Spondias tuberosa Arruda. Umbú. The umbú is native to the dry plains of northeastern Brazil. This fruit has been described as perhaps the best flavored among all of the Spondias species by Popenoe (1920). The tree can attain a height of 6 m, although it usually forms a low, spreading tree when left unmanaged (Martin et al. 1987). Fruit are oval, averaging 4 cm in length, with a 2 cm stone. When fully ripe the flesh is almost liquid, with a sweet, aromatic flavor. The fruit are sour if eaten before they are fully ripe. In its native region the umbú is consumed fresh, used in preserves, made into juices, or sweetened and mixed with milk to make "imbuzada," a typical drink of the region. Popenoe (1920) discussed the importance of this fruit to the people of northeastern Brazil, who consumed vast numbers of umbú during the fruiting season. The same can be said in the region today, as wild umbú trees are protected and visited by local residents while the trees are fruiting.
The umbú offers potential for arid tropical regions due to its production in the harshest of conditions. Annual production has been up to 300 kg/tree with good selections (Cavalcanti and Abilio de Queiroz 1992). There has been limited work on the identification and selection of superior clones of umbú; however, within Brazil clones have been identified which weigh nearly 90 g and have a pulp to seed ratio of 80% (Cavalcanti and Abilio de Queiroz 1992). Popenoe (1920) questioned why the umbú had not yet attained a greater status in the world due to its superior flavor, and today the same sentiment is commonly expressed. However, due to its short shelf life and delicate texture when mature, it is doubtful that the umbú could be a viable consideration as a fresh fruit beyond the local level. However, as a flavoring and/or juice crop for the arid, hot tropics, the potential is much greater.
Little is known about its adaptability to different climates. Young trees have been killed by freezes in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil (Donadio 1983) and in Florida (Campbell et al. 1977). The growth of seedling umbú trees in the calcareous soils of South Florida has also been poor (Campbell and Sauls 1980). Umbú is graft compatible with other Spondias species (Popenoe 1920), possibly widening its adaptation to other climates and soil conditions.
Spondias mombin L. Yellow mombin. The yellow mombin is native to Central America and northern South America (Popenoe 1979) and can be found under semi-wild cultivation in most lowland areas of the American Tropics. The tree can attain a height of 10 m and is tolerant of most soil types and rainfall patterns. The fruit are ellipsoid about 2.5 to 4 cm in length and hang singly on the tree (Martin et al. 1977). There is great variation in quality among fruit from region to region, some being sweet and pleasant and others quite disagreeable in flavor (Martin et al. 1977; Popenoe 1920). The fruit can be eaten fresh, used in preserves or as a flavoring. Although common in most of the lowland tropics, the yellow mombin has not been highly commercialized. It is generally considered inferior in quality to S. purpurea, which is grown in the same environments. Yellow mombin has been introduced to most tropical locations and performs well under varied conditions. Trees are severely damaged by freezing temperatures (Campbell et al. 1977). Trees are generally grown from vegetative cuttings, but patch budding has been used as well (Coelho Pedrosa et al. 1991). The fruit are consumed fresh on a local level; however, its potential is more as a processed fruit. It offers an adaptive advantage over other species of Spondias in some climates and soil types.
Rollinia deliciosa A. DC. Biribá. The biribá is native to northern South America and the Caribbean (Leon 1987). The tree is small, usually reaching a height of 6 to 10 m, with a dense, multiple-branched growth habit. Biribá is one of the most common home garden trees in the state of Para, Brazil (Clement 1983), where there is also limited commercial production (Cavalcante 1974). Biribá fruit from this region can sometimes be found in markets as far away as Rio de Janeiro. The fruit are globose and can weigh up to 1350 g (Cavalcante 1974). The mature fruit is yellow with multiple protuberances, which turn black as the fruit are handled. The flesh is translucent, juicy, and sweet with a somewhat mucilaginous consistency, which is objectionable to many. It is usually consumed fresh, but it is also used as a juice, a preserve, or a flavoring. Within its native region it is considered to be of the highest quality among the Annonaceae. Outside of northern Brazil, however, the biribá is much less common and not as highly esteemed. It can be found in germplasm collections throughout the lowland tropics, but the fruit encountered are generally of inferior-quality seedlings.
