06 August 2011

Booby Fruit

In my last post which was entitled "Fanny Fruit" I wrote about the Fig, the Mango Manila, and in particular, the Mango Petacón. Today I am writing about another favorite fruit of mine, the "Mamey Sapote" (mah-MAY sah-POH-tay) which is commonly called simply "mamey". The mamey sapote looks like a little brown football. Whenever I see one I have to stifle the urge to pick it up and throw a touchdown pass to my wife Gina. The problem is that the people in the market frown on this practice and so does Gina. The outer skin has a texture somewhat between sandpaper and the fuzz on a peach. To choose a mamey you scratch the outer skin with your fingernail. If it is ripe the inner skin will appear red. Even though the inner skin is red, if the mamey is still a bit firm you need to let it sit for a day or two (or three) until it becomes slightly soft to the touch. You open a mamey the same way you would open an avocado. First cut all around it lengthwise down to the seed and then separate the two halves. Inside you will find a smooth and creamy orange colored treat that tastes sweet and musky. Some people say that it tastes like a cross between pumpkin and sweet potato but I say that a mamey tastes just like a mamey...it has a distinct flavor all to its own. I like to enhance the flavor by squeezing lime juice over it. Mamey can also be incorporated into milkshakes, smoothies, ice cream, and fruit bars. Yum!

The mamey sapote is indigenous to Mexico and in the native Nahuatl language mamey sapote is "tetzontzapotl". The first part "tezon" comes from the native word for tezontle which is a red volcanic rock that was used for constructing temples and also used extensively by the Spanish during the colonial period as a general building material. The reddish brown color of tezontle is similar to the color of mamey. The second part of "tetzontzapotl" or "tzapotl" is a Nahuatl term for a soft, edible fruit and it is from "tzapotl" that we get "sapote". In fact the Latin taxonomic name Sapotaceae for the the plant family that contains the mamey was derived from "sapote". So, where did the name "mamey" come from? Well, that too, is an interesting story.

These days the genus and species names for the mamey sapote are "Pouteria sapota". There are 188 species that belong to the genus "Pouteria". The name comes from the term "pourama-pouteri" meaning "eggfruit" in the language of the natives on the northeast coast of South America. Originally, however, the taxonomic name for the mamey was "Achras mammosa" back in the early 1700's when the scientific names for the plants of Central and South America were still being sorted out. The word "achras" means "wild pear tree" in Latin and the word "mammosa" is formed from the Latin root mamma, meaning "breast", with the suffix -ose, which adds the meaning of "abounding in", "full of", or "rich in". There was a mythical Roman goddess named Fortuna Mammosa who was purported to have such qualities. Since the mamey fruit really does resemble a pendulous breast the transition from "mammosa" to "mamey" was only natural. That is why I call the mamey "booby fruit". I just love those boobies.


Monica said...

That's my favourite Mexican fruit (maybe because we cannot find it in Europe) and it will be missed a lot when we go back home. Anyone knows how comes it's not exported? It's not even fragile, to claim it will not last long.

Bob Mrotek said...

Two things come to mind: 1.) It is expensive to grow. It takes a mamey fruit two years to grow and mature. 2.) Even though it may ship well it is best eaten when ripe and that ripeness window only lasts for a couple of days. That is why if you can find it in a U.S. supermarket a mature and almost ripe mamey will cost about four bucks as opposed to about eighty cents here.

Monica said...

then one can only go to Mexico to taste it. They should exploit this, when promoting the country! :))

Don Cuevas said...

Bob, I've made pie with the mamey sapote on a few occasions. (Thanksgiving, Christmas). You make it much like pumpkin pie, except this doesn't need as much sugar nor does it need to be masked by much sweet spice.

It's like a cross between a pumpkin and a sweet potato pie, but something is different.

On the other had, I didn't much care for a mamey licuado I made not long ago.

Don Cuevas

Michael Wolf said...

The flavor of mameys isn't like anything else I've had, I sometimes compare it to cough medicine--in a good way!

My hint for the best mamey licuado you'll ever have: add a touch of cinnamon and cocoa powder. Also, be sure that the milk is cold.

Also, Bob, you forgot one other thing about its name: if they cost too much on a given day, you can just say, "¡No mameyes!"

Bob Mrotek said...

Oye Michael,

¡No seas mamey!

1st Mate said...

A young fruit vendor in the mercado in San Blas introduced me to mameys, and I was about to decide it was my new favorite fruit, but she ruined it by selling me a couple more which had passed that tiny "window of maturity" and were black and diseased-looking inside. Ugh! From the outside, they looked and felt exactly like the perfect one I first tasted.

oaxaca charlie said...

In Oaxaca the big seeds (hueso de mamey, aka Pisle) are roasted and then hand ground as a main ingredient of the wonder drink tejate.
I've been in mountains in the Sierra Sur where mameys are the biggest tallest trees, covering 1/2 of ground, 100 ft. tall. Only a few men in the region are willing and able to climb those trees and toss the fruit down. The ones that burst on impact still have some value from the oil rich seeds.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.