Genus: Pouteria Aubl.
Scientific Name: Pouteria caimito
As a minor member of the Sapotaceae, the abiu has acquired few vernacular names. In Colombia, it’s called caimito, caimito amarilla, caimo or madura verde; in Ecuador, luma or cauje; in Venezuela, temare; in Brazil, abiu, abi, abio, abieiro or caimito. It is called the yellow fruit tree in Trinidad.
Abiu fruit looks similar to a guava
The tree features a pyramidal or rounded crown; is usually about 33ft(10m) high but may reach 115ft (35m) in favourable situations. A gummy latex, white or reddish, exudes from wounds within the bark. The leaves are alternate and highly variable; is also ovate-oblong, obovate or elliptic; 4 to eight(10-20cm)in length; one 1/4 to two 3/8(3-6cm) in width; short-pointed at the apex, sometimes long-tapering at the base; smooth or with some scattered hairs. The flowers, borne singly or in groups of two to five within the leaf axils, are cylindrical, 4 to 5-lobed, white or greenish; 1/6 to 1/3(4-8mm)in length. The fruit, downy when young, is ovoid, elliptical or round; 1 1/2 to 4(4-10cm) long, sometimes having a brief nipple at the apex; with smooth, tough, pale-yellow skin when ripe and fragrant, white, mucilaginous, translucent, mild-flavoured, sweet pulp containing 1 to 4 seeds, brown in colour, with a pale hilum on one side. Until fully ripe, the fruit is permeated with latex and is incredibly gummy and astringent.
Origin and Distribution
The abiu may be a denizen of the headwaters of the Amazon. It grows in the wild of the lower eastern slopes of the Andes from southwestern Venezuela to Peru. It’s often cultivated around Iquitos, Peru. In Ecuador, it’s common within the Province of Guayas and therefore the fruits are sold within the markets of Guayaquil. It’s much grown around Pará, Brazil; less frequently near Rio de Janeiro, and to a limited extent at Bahia. In Colombia, it’s fairly common within the regions of Caquetá, Meta and Vaupés and it abounds within the adjacent areas of Amazonas, Venezuela. Abiu has been grown for several years in Trinidad.
The plant explorers–Dorsett, Shamel and Popenoe–collected seeds for the U.S Department of Agriculture in Bahia in 1914. In 1915, seeds were received from Lavoras, Brazil. This species has been planted several times at the Agricultural Research and Education Center, Homestead, Florida, but most of the young plants are killed by winter cold. Some trees planted in 1953 fruited in 1962.
Abiu fruit is a member of the Sapotaceae family
There is much variation within the form, size and quality of the fruits of seedling trees, some having firm flesh, some soft; and a few are insipid, while others have agreeable flavour. At Puerto Ospina, along the Putumayo River in Colombia, there’s a kind that fruits in 4 years. The fruit is round and huge. Near the River Inirida, in Vaupés, Colombia, there’s a sort that bears in one year from seed, but the fruits are small with little pulp.
The abiu is strictly tropical or near-tropical. It thrives best in an exceedingly year-round warm and moist climate, yet Popenoe noted that it does well in somewhat cooler Rio de Janeiro. In Peru, it’s not found above 2,000ft (650m), though in Colombia, it is grown up to an elevation of 6,000ft(1,900m).
The tree is of course suited to fertile, wet soil. It is subject to chlorosis within the limestone of southern Florida.
The fruits are available in March and April in Ecuador. They are sold in some Brazilian markets from September to April but only some are seen within the much shorter season of February and March at Bahia. Fruits have matured in October in Florida. The abiu is often picked while underripe and firm for transport to markets.
Propagation and Culture
Abiu fruit is found majorly in Latin America
In Brazil, the washed seeds are dried within the shade planted in pairs or triples–5cm deep–in enriched soil. They germinate in 15 to twenty days. When the seedlings(say 4) are 10 cm high, the two weakest are removed. The strong one is ready out when 12 to 16(30-40 cm) high. One year later, the lower branches are pruned. Fruiting begins in 3 years; becomes substantial in 5 years.
Pests and Diseases
The fruit has little value commercially because it is commonly damaged by small insects(bichos in Spanish and Portuguese). In Brazil, the chief pests are the fruit flies.
In Colombia, folks that wish to eat the abiu are advised to grease their lips beforehand to stay the gummy latex from clinging to them. It is mostly eaten out-of-hand but, in Pará, some types are accustomed to making ices and frozen desserts. Other Uses include:
- Wood: The wood is dense, heavy, hard and valuable for construction.
- Medicinal Uses: In Brazil, the pulp, due to its mucilaginous nature, is eaten to alleviate coughs, bronchitis and other pulmonary complaints. The latex is used as a vermifuge and purge and is applied on abscesses.