressive presentation option. Whether you decide to try a Mamey Sapote Jam or a milkshake, this unique and delicious tropical super fruit is sure to delight your taste buds!