Abiu trees (botanical name Pouteria caimito) are native to the tropical regions and have their origin in South America's Amazon region. On average, an abiu tree grows up to a height of about 33 feet (10 meters). However, in favourable conditions, it has been found that some trees even attain the height of 116 feet (35 meters).
The shape of abiu fruits vary, ranging from spherical to oval having a point. When completely ripe, the color of the fruit changes to vivid yellow and it contains anything between one and four ovate seeds.
Inside, the flesh of the fruit is white and translucent. The texture of the flesh is creamy and jelly-like, while its flavour is comparable to sweet caramel custard called the sapodilla. The abiu tree belongs to the Sapotaceae family and its appearance is similar to the canistel. This species is widely cultivated in several regions across the globe, including the United States, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean.
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The shape of the leaves of the abiu trees varies, they may range from elliptic to oblong. Even the size of the leaves varies - while some leaves can be as small as four inches (10 cm) in length, there may be others that are about eight inches (20 cm) in length. The leaves also vary in width, measuring anything between 1.5 inches and 2.5 inches (3.5 cm and 6.5 cm).
Pouteria caimito flowers may emerge single or in clusters comprising anything between two and five blooms. The flowers have cylindrical petals whose color may vary from white to greenish. The abiu tree flowers have both sexes and, hence, are called hermaphroditic. The flowers of this tree emerge on the leaf axils and are borne by slender, elongated shoots. Usually, the flowers blossom in the morning and remain on the tree for roughly two days.
Established Pouteria caimito trees usually produce anything between 100 and 1,000 fruits annually. The pulp of these fruits is pale and translucent having the texture of custard. As a result, the flesh can be scooped out easily using a spoon. Some people also eat the fruit out of the hand.
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The seeds, which are covered by a slender layer of sticky or gum-like pulp, too can be removed without difficulty. The flavour of the fruit is mildly sweet, with a hint of pineapple. However, this is best explained as suggestive of a caramel flan. Aside from eating the fruit out of hand, it is also used in ice creams.
The unripe abiu fruits have gummy latex, which is inedible as well as unpleasant. The latex solidifies when it comes in contact with air. When ripened, the skin of abiu fruits turns bright yellow and has a leather-like texture. In addition, there is lingering latex on the skin.
Since the mature fruits ripen even after they are harvested, it is advised that the fruits are picked at a time keeping in mind the time they will take to reach the markets. In many instances, the period between harvesting the fruits and the time when they are on sale in markets is very brief, just about five days.
Maturing fruits can be identified by their changing colors, which changes from light green to pale yellow. Apart from the color change, when ripe, abiu fruits become relatively soft.
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When fully ripened, the abiu fruits (Pouteria caimito) have a dark golden-yellowish hue and they become mucilaginous. People in Brazil, utilize this attribute of the fruit for treating coughs, colds, bronchitis as well as various other pulmonary disorders. In addition to this, abiu fruits have other uses in folk medicine. It is used in the form of an astringent, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anemic. These fruits are also used to provide relief from diarrhea and fever.
As in the case of tomatoes, strawberries and also carrots, the abiu fruit is said to be beneficial for the health as well as the beauty of our eyes. This effect of the fruit is attributed to its high vitamin A content. At the same time, the abiu fruit also possesses the aptitude to prevent developing eye related problems. Hence, people who desire to ensure the health and beauty of their eyes should just eat a lot of abiu fruits.
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Abiu fruits are also an excellent source of the essential mineral calcium. Each standard serving of this fruit provides us with roughly 10 percent of the recommended daily intake of this vital mineral. Calcium is necessary to make the teeth and bones stronger. In addition, it helps to reduce the symptoms related to premenstrual syndrome (PMS), for instance abdominal bloating and cramping.
Aside from calcium, every serving of abiu fruits also supplies the body with about 5 percent of vitamins A and C that are necessary for us daily. Moreover, each serving of this fruit provides about 2 percent of the daily recommended intake of iron, which is essential for oxygenating the body.
The fruits of abiu tree also enclose copious amounts of vitamin C, which is effective for boosting the immune system. A strong immune system is essential to protect our body from various diseases and health conditions. When the body's defence system is working at its optimal level, it helps to keel off harmful bacteria and viruses.
Abiu contains an elevated level of dietary fiber, which is necessary for our digestive system. The gummy latex of this fruit is effective for healing abscesses, while it is also employed in the form of a purge or vermifuge.
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As the abiu fruit (Pouteria caimito) has a sweet and caramel-like flavour similar to that of sapodilla having a much smoother texture, it is not only edible, but also regarded as among the best sapotes available. Generally, this fruit is consumed out of the hand.
However, people in Colombia who consume abiu fruits in this manner are suggested that they should lubricate their lips with a view to avoid contact with the gum-like latex. Alternatively, one can also avoid this problem by only eating completely ripened fruits and scooping their flesh out with the help of a utensil.
The tartness of the fruit can be reduced by adding some lime juice, which will help to augment the flavour of the fruit from the abiu tree, particularly when eaten after chilled. The pulp of abiu fruit is sweet and melting. Often it is used to add essence to ice creams. You can also cut the fruit and add the slices to yogurt to enjoy a light and delightful breakfast.
The abiu tree (Pouteria caimito) is native to the Amazon region and, hence, its growth is best in the tropical regions as well as places having a warm and humid climatic condition throughout the year. Compared to sapotes like sapodilla and canistel, which are closely related to the abiu trees, the latter are somewhat less enduring.
In the United States, trees of this species grow best in the region extending from South Florida northwards to Palm Beach County. Abiu trees growing in this region have endured many freezes, albeit for brief periods each time. This tree has a preference for damp, somewhat acidic soil containing elevated levels of organic substances.
When grown in alkaline soils, abiu trees may suffer from deficiency of iron, a condition called chlorosis. When an abiu tree is newly planted, it will usually be delicate and will require being protected from wind as well as cold weather. The young plants need to be pruned just lightly and they should be fed often, but the feeding needs to be light.
Almost all abiu plants are propagated from their seeds. However, the fruit of plants grown from seedlings usually differs. It is necessary to sow fresh seeds of ripened fruits with a few days of their maturity with a view to ensure that are still viable. Such seeds usually germinated within two to three weeks from the date of sowing.
You may prune the lower branches of the young tree when they are about a year old. Usually the abiu trees produce their first fruits after three years and the trees bear considerable fruits by the time they are five years old. Abiu trees (Pouteria caimito) can also be propagated via budding, grafting and air layering using mature strains.
Chemical analysis of the abiu fruit has revealed that it contains considerable amounts of vitamins A and C, in addition to essential minerals like calcium and phosphorus.
The abiu fruit (Pouteria caimito) is harvested when the color of the entire fruit changes to vivid yellow. These fruits usually become completely ripe when kept at room temperature for one to three days. Unripe abiu fruits enclose gummy latex. After harvesting, the fruits can be stored at 10°C for anything between 7 and 14 days. In addition, you may also pack the fruits in trays amidst shredded paper or inside socks to avoid bruising.