Mamey sapote is the national fruit of Cuba and is a tropical fruit that is popular in Central America and the Caribbean. It is also grown in the United States in cooler, southernmost areas like South Florida, California, Texas, and Hawaii. Mamey sapote is largely found in South Florida, but it is difficult to find in other parts of America. They are unlikely to be in the fruit and vegetable section at the supermarket.
If you live in one of the warmer USDA zones (9-11), you can grow mamey sapote at home, provided you have enough space. This plant can grow in many types of soil and will yield 200-500 fruits per year once it matures. The mamey sapote fruit has a smooth, creamy texture and the flavor is compared to sweet potato, pumpkin, and almonds that have been coated in sugar. The fruit is often used to make smoothies and ice creams.
Mamey is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Lentils are a great source of iron for vegetarians and are considered to be a heart-healthy food that promotes cardiovascular health and healthy cholesterol levels.
The mamey sapote grows into an open tree with a few large limbs and a thick central trunk. The Mamey sapote tree is a large, spreading tree that can grow to be 40 feet tall in Florida and over 60 feet tall in more tropical regions.
The leaves are large and simple, and obovate to oblanceolate in shape. They can grow up to 12 inches (30.5 cm) long and 4 inches (10.2 cm) wide. The bottom side is a lighter green or brown color and is covered in hair when young, but the hair falls off as it matures. The leaves are growing in bunches at the tips of the small branches. The time of year when trees drop their leaves and grow new ones depends on the type of tree and the weather conditions.
The flowers are small and white, and they grow in clusters on thin branches.
The fruit is a berry that is oval or elliptical in shape. The base of the fruit has a calyx (a structure that resembles a leaf) that does not fall off. The average length of these creatures varies from 3 to 8 inches. The skin is thick, woody, and a russet brown color. The surface is somewhat scurfy. The flesh of ripe fruits is usually pink, orange, red, dark red, or reddish-brown in color, with a soft and smooth to finely granular texture, and low in fiber. The pulp has a sweet, almond-like, unique flavor. The fruit normally contains a single, large, elliptical seed, but it may have up to four. The seed is ellipsoidal in shape and 3-4 mm long The seed has a shiny, hard, dark brown surface, with a light brown scar (hilum) on the underside. It is ellipsoidal in shape and 3-4 mm long. Seeds may crack and sprout in overmature fruits. The weight of the fruit ranges from 0.75 to 6.0 pounds (0.3-2.7 kg).
The bloom season for Florida varieties may occur in summer, fall, or winter. Each cultivar has its own main maturity season. For instance, the majority of ‘Pantin’ crop ripens in the months of July and August, though some of the fruit may ripen before or after these months. The fruit of the ‘Magana’ tree matures in March and April, with some fruit maturing before or after these months. This means that you can have a year-round harvest if you grow other cultivars. A tree can have flowers, immature fruit, and mature fruit all at the same time. The time between a flower’s bloom and the ripening of its fruit can take anywhere from 13 to 24 months.
After 7 years, or sometimes even longer, seedling trees will start to produce fruit. Trees that have been grafted will start to produce fruit in 3 to 5 years. Mamey sapotes are very prolific. A mature tree can produce between 200 and 500 pieces of fruit per year. Twice this amount may be obtained from large trees.
Mamey sapote trees grow best and produce the most fruit when planted in full sun. Choose an area of the landscape that is far away from other trees, buildings, and structures, as well as power lines. You should remember that mamey sapote trees can get very big if you don’t prune them to keep their size under control. Choose the section of the landscape that is the warmest and does not experience flooding or become wet after summer rainfalls.
