Originating in Mexico and Central America, mamey or mamey sapote (Pouteria sapota) is a tree fruit grown in parts of Florida and other tropical locales.
Trees have thick trunks, large leaves up to 12 inches long, and typically reach an average height of 40 feet in Florida, but may grow to 60 feet in more tropical locations. Trees produce white flowers that cluster towards the ends of branches. Seedling trees begin to bear fruit after 7 years or longer while grafted trees begin in 3 to 5 years.
Most mamey varieties are 3 to 8 inches in length and considered a berry, with a circular or egg shape. The fruit has thick brownish skin with a rough surface and pink-orange, reddish pulp when mature. The pulp is soft, with a smooth to finely granular texture. The fruit generally contains a single large seed, but may have up to four with a shiny, hard, dark brown exterior.
Types & Varieties
There are multiple cultivars with variations in shape, size, and pulp quality, as well as color of the fruit. Pantin and Magana account for the most acreage in Florida; other varieties that can produce at different times of the year include Tazumal and Pace.
Mamey sapote has been cultivated in United States, Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies, including the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. In the United States, mamey is grown in southern Florida, with most acreage found in Miami-Dade County.
Since mamey sapote generally requires high moisture levels, it is planted just prior to the rainy season for root development. Florida plantings are spaced 15 to 20 feet between trees with 25 to 30 feet between rows. Branches too close to each other are pruned; wider-angled branches will support greater weight and are less likely to suffer wind damage.
In Florida, harvest can occur all year with the exception of March, as varieties have different peak dates. Fruit should be harvested only when mature and pulp is orange or red. If pulp is green, fruit should be left on the tree to ripen. If picked immature, fruit will not soften, and pulp will turn dark brown and be inedible. Growers may brush and clean skin to improve the fruit’s appearance. Trees are picked by hand or with a long pole with workers using ladders and/or hydraulic lifts as necessary.
Pests & Diseases
Few insects cause significant damage to mamey sapote. Larvae of the Cuban May beetle and moths that attack blooms are among the more serious pests. The female May beetle deposits eggs in the soil and the larvae feed on plant roots.
Little is known regarding the bloom moth, that while in larval form, occasionally causes damage to blooms.
Two principle diseases affect production in Florida: anthracnose and algal spot. The former attacks flowers, leaves, and fruit. Infected flowers develop lesions, eventually leading to blackening and death. Algal spot appears as greenish-grey raised round areas on leaves. Numerous infections can cause leaf drop and limb damage.
Storage & Packaging
A fruit wax is sometimes applied to reduce moisture loss and to help varieties like Magana soften more uniformly during handling and shipping. Mamey sapote is usually packed in 25- to 50-pound boxes.
Optimal shipping temperature is 55°F with 85 to 95% relative humidity. Chilling injury will result if stored at temperatures below 41°F for several days. Symptoms include failure to ripen, spots on the peel, off-flavors, and decay.
References: Florida Department of Agriculture, Purdue University, UC Davis Postharvest Technology Center, University of Florida, USDA.