Book VIII, Chapter XX
Of the mamey tree and its fruit, itself called mamey or mamey sapote.
Translated by Laurel Hanson ’23
The mamey sapote is one of the most beautiful trees that could exist in the world because they are large trees with many branches, fresh and beautiful leaves, beautiful greenery, high branches, and graceful. They are as large as the walnut trees of Spain or smaller, although the branches are not as widely spread as the walnut, but rather more tightly gathered. The size of the leaf is that of a walnut tree, or larger, and its shape is drawn here. One part of the leaf is greener than the other, and it is thicker than that of a walnut tree, although just as long, about the length of a hand, with the latitude or width in proportion. It is of the size shown in the illustration. The fruit of this tree is the best that is to be had on this island of Hispaniola. It has a very good flavor and bears a round fruit, very round, for the most part, and sometimes a little elongated. But, generally, they all bear round fruit. Despite this rule, some are deformed and have lumps, especially those that have not just one pit, but more than one. Some are as big as two fists, some are the size of one fist, and some smaller. The peel is tawny, somewhat rough, and similar to the peel of perazas, but tougher and thicker. Some of these fruits have one pit and others two, and some have three altogether. They are easy to discern in the center of the mamey fruit,, surrounded by seeds covered in a thin film, which are the color and shade of a peeled chestnut. Even upon cutting them, these seeds or pits have a fleshiness similar to that of a chestnut, and are so similar to chestnuts in everything except flavor. These seeds or pits have a bitterness, like gall, and on them, as I have said, a thin film. Between this and the peel, there is first a tawny-colored flesh, or something like it, that is almost yellow and tastes like peaches or better. However, it is not as juicy as the peach, nor does it smell like it. The flesh that is found in the fruit between the pit and the peel is more or less half a finger thick in the larger ones, but less in others, depending on whether the mamey is large or small. There are significant differences in the mamey fruit and tree in different parts and regions of the Indies, and, in the first printing, I deferred the matter until I wrote of topics concerning the Mainland. Now that the time has come and this first part, revised and expanded, is being reprinted (and also the second and the third), it seems to me that because the topics go together, they should be put in such a way that the reader does not have to go and search for my promises; rather, each genre and its material should be grouped together. So, for this material on the mamey, on this and other islands, I say that they are found as I have described above, but there are others.
In the province of Borica, where many of these trees grow, each mamey is like a melon, or like the head of a man or smaller, and they have much more flesh to eat than the mamey of these islands, and it is a better fruit overall. Borica is in the governorate of Castilla del Oro, on the coast of the Southern sea, almost a hundred leagues to the west of Panama. Further west, in the province of Nicaragua, there are many of these trees, and they are very large. (They also have them in the same manner also on this other coast, in the province and governorate of Honduras.) The fruit is better than all of the previously described mameys because upon cutting a slice, if one does not know what it is, without having seen the fruit and only having seen it cut up into slices on a plate, one would deem it to be the flesh of a quince, of the very good ones from Valencia. Although it would not taste as sugary, it has a lovely, cordial flavor and should be regarded highly. The wood is very beautiful, and very thick; but it does not last long, and it is not strong enough for buildings or their exteriors. These trees grow old rapidly, weaken and dry up, and it becomes necessary to replant them if one wants to enjoy such trees because they scarcely last twelve or fifteen years in their prime. In Nicaragua, the Indians call the mamey çapot, and they call another fruit there munonçapot, which the Christians call nísperos or loquats. I regard them as the best that I have seen through the Indies and beyond, as I will discuss at length later in Chapter XXII of this book. And there exists in that very province of Nicaragua another fruit that we Spaniards call çiruelas or plums, despite them not being so, and the Indians call xocot, which will be dealt with in the next chapter because those and these mameys are suitable for ulcers in a certain way; how that secret came to my notice will be discussed there, which I learned from the person who had tested it. From the seed of the mamey, dried by fire and ground, one can extract a type of liquor, like oil or lard, that is very good to cook food with, which you set and solidify like lard. It is very lovely, and it is served by some Christians who know how to extract it in the manner that I have described; it must be ground first and then put in the fire, so that the lard or oil comes out. These pits, being dry, are scraped and the part of the pit that is scraped away is applied to ulcers, curing them nicely.
 (Lam. 3., fig. 8.)
Image retrieved from John Carter Brown Library at Brown University