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Jocote fruit (pronounced ho-CO-tay) grow on deciduous trees in warm tropical climates. They begin to develop following tiny red flowers, before any leaves appear on the tree. Jocote fruit grows along thick, knobby branches in clusters or alone. They are about 2 and a half to 5 centimeters in diameter and are slightly elongated. Some have a knob on the end, or are oddly shaped. Young Jocote fruit are green or yellowish-green and ripen to a purple or red color; some variants of the species will ripen to a yellow color. The thin skin has a waxy appearance and is edible. The pulp is yellow when ripe and sweet. In the center of the fruit is a large pit, or stone, which is inedible. The flavor of a Jocote fruit is said to be similar to a plum, sweet with a bit of an acidic aftertaste.
Jocote fruit is available in the fall and winter months.
Jocote fruit is a small tropical fruit, scientifically classified as Spondias purpurea. It is a popular fruit throughout Central America, particularly in Nicaragua and in Costa Rica. Since 2011, Jocote has been cultivated in Chiapas, Mexico, providing much needed work for producers in the area, and a good tree for planting in areas affected by soil erosion. Jocote fruit is also known as Purple Mombin, Jamaica Plum, Ciruela (Spanish for “plum”), or Hog Plum. In the Philippines, the fruit is called Siniguelas. There are many different varieties of Jocote fruit, up to 50 recorded in Nicaragua. There is a high variability among the fruits and in their color and appearance. Jocotes are related to mangoes and to cashew apples, from which we get cashew nuts.
Jocote fruit are rich in vitamin C and carbohydrates. They are a source of calcium, phosphorus, iron and a small amount of fiber. They contain carotene, B-complex vitamins, and several important amino acids. Jocotes are high in antioxidants, which help rid the body of free radicals.
Jocote fruit are most often enjoyed as-is, raw and fully ripe. Ripe fruits will be soft to the touch. Unripe Jocote fruits can be eaten, though they are much more tart and somewhat bitter. They are eaten with salt in Costa Rica. They are made into a tart sauce or pickled in vinegar and eaten with chile peppers and salt. Ripe fruits are eaten much like a plum or mango, the pulp eaten and the stone discarded. The pulp can be used to make beverages, mashed and mixed with water and a sweetener. Whole fruits are boiled in water with sugar and sometimes other fruits to make a syrup or “honey”. This is eaten with ice cream or alone as a dessert. The fruits are cooked whole to make preserves, the seeds strained from the liquid. Boiling and drying Jocote fruits will preserve them for several months. Keep unwashed fruits in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Jocote trees have been used by the people of Central America for hundreds of years, for both food and medicinal uses. The trees are also used to create living fences and to help staunch soil erosion. A sap or gum from the tree is used as a glue and the same material is combined with sapote or pineapple to make a treatment for jaundice.
Jocote fruits are native to the area that stretches from southern Mexico to northern Peru and parts of north-coastal Brazil. They are most commonly in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Panama. Though, they can be found growing throughout the West Indies and in the Bahamas as well. Spanish explorers brought Jocote fruit to the Philippines, where it is popular. Some Jocotes have been spotted growing in Florida, though they are not cultivated and are likely planted as a curiosity. Researchers believe the genetic variations of the Jocote fruit have been saved for future generations due to people cultivating the plant, separating it from its wild habitat. Due to a reduction in the acreage of the tropical dry forests in Central America, Jocotes may have become endangered if it weren’t for the fruit’s popularity with locals and success in cultivation. Jocotes can be found in specialty stores catering to Central American cuisine and products.
Recipes that include Jocote. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Recetas Nicaraguenses||Jocote and Pineapple Syrup|
|Sabore Senlinea||Jocotes in Syrup|
|Recetas de Argentina||Jocote Honey|