Production of biribá is limited to the hot, humid lowland tropics. Temperatures of -1° to -2°C can kill young trees (Campbell et al. 1977). The trees grow quickly and bear fruit from seed in 4 to 6 years. There is great variation in fruit quality among seedling trees. Biribá trees produce well without hand pollination, which is an advantage over many other Annonaceae. In order to increase the commercialization of the biribá, superior cultivars would need to be identified and selected. Research would also be required on storage, shipping, and handling procedures.
Carica pubescens (A. DC.) Solms-Laub. Chamburo. This fruit is native to northern South America and is cultivated from Panama to Bolivia at elevations above 1,000 m. The plants often attain a height of more than 10 m and have a similar appearance to papaya. They can be distinguished by their variable leaf shape and pubescence, which covers the leaves and flowers. The fruit are from 5 to 20 cm in length, turning yellow or orange at maturity. The flesh is yellow and tart, even when fully ripe. Trees are grown from seed, and there are no widely recognized superior selections. The fruit are usually not consumed fresh; instead, they are processed into juices or preserved. Thinly-sliced chamburo flesh is preserved in sugar solutions and eaten as an accent at meals (e.g. with cheese) or used in cooking. Lizana et al. (1978) conducted experiments with the production of dehydrated slices of chamburo as a potential new product in Chile.
Carica xheilbornii var. pentagona Heilborn. Babaco. The babaco is a sterile hybrid between C. pubescens and C. stipulata. It is cultivated mostly in Ecuador at elevations above 1,000 m. The fruit range in diameter from 6 to 12 cm and can reach a length of 30 cm. The plants are precocious in cultivation and usually remain less than 4 m in height. The pulp is white, and like the chamburo is tart when ripe. Babaco is important locally as a juice or preserve and is extensively used in cooking. For commercial production, cuttings are used, as no seed are available due to sterility of the clone. There are only a few recognized cultivars of babaco and these selections are not widely distributed. Annual production at elevations of 1,500 to 2,000 m is up to 46 t/ha, with production beginning 10 months after planting (Camacho and Rodriquez 1982).
Throughout the highlands of South America, products made from chamburo and babaco are readily available in markets. Also, local residents use these fruit in all forms of cooking. Babaco has been tested as a commercial fresh fruit throughout the American tropics and in New Zealand, but consumer acceptance has been poor. The preserved products made from both fruit have a mild, widely acceptable flavor. If these two fruit are to significantly expand in production, these processed products will need to be successfully marketed; however, some competition can be expected from similar, readily available products such as green papaya preserves. However, given the precocity and heavy production of these fruit at elevations above 1,000 m, they remain candidates for further development in the highland tropics. Also, these two fruit are resistant to the papaya ringspot virus, a major limiting factor for papaya production in the tropics. The chamburo has been investigated as a potential source of resistant genes for imparting virus resistance to papaya (Moore and Litz 1984).
Licania platypus Fritsch. Sunsapote. The sunsapote is native throughout the moist lowlands of Central America and northern South America. It forms a large tree up to 30 m and is usually found in secondary forests under semi-wild cultivation, or in small plantings of a few individual trees. The trees produce 1 to 5 large, oblong fruit per panicle that range from 10 to 15 cm in diameter and 15 to 20 cm in length, and weigh up to 900 g (Leon 1987; Martin et al. 1977). The fruit has a fibrous skin that is easily removed. The pulp is dry and sweet. The seed is large in most clones, often with fibers that protrude into the flesh. The fruit are generally consumed fresh, but can also be used as a flavoring. The fruit are highly esteemed in localized areas of Central and South America, but in northern Brazil, they are not preferred (Cavalcante 1974).
Trees are grown from seed and can require up to 10 years to come into production. There have been only limited trials of this fruit in orchard conditions within the lowland tropics. Trees grew well in Florida until damaged by freezing temperatures (Campbell et al. 1977). Fruit quality within the markets of Central and South America is highly variable because the fruit are often collected from seedling trees maintained in semi-wild cultivation. Martin et al. (1977) considered this fruit to have little potential for further commercialization. However, the fruit are large and can withstand handling, making them a candidate as a fresh fruit for the lowland humid and seasonally dry tropics. In order to improve the commercialization of this fruit, a concerted effort into the selection of superior cultivars would be needed, as well as research on production, and handling procedures.