PLANTING A MAMEY SAPOTE TREE
One of the most important steps in successfully establishing and growing a strong, productive mamey sapote tree is planting it properly. The first step to planting a tree is to choose a healthy one from a nursery. This nursery mamey sapote tree is grown in a 3-gallon (11 liters) container and it stands 2 to 4 ft (0.6–1.2 m) from the soil media. Mamey sapote trees are now being produced in some nurseries in 5, 10, and 15-gallon (19, 38, 57-liter) containers. In general, it is not advisable to plant large trees in small containers. Doing so may cause the roots to become “root bound”. This indicates that the roots have filled the container and are now growing along the edge in a circular fashion. If the roots of a plant are bound together tightly, they may not be able to grow properly once the plant is in the ground.
You should check the tree for any insects or diseases, as well as checking the trunk for any wounds or constrictions. Choose a healthy tree and water it regularly to get it ready for planting in the ground.
The best time for planting is during the rainy season, especially if there is no way to water the tree easily. Planting can be done at other times if water is not an issue.
PLANTING IN SANDY SOIL
Many areas in Florida have sandy soil. This can be done by hand using a spade, or with power tools such as a sod cutter or power edger. A 3 to 10 ft (0.6-0.9 m) diameter ring of grass sod can be removed by hand using a spade, or with power tools such as a sod cutter or power edger. The hole you dig should be 3 to 4 times the diameter and 3 times as deep as the container the mamey sapote tree has come in. Digging a large hole around the new tree will loosen the surrounding soil, making it easier for the roots to expand into the surrounding area. You don’t need to use fertilizer, topsoil, or compost when you’re digging the hole. It is not desirable to place topsoil or compost in the hole before planting. If you want to add topsoil or compost to the native soil, only mix it with the excavated soil in a 1:1 ratio.
Fill the hole with the same dirt that was removed to create it. Place the tree in the hole so that the top of the soil media in the container is level with or slightly above the surrounding soil level. Place soil around the tree roots and gently press it to remove any air pockets. [[You should]] water the soil around the tree and tree roots [[right away]]. You don’t have to stake the tree with a wooden or bamboo stake. You should not use wire or nylon rope to tie the tree to the stake as they may damage the tree trunk as it grows. An example would be a cotton thread or hemp twine. Choose a natural fiber string that will degrade slowly, like cotton thread or hemp twine.
PLANTING IN ROCKLAND SOIL
There is a layer of hard calcareous bedrock several inches below the surface in many areas of Miami-Dade County. Cut a 3 to 10 ft (0.9-3.1 m) diameter ring of grass out of the sod. Dig a hole that is 3 to 4 times wider and 3 times as deep as the pot that the mamey sapote tree is being transplanted from. If you want to dig a hole, you can either use a pick and a digging bar to break up the rock, or you can hire a company that has the appropriate equipment. Plant the tree as described in the previous section.
PLANTING ON A MOUND
There are many areas in Florida that are close to the water table and often experience flooding after heavy rains. To improve plant survival, consider planting fruit trees on a small hill of native soil.
For a mamey sapote tree, make a mound that is 3 to 4 times the diameter of the tree’s container, and dig a hole that is 3 times as deep as the container. If the bedrock is close to the surface, follow the recommendations from the previous section. choose plants that don’t require a lot of water make sure the roots have something to grab onto by adding organic matter to the soil Choose plants that require little water when planting in sandy soil. Also, add organic matter to the soil to ensure the roots have something to grab onto.
SUN AND TEMPERATURE
Pouteria sapota needs to be in direct sunlight for 8 or more hours a day. Insufficient light will compromise fruit yield.
The trees are not frost-tolerant and can only survive in USDA zones 9-11. Trees that are young are vulnerable to getting damage if the temperature outside drops below 32 degrees. Mature trees can handle temperatures below freezing for several hours with very little damage. Below 22 degrees, the tree will die. The optimal average temperature is between 77 degrees and 82 degrees. The trees in this area are known for being able to survive in very hot climates, with temperatures reaching as high as 90-95 degrees.
