Jocote (Spondias purpurea) is a species of flowering plant in the family Anacardiaceae. The Jocote is native to Guatemala and cultivated from southern Mexico through northern Peru and Brazil. It is commonly planted in most of the islands of the West Indies and the Bahamas. Everywhere the fruits are sold along the roads and streets as well as in the native markets. Spanish explorers carried this species to the Philippines, where it has been widely adopted. The fruits are often eaten ripe, with or without the skin. It is sometimes eaten unripe with salt and vinegar or lime juice. They are popular with people who have enjoyed them from childhood (like me), and they serve a useful purpose in the absence of “snackbars”. They can be preserved for future use merely by boiling and drying, which keeps them in good condition for several months. They are also used as an ingredient for drinks and during Holyhis fruit is used in a special fruit salad called Almibar.
Spondias purpurea is fast growing, spreading tree with thick branches. Compound leaves to 15. Showy, fragrant flowers appear from dormant, leafless branches in red, purple or yellow indicating the color of the fruit to come. Fruit is oval to round, 1 – 2 1/2. The 1 to 2 inch long oval or oblong fruits have a fairly large single seed. The skin is waxy and thin and the juicy flesh is aromatic with a plum-like flavor that is acid to subacid. The tree is deciduous, fast growing, and may produce fruit before leafing out in the spring. The young leaves can be eaten cooked but they have a sour flavor. The tree grows well in a wide variety of soils. They can be propagated easily by putting large cuttings in the ground and they make a good living fence. It bears May through July.
In the home, they are stewed whole, with sugar, and consumed as dessert. They can be preserved for future use merely by boiling and drying, which keeps them in good condition for several months. The strained juice of cooked fruits yields an excellent jelly and is also used for making wine and vinegar. It is a pleasant addition to other fruit beverages. In Mexico, unripe fruits are made into a tart, green sauce, or are pickled in vinegar and eaten with salt and chili peppers. The new shoots and leaves are acid and eaten raw or cooked as greens in northern Central America. I don’t know why, but my friends and I (I guess was the fruit’s sweetness or the juicy slightly acidic flesh) were obsessed with Jocotes. My grandparents (on maternal side) had Jocotes trees on the backyard. I still remember one of my childhood friends would climb our tree and pick all the Jocotes he could. We used to eat them with salt before they ripen, not to mention the edible leaves that once in a while we ate them with lemon and salt. Then my Grandfather would come yelling “AAeeiii you kids, that’s enough! You’re going to get sick”.
Anyhow, no matter if they are sweet or bitter, there are diverse recipes you can make with Jocotes. They are really delicious, not only for it sweetest taste, but because it contains vitamins C, calcium, iron and ascorbic acid. If you are lucky enough to live near an ethnic Latino market or supermarket where they carry these pulp packets, pick up a Goya Jocote fruit pack and give it a try. Good to your health!
20 frozen Jocotes Goya (If you get fresh ones, better)
2 ½ liters of water
1 panela, cut in pieces or 1 lb of brown sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
In a large saucepan (or stockpot), add the water. Cover the lid and bring the water to boil over medium heat. Add the Jocotes (defrosted) for about 20 minutes until the white pith of the fruit becomes translucent. When you see the Jocotes are losing the skin, remove the water and peel them. When done, set aside. Now bring another 2 liters of water to boil in a new pot with panela, canela and the Jocotes already peeled, and allow the liquid to simmer over low heat until it reaches the sticky and slightly syrup stage which can take as long as 25-30 minutes. Stir frequently. I think you are going to like it. You can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can generally judge a Jocote just by trying.