|Fig. 54: The nance (Byrsonima crassifolia), though a minor fruit, has culinary and beverage uses in tropical America. The flowers furnish nectar for honeybees.|
The nance is a slow-growing large shrub or tree to 33 ft (10 m) high, or, in certain situations, even reaching 66 ft (20 m); varying in form from round-topped and spreading to narrow and compact; the trunk short or tall, crooked or straight. Young branches are densely coated with russet hairs. The opposite leaves, ovate to elliptic or oblong-elliptic, may be 1 1/4 to 6 1/2 in (3.2-17 cm) long and 1 1/2 to 2 3/4 in (4-7 cm) wide, rounded or pointed at the apex, blunt or pointed at the base; leathery, usually glossy on the upper surface and more or less brown- or gray-hairy on the underside. The flowers, borne in thinly or conspicuously red-hairy, erect racemes 4 to 8 in (10-20 cm) long, are 1/2 to 3/4 in (1.25-2 cm) wide; the 5 petals yellow at first, changing to dull orange-red. The fruit is peculiarly odorous, orange-yellow, round, 5/16 to 7/16 in (8-12 cm) wide, with thin skin and white, juicy, oily pulp varying in flavor from insipid to sweet, acid, or cheese-like. There is a single, fairly large, stone containing 1 to 3 white seeds.
Origin and Distribution
The tree is native and abundant in the wild, sometimes in extensive stands, in open pine forests and grassy savannas, from southern Mexico, through the Pacific side of Central America, to Peru and Brazil; also occurs in Trinidad, Barbados, Curacao, St. Martin, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and throughout Cuba and the Isle of Pines.
Dr. David Fairchild brought seeds from Panama to the United States Department of Agriculture in 1899 (S.P.I. #2944). A few specimens exist in special collections in southern Florida. The species was introduced into the Philippines in 1918.
Throughout its natural range, the nance is mainly consumed by children, birds, and wild and domesticated animals. In some regions, large quantities are sold in native markets at very low prices. There is some cultivation of the tree for its fruits in Mexico and parts of Central America.
The nance is limited to tropical and subtropical climates. In Central and South America, the tree ranges from sea-level to an altitude of 6,000 ft (1,800 m). It is highly drought-tolerant.
In Mexico, the tree is often found on rocky ground. It grows well in sandy and alkaline-sandy soils. It is well suited for restoration of infertile and burned-over land.
In Mexico, the tree blooms from April through July and the fruits are marketed in September and October. In Puerto Rico, the tree blooms and fruits continuously from spring to fall; in Brazil from December to April.
The fruits fall to the ground when fully ripe and are very perishable. However, they can be stored in good condition for several months by merely keeping them submerged in water.
The fruits are eaten raw or cooked as dessert, or may be included in soup or in stuffing for meats. J.N. Rose in 1899 wrote that he saw nances, olives and rice cooked with stewed chicken in Mexico.
The fruits are often used to prepare carbonated beverages, or an acid, oily, fermented beverage known by the standard term chicha applied to assorted beer-like drinks made of fruits or maize. By distillation, there is produced in Costa Rica, a rum-like liquor called Crema de nance.
In Magdalena, Colombia, an edible fat is extracted from the fruits with boiling water.
|Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion*|
|Ascorbic Acid||90.0-192.0 mg|
*According to analyses made in Guatemala and El Salvador. The fruit is high in tannin, especially when unripe.
Fruit: Green fruits are sometimes used in dyeing. The fruit skin imparts a light-brown hue to cotton cloth.
Bark: The bark yields a strong fiber, and is employed in tanning, giving the leather a light-yellow tone. The bark contains 17.25-28.26% tannin and 2.73% oxalic acid.
Branches: Fresh branches are cut into small pieces and thrown into streams to stupefy fish; or they are crushed at the edge of shallow waters so that the juice spills into the water, for the same effect.
Wood: The sapwood is grayish; the heartwood reddish-brown, heavy, coarse-textured, tough, and highly prized for boat ribs though it is brittle and only medium-durable. Usually available only in small sizes, it serves for tool handles, turnery, cabinetwork and furniture and small-scale construction. In Brazil, the wood is chosen for the hot fire over which the people smoke the stimulant paste of guaraná (Paullinia cupana HBK.) because the burning wood has a pleasant odor. In some areas it is used for making charcoal.
Nectar: In Costa Rica, the nance provides one of the few sources of nectar for honeybees in the month of June.
Medicinal Uses: The astringent bark infusion is taken to halt diarrhea; also as a febrifuge. It is considered beneficial in pulmonary complaints, cases of leucorrhea, and allegedly tightens the teeth where the gums are diseased. In Belize, it is taken as an antidote for snakebite. In Guyana, the pounded bark is poulticed on wounds. Mexicans apply the pulverized bark on ulcers.