January 24, 2012

Sapote

The sapote is credited with sustaining Cortez and his army in their historic march from Mexico City to Honduras. The fruit is of such importance to the Indians of Central America and Mexico that they usually leave this tree standing when clearing land for coffee plantations or other purposes. They generally eat the fruit out-of-hand or spooned from the half-shell. In urban areas, the pulp is made into jam or frozen as sherbet. In Cuba, fibrous types are set aside for processing.

A prominent dairy in Miami has for many years imported sapote pulp from Central America to prepare and distribute commercially as "Spanish sherbet". In Cuba, a thick preserve called "crema de mamey colorado "is very popular. The pulp is sometimes employed as a filler in making guava cheese.

The decorticated seeds, called zapoyotas, sapuyules, or sapuyulos, strung on sticks or cords, are marketed in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico, and in Central America. The kernel is boiled, roasted and mixed with cacao in making chocolate–some say to improve the flavor, others say to increase the bulk, in which case it is actually an adulterant. In Costa Rica, it is finely ground and made into a special confection. Around Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, the ground-up kernel is mixed with parched corn, or cornmeal, sugar and cinnamon and prepared as a nutritious beverage called "pozol".

In Santo Domingo, the seed kernel oil is used as a skin ointment and as a hair dressing believed to stop falling hair. In Mexico, 2 or 3 pulverized kernels are combined with 10 oz (300 g) castor oil for application to the hair. In 1970, clinical tests at the University of California at Los Angeles failed to reveal any hair-growth promoting activity but confirmed that the oil of sapote seed is effective in stopping hair-fall caused by seborrheic dermatitis. The oil is employed as a sedative in eye and ear ailments. The seed residue after oil extraction is applied as a poultice on painful skin afflictions.

A seed infusion is used as an eyewash in Cuba. In Mexico, the pulverized seed coat is reported to be a remedy for coronary trouble and, taken with wine, is said to be helpful against kidney stones and rheumatism. The Aztecs employed it against epilepsy. The seed kernel is regarded as a digestive; the oil is said to be diuretic. The bark is bitter and astringent and contains lucumin, a cyanogenic glycoside. A decoction of the bark is taken as a pectoral. In Costa Rica a "tea" of the bark and leaves is administered in arteriosclerosis and hypertension. The milky sap is emetic and anthelmintic and has been used to remove warts and fungal growths on the skin.