The mamey fruit, or Pouteria sapota, comes from an evergreen tree that grows in Mexico, Central America, Florida and the Caribbean. The botanical family is called the sapotaceae. The fruit is usually ripe on the large, ornamental tree from late winter to mid-spring.
The fruit is similar in appearance to an elongated cantaloupe, with a light brown bumpy, fuzzy skin. The skin slightly resembles peach fuzz. It measures about 4-to-10 inches by 3-to-5 inches and could weight about one-quarter to one-half pound. The skin easily peels away, revealing an orange-red fruit with a large pit inside. The black pit is large and lustrous. The black skin on the pit is removed to reveal a yellow inside. The pit gives off the smell of almonds. The toxic substance cyanide causes the almond smell. The cyanide can be removed by boiling the pits well. The pit adds flavor to various Latin American foods.
Many Latin Americans enjoy eating the mamey fruit raw. The juice produces a velvety, buttery texture when combined with milk. It is often used to add flavor to ice cream, smoothies, mousse or in baked goods such as muffins and cake. The pulp has a soft texture similar to an avocado and tastes like pumpkin and maraschino cherries mixed together.
Some regions in Latin America will boil the pit, which they call pixtli, then smoke it over a wood fire. It is then ground up and adds a distinctive flavor to mole sauce. In Mexico, people use it to make tejate, which is a foamy chocolate drink. The Aztecs made a similar drink that was chile-flavored and not as sweet. Another use for ground pixtli is the Mexicans enchiladas de pixtli. Mexican folk medicine advises to grate the pit and use it as a medicinal therapy to treat thinning hair.
Mamey grows green, then turns red when ripe. Store mamey at room temperature. If it is going soft, you can store it in the refrigerator for about three days. In Jamaica, chefs will steep the fruit in wine and sugar for a sweet dessert. In the Bahamas, cooks often soak the flesh in salt water, then cook with sugar to make a jam. Some countries will make a wine from the fruit. In Brazil, people make a fermented drink from the tree sap.