Urticaceae (Nettle family)
The ashes of the leaves of P. cecropiifolia are chewed together with coca leaves by indigenous Colombian tribes to enhance the effect of the drug.
Description. Medium-sized, evergreen, sparsely branched tree, 10-20 m (33-66 ft) tall, with a cylindrical trunk. Leaves palmately compound with 9-11 oblong to lanceolate leaflets with prominent veins, each leaflet 20-35 cm (8-14 in) long with a petiole 15-35 cm (6-14 in) long. Small white dioecious flowers are produced in erect inflorescences in the axils of leaves. Fruits in pendent racemes of 20 or more fruits.
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Each fruit globose, dark purple, 2-4 cm (0.4-0.8 in) in diameter with a leathery, inedible skin. Translucent to whitish pulp juicy, very sweet with a taste reminiscent of grapes with a hint of vanilla. Each fruit contains one light brown seed. Origin and Distribution. Native to the Amazon basin of South America. Very rarely grown outside its natural range. The tree is ultratropical, requiring year-round high temperature and humidity. It is cultivated by indigenous tribes of the Amazon region and can often be seen close to human settlements.
Food uses. The sweet fruits must be peeled and are then eaten fresh or made into jams and jellies. In South America, a refreshing drink is prepared from the fruits, which are blended with water, ice, and sugar. Uvillas can be fermented to produce a wine. The toasted seeds are ground and made into a coffeelike beverage.
Comments. The genus Pourouma consists of more than 50 species, of which several produce edible fruits. Fruits are very fragile and do not keep well after being harvested, limiting their commercial viability. The ashes of the leaves of P. cecropiifolia are chewed together with coca leaves by indigenous Colombian tribes to enhance the effect of the drug.
Description. Medium to tall evergreen tree, 10-35 m (33-115 ft) tall, with white or reddish sticky latex in all plant parts. Alternate leaves elliptic or ovate-oblong, 10-25 cm (4-10 in) long, tapering at base. Small white or greenish-white flowers, 5-9 mm (0.20.35 in) wide, are borne singly or in small clusters in the axils of leaves. Bright yellow, ovoid or nearly spherical fruits measure 5-12 cm (2-5 in) in diameter, sometimes with a short nipple at the apex and a thick, smooth skin. Pulp soft, sweet, mucilaginous, with 1-4 brown oblong seeds.
Origin and Distribution. Native to the western Amazon region of South America. The tree requires a tropical climate with high humidity throughout the year. It is frequently grown as a dooryard tree in tropical regions of Central and South America, but rarely elsewhere. Abiu fruits can be found regularly in the markets of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Brazil.
Food uses. The fruits have a quite subtle flavor and are usually eaten fresh. They should be fully ripe for consumption to avoid the sticky latex present in even slightly underripe fruits. In the Para region of Brazil, the fruit is made into sherbets and ice cream. The pulp can be mixed with yogurt as a breakfast dish. The chilled flesh sprinkled with lime juice is sometimes eaten as dessert.
Comments. Because of its specific name caimito, the plant is sometimes confused with Chrysophyllum cainito, the star apple (p. 61) native to the West Indies, which is also called caimito in Spanish. In Brazil the pulp of the abiu is eaten to ease coughs and bronchitis.
Description. Medium sized evergreen tree, 20-30 m (66-100 ft) tall. Leaves alternate, lanceolate-oblong, 10-30 cm (4-12 in) long by 4-8 cm (1.6-3 in) wide. Flowers whitish, fragrant, solitary or in small clusters in axils of leaves. Fruits vary greatly in shape but are usually round, ovoid, or spindle-shaped with a short, pointed apex and measure 4-7 cm (1.6-2.8 in) in diameter. Skin smooth, yellow to orange-yellow with mealy, soft, and rather dry flesh with the consistency of hard-boiled egg yolk and a sweet, musky taste. Fruits contain 1-4 glossy brown seeds. Origin and Distribution. Native to southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The canistel is a common dooryard tree in Yucatan, Mexico. The plant is cultivated on a small scale in most countries of tropical America and also in parts of Southeast Asia. The tree thrives in moist, tropical climates with a short dry season but can also be grown in humid tropical climates and warm subtropical regions like southern Florida.
Food uses. Canistel fruits can be eaten fresh but are more often used for making pies, puddings, and bakery goods like cupcakes, pastries, and also pancakes. The fruits are sometimes eaten with salt, pepper, and mayonnaise. The seeded pulp is often blended with sugar and milk to make delicious milk shakes or ice cream.
Comments. The species name of the fruit is derived from the Mexican town and state of Campeche on the peninsula of Yucatan. Ripe fruits are a good source of vitamins A and B, niacin, and minerals like calcium. The fruit is sometimes called Mayan egg fruit because of the resemblance of the flesh to boiled egg yolk and its origin in southern Mexico. Description. Small to medium-sized evergreen tree, 10-20 m (33-66 ft) tall. All plant parts contain white, sticky latex. Alternate leaves often clustered at tips of branches. Blades lanceolate to elliptic, 10-24 cm (4-9.5 in) long by 5 to 8 cm (2-3 in) wide. Yellowish flowers are borne in clusters in axils of leaves along branches. Yellowish-green, smooth-skinned, globose to ovoid fruits 15-20 cm (6-8 in) in diameter, with pale yellow, somewhat mealy, sweet-tasting pulp containing 1-4 light brown seeds. Origin and Distribution. Native to tropical lowland regions of Central America. The tree is occasionally cultivated as a dooryard tree within its natural range, but very rare elsewhere.
Food uses. Sweet, fully ripe sweet fruits taste similar to the sapote (P. sapota, p. 196) and are commonly eaten out of hand. The fruit is occasionally used to make desserts or fruit juice by blending the pulp with ice, sugar, and water.
Comments. About 21 species of the genus Pouteria, which is widespread in the tropical regions of the world, produce edible fruits. The canistel (P. campe-chiana) and sapote in particular, both native to tropical America, are of commercial importance.
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