Platonia esculenta (Arruda) Rickett and Stafleu. Bacurí. The bacurí is native to northern South America and is now grown extensively throughout the Amazonian lowlands. The tree can attain a height of 25 m under optimal conditions. Fruit production is reported to be quite heavy in comparison to other Guttiferae (Cavalcante 1974), although specific yield records are not available. The fruit are yellow, with a leathery shell enclosing a creamy white flesh, which is usually divided into 6 sections (similar to mangosteen). The flavor is excellent, being sweet and aromatic and highly appreciated. Care must be taken when eating the fruit because the leathery shell contains a yellow latex that is quite bitter. The fruit range from 300 to 900 g and are 10 to 12 cm in diameter (Donadio 1983). There can be up to 6 seeds per fruit, weighing about 20 to 40 g each. Often the seeds abort, and edible flesh fills the space which would otherwise be occupied by the normal-sized seed. In contrast to mangosteen, the tree is tolerant of many different environmental conditions, including poor drainage (Martin et al. 1987). Trees are quite sensitive to temperatures below 0°C and to desiccating winds. Propagation is usually by seed, but bacurí is graft compatible with other Garcinia and Rheedia species.
Rheedia macrophylla Planch. et Triana. Bacuripari. The bacuripari is native to the Amazonian lowlands, where it grows as an understory tree. The tree can grow to 9 m, forming an attractive, pyramidal canopy (Campbell 1983). Trees are propagated by seed and may require 7 to 10 years to come into production. Fruit are variable in shape, averaging 4 to 5 cm in diameter and 5 to 6 cm in length. The fruit have a thick, hard outer wall containing a bitter latex, as in bacurí. Inside the hard shell is a white, creamy flesh surrounding 3 to 4 large seeds. The flesh is scanty in comparison to mangosteen or bacurí. The bacuripari is outstanding because it grows and produces a significant crop in shaded conditions (Campbell 1983). The trees are also tolerant of full sun and wind exposure, making them more adaptable to varied climates than the mangosteen. There is considerable variation in fruit quality among bacuripari from different regions of South America, and there may be different species involved.
Wherever bacurí, bacuripari or other Rheedia sp. are grown, the flavor is considered excellent. Although not superior to mangosteen in terms of flavor or edible flesh percentage, these other species have better adaptation to varied climatic and edaphic conditions, allowing for their production in many regions. The latex in both of these fruit can be a major obstacle to commercialization, because those unfamiliar with the consumption of these fruit are likely to ingest it, leading to an unpleasant taste experience. Silva (1991) reports that bacurí fruit can be stored a few days after harvest to reduce the amount of latex in the fruit. There has been little selection for superior clones among either bacurí or bacuripari, although there is considerable variation present among seedling trees.
Byrsonima crassifolia (L.) H.B.K. Nance. This fruit is native from the Caribbean through Central America and throughout most of South America. It has one of the widest native ranges of all fruit crops in Tropical America. Trees are tolerant of a wide range of environments, from the coastal Caribbean, the semi-desert regions of northeastern Brazil, the humid tropical lowlands and the middle elevations (1,000 m) of Central and South America. Throughout their range, nance trees are left when forests are cleared, and maintained in a state of semi-wild cultivation. The fruit from these trees are harvested by local residents, consumed, preserved, or sold to local markets.
The tree can attain a height of 10 to 15 m. While in flower the tree is quite ornamental, with showy orange and yellow inflorescences. The fruit are variable, ranging in size from 2 to 5 cm throughout its range. The skin is usually yellow, with a yellowish, translucent flesh and a single seed. The flavor is sweet and aromatic, sometimes with an oily or musky flavor. The nance is consumed fresh, as a preserved product, a juice or a liquer. In the markets of the lowland tropics, it is commonplace to find nance packed in water in glass containers.
Propagation is generally by seed, but the trees are easily grafted and in some locations (Yucatan, MX) superior clones are commercially propagated by veneer or cleft grafting. Fruit of superior clones may be yellow or red, and up to 6 to 7 cm in diameter. These clones typically have a superior flavor to the wild types, and are commonly consumed as a fresh fruit. The trees are sensitive to cold, but have survived repeated freezes in South Florida (Campbell et al. 1977). Due to the wide-spread familiarity with this fruit there is the potential for the marketing of fresh fruit of superior cultivars. In addition, with its adaptation to varied climates, the nance could become an important processed fruit for the lowland tropics if it could be successfully marketed.