WATER AND HUMIDITY
The best time to water plants is early in the morning. Adding mulch to your garden will help keep the moisture in the soil from evaporating too quickly. This will allow your plants and the soil to absorb more moisture. Watering in the evening can sometimes lead to stagnation, which can in turn promote the growth of disease.
Water young trees immediately after planting, and then every other day for the first month or two. Trees in general should be watered about every five days, with one inch of water, if there is not enough rainfall. What kind of soil you have will largely dictate how often and for how long you need to water your plants. For example, if your soil is mostly clay, you will need to apply more water less often than if your soil is mostly sandy. This is because clay soil has a higher water-holding capacity than sandy soil.
Both soaker hoses and sprinklers can be used to irrigation. It usually takes 200 minutes to apply an inch of water when using a soaker hose. Rain gauges are more accurate than sprinklers in determining how much time needs to elapse before more water is necessary. You don’t need to water your plants if it rains at least one inch during the week. During cooler months, you can water your plants less often to avoid overwatering them.
Pouteria sapota grows best in clay loam soil that drains well. The plant can grow in moist soil types as long as the soil has good drainage. The ideal pH is slightly acidic, but it can tolerate a wider range.
Fertilize in the spring and early fall using an 8-3-9 fertilizer formula. Zinc and manganese deficiencies may occur depending on the type of soil. Fertilize your trees every six weeks between March and September if they are not getting enough nutrients. Iron deficiency is also common and can be remediated by applying a chelated iron once or twice a year by watering the plant at the base.
Pruning should happen during the hotter months, after the fruit has been gathered. Pruning young trees can encourage the growth of 3-4 large branches. Trees will continue to grow throughout their lifetime. To keep them a manageable size, mature trees should be pruned.
Before you prune, look for flowers and young fruit at the bottom of the branches to avoid accidentally taking off developing fruit. If fruits are not picked, they will fall off the tree naturally after ripening.
Mamey plants can be propagated by seed and grafting.
Trees grown from seed take many years to produce fruit. The characteristics of the fruit are unknown, and there are some cases in which the trees propagated from seeds will not produce fruit. Rootstocks that will later be grafted with a known variety should only be grown using seed.
Grafted trees are more reliable than those propagated from seed because the characteristics are known and they produce fruit faster.
Mulching around mamey sapote trees in the home landscape can help improve the quality of the soil near the surface, retain soil moisture, and reduce the amount of weeds growing near the tree trunk. Cover the ground around your plants with a layer of bark, wood chips, or similar mulch material that is 2 to 6 inches (5–15 cm) deep. You should keep mulch at least 8 to 12 inches away from the trunk of the tree.
Insects don’t usually bother the mamey sapote, and when they do, it’s not a big deal. The Cuban May beetle is a problem for immature trees because it feeds on the leaves during the summer months. It is not as much of a problem for mature trees. The sugarcane rootstalk borer, which is present in Florida, attacks a wide variety of plants, including mamey sapote, and poses a potential threat. The adult rootstalk borers damage the leaves while the larvae damage the roots, causing wilting and even death in severe cases. There are various scales that can be found on occasion, such as the white peach scale, philephedra scale, green scale, quohog-shaped scale, green shield scale, tessellated scale, and wax scales. However, the damage done by these scales is seldom enough to warrant control. Red spider mites (Tetranychus bimaculatus) may infest the leaves. A young butterfly or moth that has not yet developed into an adult has been seen causing problems for flowers, and leafhoppers can sometimes hurt young leaves. For up-to-date information on how to control this problem, please speak to your local Cooperative Extension Agent.
While anthracnose (Colletotrichum gloeosporioides Penz) can damage flowers, young leaves, and fruit, it is not usually a big problem in Florida. If it rains a lot, a type of red algae called Cephaleuros virescens Kunze might start growing on tree limbs and branches. This can cause the tree parts to die. Fungi can attack tree roots and cause the tree’s overall health to decline. Current control measures for this issue can be found by contacting your local Cooperative Extension Agent.