I am always excited about the discovery of a new and delicious fruit and one of the real joys of traveling in tropical countries is that I have had the opportunity to taste so many different fruits.
My latest obsession is the mamey sapote, which is a fruit native to Cuba, now commonly found throughout Central America, as well as Florida. According to hearsay, when the fruit was introduced to other regions of Central America, people actually used to engage in physical fights just so they could get their hands on these unique fruits!
On the outside they are not much to look at with a tough brown skin that has been described as a cross between sandpaper and peach fuzz. But open them up and you reveal their vibrant salmon colored flesh surrounding a large seed, similar to that of an avocado.
I actually first tried them around this time last year but only once as they are not generally available here in Costa Rica. These wonderful fruits have just started popping up at the markets in the last two weeks so I was happy to try them again and they are even better than the ones from last season! The flavor and texture is really quite unique and unlike any other fruit I have ever eaten before.
The mamey sapote has a mildly sweet and earthy taste with a fragrant aroma. I would describe them as being reminiscent of sweet potato with a moist flesh that can range from creamy to somewhat fibrous. Their color is almost exactly like a sweet potato and they are both a rich source of beta carotene. Mamey sapotes also contribute significant amounts of niacin and potassium.
Baked sweet potato is one cooked food that I do enjoy, and if I had access to good ones I probably would eat them from time to time. The sweet potatoes at our local market are really starchy and pale so I don’t even bother.
But I would much prefer to dine on mamey sapotes any day! They provide me with a feeling of comfort and deep nourishment, while also being light and really easy to digest, which are the qualities I tend to really appreciate in any food.
Storage and ripening of mamey sapotes is a little tricky. They are ready when they are soft to touch and they should have a fair amount of give when pressed gently with your fingertips.
I have found the ripening process to be really unpredictable. One day they can be rock hard and the next day perfectly ripe and ready to eat. At this stage if you leave them any longer than a day they will become over-ripe and pretty much inedible. I’ve also found that a batch of these fruits don’t all ripen at the same time.
Sometimes I feel like I am at their mercy – forced to wait until the sapote decides it is ready to be eaten – and I have to be patient as I check them each morning, as well as many times during the day, just in case. Out of about twelve sapotes I’ve only had one that failed to properly ripen and at $1.50 a pound I can accept this small percentage of loss.
I could provide you with a recipe using these fruits but frankly they are so good by themselves that there is no need to do anything other than slice them in half and scoop out the inner flesh with a spoon. The ones we got this week were large enough to be a meal in themselves and they have been a favorite item on my breakfast menu.
My husband decided he doesn’t really like them due to the mild astringency that some of them can have, especially on the flesh that is in contact with the skin. But for me this is very minor and is not always noticeable. Besides, this leaves me free to indulge, while he enjoys his papaya and banana, so it works out well, for me!
In case you find yourself with a whole lot of ripe sapotes they do freeze well and I think the frozen sapote would probably make a really delicious smoothie. Traditionally they were used to make ice cream and milkshakes with vanilla and nutmeg so you could improvise a smoothie with almond milk, frozen sapote and these flavorings and I am sure it would be amazing!
If it does so happen that we ever have an abundance of sapotes I’ll try it out and let you know. In the meantime, if you have an opportunity to try a delicious, ripe mamey sapote, let me know what you think. I’m sure you’ll love it!