Bunchosia armeniaca Rich. The bunchosia is native to South America, and is uncommon in most other locations. The trees are found from low to middle elevations, producing a small, attractive tree up to 10 m. The trees are precocious, fruiting within 3 years from seed. The trees flower and fruit throughout most of the year. Fruit are ellipsoid and borne in clusters. The red or yellow fruit are from 3 to 4 cm in length with a cream-colored flesh. The flavor is sweet, but often astringent. Even in areas where the tree is common, the fruit are not highly esteemed for fresh consumption. They are more commonly used as a flavoring. Bunchosia is a common addition to the home garden, but only rarely used as a commercial crop. The trees are tolerant of freezes, being slightly damaged by temperatures of -2°C in Florida (Campbell et al. 1977).
Martin et al. (1977) finds the bunchosia to have little potential for further commercialization. However, it could have potential, given its precocity and adaptive nature if superior cultivars could be identified. New cultivars not withstanding, the tree has good potential as an ornamental in the low to middle elevations throughout the tropics (Donadio 1983), where it would be a pleasant addition to the home garden landscape. With the commercial importance of ornamental horticulture throughout the world, this aspect of the tree should not be ignored.
Eugenia luschnathiana Klotzsch ex. O. Berg. Pitomba. The pitomba is native to Brazil and is relatively uncommon outside of this region. As with many of the Myrtaceae, its growth rate is slow, particularly in calcareous soils, where micronutrient deficiencies are often problematic (Campbell 1977). In acid soils, the growth is much faster, and plants generally have a better nutritional status. The pitomba forms a bush or a small tree to 8 m. The fruit are yellow or orange, 2 to 3.5 cm in diameter, with orange flesh. The flavor is sweet and aromatic. The fruit can be eaten fresh, but more commonly are made into preserves or juices. Dorsett et al. (1917) commented that the tree had value as an ornamental in the correct environment, although Campbell (1977) noted that in Florida the tree is not as attractive as many other members of this family. Trees are grown from seed and can require 7 to 10 years to produce fruit. Grafting can be used to reduce the time to fruiting. The pitomba is not as productive as some Myrtaceae (Dorsett et al. 1917).
Marliera edulis Cambess. Cambucá. The cambucá is native to the coastal rain forests of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro states, Brazil. It has long been known and consumed locally, but is uncommon today within its native region, and even lesser known outside of Brazil. The tree is attractive, but slow growing, eventually reaching heights of 5 to 12 m depending on the environmental conditions. The bark has the same attractive mottled appearance as a jaboticaba tree. The fruit, from 50 to 70 g in weight, are born on the trunk and larger limbs of the tree. They are yellow, with longitudinal ridges. The skin is leathery with a translucent and juicy flesh and 1 to 2 large seeds, leaving little flesh to eat. The flavor is excellent. In recent years this fruit has been described by many as superior to jaboticaba in flavor, but Dorsett (1917), describing the diversity of fruit available at that time in Brazil, considered the taste inferior to jaboticaba. There has been, however, little work done on selection due to the slow growth of the tree and the narrow genetic base.
The pitomba and the cambucá are both good examples of fruit which have truly excellent flavors, but are not likely to be developed in the future as fresh fruit. Instead, development will depend on some form of a niche market, taking advantage of their excellent flavor for ice creams, or juices. As with most of the Myrtaceae, the fruit of these two species are small and easily damaged by handling. Even if their excellent flavor can be exploited, their commercial future will depend on the selection of better clones and improvements in propagation and production techniques, allowing for feasible economic production.
Pouteria caimito Radlk. Abiu. The abiu is native to the warm, moist lowlands of South America. Trees have been introduced to many other locations, but they are still relatively uncommon. The trees attain a height of 12 m under optimal conditions. The fruit are ellipsoid to spherical and can range from 4 to 10 cm in length. The skin color is yellow when ripe, with a translucent flesh surrounding 1 to 5 seeds. The skin is leathery, containing a sticky white latex. The abiu is common in local markets throughout South America, where fruit quality is highly variable, with round, oblong, pointed, and dorso-ventrally flattened fruit types.
