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Spondias purpurea is a species in flowering plant in the cashew family, Anacardiaceae, that is native to tropical regions of the Americas and can be found from Mexico to Brasil. It is also very common in most of the Caribbean Islands. It is most commonly known as jocote, which derives from the Nahuatl word xocotl, meaning any kind of sour or acidic fruit. However, this fruit can be particularly sweet when it ripens long enough. Other common names include red mombin, plum, purple mombin, hog plum, ciruela huesito (Venezuela), ciruela, ciriguela, cirigüela, cirguela, and jobito (Ecuador).
Jocote is a small to medium-sized tree up to 7 m (23 ft) tall. The leaves are deciduous in the short dry season, and only fall shortly before the new leaves develop; they are pinnate, with 7-23 leaflets, each leaflet 3–5 cm long and 1.5–2 cm broad. The flowers are small, reddish-purple, produced in large panicles. The fruit is an edible oval drupe, 3–5 cm long and 2-3.5 cm broad, ripening red (occasionally yellow) and containing a single large seed. The sap and fruit contain urushiol, an oil that causes an allergic rash upon contact with skin.
It is now widely cultivated in tropical regions throughout the world for its edible fruit, and is also naturalised in some areas, including the Philippines and Nigeria. Numerous cultivars have been selected for fruit quality. It is also abundant in Jamaica and Central America. In Florida growth is relegated to near-tropical areas of the state, and the tree is killed or greatly harmed by cold winter temperatures from Palm Beach County northward.
The fruits are often eaten ripe, with or without the skin. The ripe fruit is red and is very sweet to the taste, but it is sometimes eaten unripe with salt and vinegar or lime juice, and is commonly sold in the streets in most Central American countries in plastic bags; also available are red hot pepper sauce and "alhuaishte" (very fine ground toasted pumpkin seeds).
One typical dish in Salvadoran cuisine consists of a syrup made of panela (a molasses made from artisan sugar blocks made by boiling cane juice from a molienda [cane crushing station traditionally ran by oxen or currently with portable gas engines], to evaporate water until it achieves thick molasses consistency, then poured into wood molds and let it cool down. Once solidified later are wrapped in dry corn husk leaves called "tuzas" and sold in the markets. This can be found only during the harvest season, from around Semana Santa (Easter) to the end of August. The single large seed, which takes up most of the fruit, is not eaten. In Panama and Coastal Ecuador the tree is used throughout the countryside as a living fence and can be propagated by planting trunks.
The "Pacto del Jocote", peace treaty was signed in Costa Rica on April 11, 1842 under a jocote tree in Alajuela between Francisco Morazán and Vicente Villaseñor overturning the government of Braulio Carrillo.
- Spanish Royal Academy Dictionary
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- Purple mombin
- Media related to Spondias purpurea at Wikimedia Commons
- Data related to Spondias purpurea at Wikispecies