Pouteria caimito, the abiu, is a tropical fruit tree originated in the Amazonian region of South America. It will grow an average of 10m high, and can grow as high as 35m under good conditions.
Its fruits shape varies from round to oval with a point. When ripe, it has smooth bright yellow skin and will have one to four ovate seeds. The inside of the fruit is translucent and white. It has a creamy and jelly-like texture and its taste is similar to the sapodilla — a sweet caramel custard. The abiu tree is part of the Sapotaceae family and is very similar in appearance to the canistel.
Although introduced to many other locations throughout the world, the abiu is still relatively rare in Australia. It has been described, along with four other tropical fruits (durian, mangosteen, rambutan and longan), as having good potential for commercial development in northern Queensland. In Northern Queensland, Australia, the main crop ripens January to March.
The abiu tree is a precocious, heavy producer and is relatively free from pests and diseases. It is a densely foliaged evergreen with light green leaves and a dense pyramidal crown like the mangosteen. The tree produces shiny, dark green lanceolate leaves.
Buying and Storing Abiu
The abiu fruit is fragile. Choose fruits that are free from blemishes or bruises. The fruit should be yellow and firm when ripe. There should also be a hint of green close to the stem. Be careful not to squeeze too hard, as this will bruise the delicate flesh. The fruit will keep refrigerated for a week, if not bruised or stung.
Preparing and Serving Abiu
Abiu is best eaten fresh. To get the nicest eating you should chill the fruit slightly then cut in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Only eat the jelly-like flesh. If you eat too close to the skin you may encounter a sticky latex. Abiu can also be used in fruit salad, but will discolour when cut. To preserve colour, brush with lemon.
The fruit of the abiu tree is edible and considered one of the best of the sapotes due to having the sweet caramel-like taste of sapodilla with a smoother texture. It is commonly eaten out of hand and, although in Colombia those eating the fruit this way are advised to grease their lips to keep the gummy latex from sticking, this hazard can be avoided by selecting fully ripe fruits and scooping out the flesh with a utensil. The tartness of a bit of added lime juice may enhance the flavour, especially when chilled. You can also try the sweet pulp of the abiu to flavour ice cream or cut it into yoghurt for a light and delicious breakfast. The subtlety of the flavour limits its utility in more complex confections and salads. Abiu fruit is a significant source of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A, and vitamin C.