A minor member of the Sapotaceae, the abiu, Pouteria caimito Radlk. (syns. Lucuma caimito Roem. & Schult.; Achras caimito Ruiz & Pavón), has acquired few vernacular names. In Colombia, it is 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 yellow star apple in Trinidad.
|Plate LVII: ABIU, Pouteria caimito|
The tree has a pyramidal or rounded crown; is generally about 33 ft (10 m) high but may reach 115 ft (35 m) in favorable situations. A gummy latex, white or reddish, exudes from wounds in the bark. The leaves are alternate and highly variable; may be ovate-oblong, obovate or elliptic; 4 to 8 in (10-20 cm) long, 1 1/4 to 2 3/8 in (3-6 cm) wide; short-pointed at the apex, sometimes long-tapering at the base; smooth or with a few scattered hairs. The flowers, borne singly or in groups of 2 to 5 in the leaf axils, are cylindrical, 4- to 5-lobed, white or greenish; 1/6 to 1/3 in (4-8 mm) long. The fruit, downy when young, is ovoid, elliptical or round; 1 1/2 to 4 in (4-10 cm) long, sometimes having a short nipple at the apex; with smooth, tough, pale-yellow skin when ripe and fragrant, white, mucilaginous, translucent, mild-flavored, sweet or insipid pulp containing 1 to 4 oblong seeds, brown, with a pale hilum on one side. Until fully ripe, the fruit is permeated with latex and is very gummy and astringent.
|Fig. 109: The pale-yellow abiu (Poutertai caimito) as sold in the native market of Buenaventura, Colombia. The fruit is gummy with latex until it becomes fully ripe.|
The abiu is a denizen of the headwaters of the Amazon. It grows wild on the lower eastern slopes of the Andes from southwestern Venezuela to Peru. It is often cultivated around Iquitos, Peru. In Ecuador, it is common in the Province of Guayas and the fruits are sold in the markets of Guayaquil. It is much grown around Pará, Brazil; less frequently near Rio de Janeiro, and to a limited extent at Bahia. In Colombia, it is fairly common in the regions of Caquetá, Meta and Vaupés and it abounds in the adjacent areas of Amazonas, Venezuela. It has been growing for many years in Trinidad.
The plant explorers, Dorsett, Shamel and Popenoe, collected seeds for the United States Department of Agriculture in Bahia in 1914 (S.P.I. #37929). In 1915, seeds were received from Lavoras, Minas, Brazil (S.P.I. #41003). This species has been planted several times at the Agricultural Research and Education Center, Homestead, Florida, but most of the young plants have been killed by winter cold. A few trees planted in 1953 fruited in 1962.
There is much variation in the form, size and quality of the fruits of seedling trees, some having firm flesh, some soft; and some are insipid, while others have agreeable flavor. At Puerto Ospina, along the Putamayo River in Colombia, there is a type that fruits in 4 years. The fruit is round and large. Near the River Inirida, in Vaupés, Colombia, there is a type 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 a year-around warm and moist climate, yet Popenoe noted that it does well in somewhat cooler Rio de Janeiro. In Peru it has not been found above 2,000 ft (650 m), though in Colombia, it can be grown up to an elevation of 6,000 ft (1,900 m).
The tree is naturally suited to fertile, wet soil. It is subject to chlorosis in the limestone of southern Florida.
The fruits are in season in March and April in Ecuador. They are sold in some Brazilian markets from September to April but only a few are seen in the much shorter season of February and March at Bahia. Fruits have matured in October in Florida. The abiu can be picked while underripe and firm for transport to markets.
In Brazil, the washed seeds are dried in the shade and then planted, 3 together and 2 in (5 cm) deep in enriched soil. They will germinate in 15 to 20 days. When the seedlings are 4 in (10 cm) high, the 2 weakest are removed. The strong one is set out when 12 to 16 in (30-40 cm) high. Spacing is 17 x 20 ft (6 x 5 m). One year later, the lower branches are pruned. Fruiting will begin in 3 years; will be substantial in 5 years.
Actually, 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 said to be fruit flies.
In Colombia, people who wish to eat the abiu. are advised to grease their lips beforehand to keep the gummy latex from clinging to them. It is mostly eaten out-of-hand but, in Pará, some types are used to make ices and ice cream.
|Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion*|
|Vitamin B,||0.2 mg|
|Vitamin B2||0.2 mg|
|Ascorbic Acid||49.0 mg|
|Amino Acids (mg per g of nitrogen [N 6.25])|
*According to analyses made in Brazil.
Wood: The wood is dense and heavy, hard, and valued for construction.
Medicinal Uses: In Brazil, the pulp, because of its mucilaginous nature, is eaten to relieve coughs, bronchitis and other pulmonary complaints. The latex is given as a vermifuge and purge and is applied on abscesses.