The abiu has good potential for commercial development in warm, moist tropical climates due to its precocity and heavy production. Yet, propagation of this crop is still predominantly by seed. In order to further develop this crop there will need to be selection of superior clones. Clement (1983) discussed clones in the eastern Amazon of up to 1,000 g, but these are not widely available. In Australia several named varieties have recently been selected which are precocious and productive, and have good fruit quality. These new selections have been accepted in the Southeast Asian marketplace, and should also have potential in the American Tropics. As with the Guttiferae, the latex of the abiu could be a hindrance to the development of this fruit.
Pouteria obovata Baehni. Lucuma. The lucuma is native to the cool highlands of South American, above 1,000 m. Lucuma grows best in cool climates, and is difficult to cultivate in the lowlands. The trees attain a height of 12 m and yield an ovoid to ovate fruit 4 to 8 cm long. The fruit are yellow at maturity with a dry, yellow flesh. While the fruit are immature, it contains a bitter white latex. The fruit can be eaten fresh when ripe, but is generally consumed as a drink or a flavoring. In Chile and Peru the lucuma is a significant commercial crop (Lizana et al. 1986), and specialized grafting techniques to improve precocity are practiced by some nurseries. Within Chile and Peru, the lucuma fruit are usually dehydrated and ground into a fine powder and used as an additive to milk.
This fruit does have some potential for fresh consumption, and there has been research conducted on the harvest indices and storage characteristics (Lizana et al. 1986). The lucuma could fill the same niche in the tropical highlands as the canistel [Pouteria campechiana (Kunth) Baehni] does in the lowlands. However, canistel has not been successful as a fresh fruit in the U.S. market to date. There is little reason to assume that the lucuma would succeed as a fresh fruit when the canistel has failed. The greater potential for lucuma is probably as a processed product, such as the powder used as an additive to milk.
Theobroma bicolor Bonpl. Mocambo. This fruit is commonly used as a beverage fruit within its native range of Central and South America, but is uncommon outside of this area. The trees are propagated by seed and can attain a height of 12 m, although they are usually found as smaller understory plants. The fruit are ellipsoid from 15 to 20 cm long and 10 to 15 cm wide, with a felty brown exterior. The pulp is sweet and pleasant and the seeds can be roasted for consumption. The odor of the fruit can be disagreeable to many. In Central America it is traditionally mixed with achiote (Bixa orellana L.) and sugar to make a sweet desert. As with cupuaçu, the mocambo will never have potential as a fresh fruit, but the flesh could be marketed as an additive for beverages as proposed for cupuaçu (Cabral Velho et al. 1990).
Regardless of the reason for their continued obscurity, it is clear that a superior taste and an exotic appearance alone was not enough to insure greater economic development of these crops. There was not sufficient economic incentive for their development. It may require innovative methods of marketing and promotion to introduce the new tastes and sights, and gain greater acceptance of these products. Perhaps the time is right to market these fruit crops and their products as the "fruits of the rainforest," taking advantage of the present sentiment that they are the salvation of these endangered ecosystems (Schemo 1995).
The greatest challenge lies in the promotion of fruit that are not consumed "out-of-hand," but are better used as a juice or flavoring. A change is needed in the consumption habits of consumers to further develop these markets. Fresh or frozen juices will have to at least partially replace soft drinks and juices which include only small percentages of fruit juice. Prices of fresh fruit or frozen pulp will have to be affordable to allow the economical use of the fruit within the home. The promotion of these products as "all-natural" could also be a plus for their marketing.
The potential value of fruit crops in the home landscape should also not be ignored, providing both beauty and a nutritious product for the home. Campbell (1973) discussed the use of fruit trees in the home garden within metropolitan areas. South Florida is an excellent model of how fruit crops can be used profitably in this manner (Crane 1993; Lamberts and Crane 1990). With the continuing economic development of Latin America, the use of fruit crops as ornamentals and home landscape components will become more important.
Increased demand through the promotion of these fruits must be accompanied by the selection of clones that meet the needs of the market. Whether it is size, color, self-fruitfulness, or precocity, a concerted effort into the genetic improvement of these crops is vital. Finally, there must also be an effort put forth for trials in other locations and research into propagation and production for the fruit crop. Regardless of the fruit crop considered, further development will depend on sound economic principals (Campbell 1990). If the production of the fruit is not profitable within a particular region, its development will not proceed.