Spondias Purpurea commonly known as Spanish Plum, Seriguela is a species of flowering plant in the cashew family, Anacardiaceae that is native to the tropical Americas, including the West Indies. The tree has been naturalized in parts of Africa, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, The Bahamas, Indonesia, and other Caribbean islands. It is rarely cultivated except in parts of the Brazilian Northeast. Spanish Plum fruit is easily found in the homes of Brazilians, especially those who live in the South and Southeast regions. Brazil is recognized as a country rich in fruit diversity and this “quality” should be used whenever possible. It is most commonly known as jocote, which is derived 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 popular common names of the fruits are Brazilian Plum, Chile Plum, Ciruela, Hog Plum, Jamaica Plum, Jocote, Ovo, Purple Jobo, Purple Mombin, Purple Plum, Red Mombin, Scarlet Plum, Spanish Plum and Wild Plum.
Fruits are sold along the roads and streets as well as in the native markets. Spanish travelers 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 occasionally 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 “snack bars”. They can be preserved for future use just 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.
Jocote (Spanish Plum) is a small to medium-sized fast growing deciduous tree that grows about 7 m (23 ft.) tall with a spreading crown. The plant is found abundant in thickets or open forest, often in second growth, common in fencerows, pastures, and many other situations, ascending from sea level. It is adaptable to a wide range of soils from sand, gravel, heavy clay loam, loams to calcareous soils. Trunk is 30 – 80 cm in diameter. Barks are thick, corky, deeply fissured, grey and usually smooth. Cuts and bruises in the bark produce a thick and transparent exudate. The main branches tend to grow horizontally and all branches are fairly brittle.
Leaves are alternate, pinnately compound, bronze-red or purplish when young, with 5–12 pairs of elliptical-ovate, sub-sessile leaflets, 2-6 cm long by 1.25 cm wide, oblique base, and shallowly toothed towards the acute apex, green, and fall before the flowering period.
Axillary inflorescences come in 1-10 cm long panicles with a few flowers that usually appear at the older and defoliated nodes. Each panicle has male, female and bisexual flowers. The flowers have 4-5 sepals and 4-5 tiny red to purple petals that are usually 2.5-3.5 mm long at anthesis. Pollen is normally not formed because the mother cells of the micro-sporangia do not develop.
Fruit are parthenocarpic. It is an oblong to obovoid, sub-globose or even pear-shaped drupe, measuring 2.5-5.0 by 1.0-3.5 cm, with a smooth and glossy peel. The fruit appear solitary or in groups of two or three. The ripe fruit is normally dark or bright red but can be purple, orange, red-and-yellow, and sometimes even yellow, and can be confused with the yellow mombin. Mesocarp is fleshy and juicy, 5-7 mm thick, acid in flavor, very aromatic, yellow, and fibrous, and is attached to a fibrous and hard endocarp that can be 1.25-2.5 cm long and normally has no seeds but the vestiges of unfertilized ovules.
Spondias purpurea is indigenous to tropical America from southern Mexico through to northern Peru and Brazil and the Antilles. It is an ancient crop of the Mayas in Yucatán and is extensively cultivated in Central America. It is now cultivated pan tropically for its edible fruit. It has also naturalized in some countries, including the Philippines, Galapagos and Nigeria.
Health benefits of Jocote
Jocote fruit is tasty and healthy fruit. It contains many nutrients and is widely cultivated throughout the world. The fruit is rich in several Vitamins and minerals. Listed below are few of the popular health benefits of consuming Jocote (Spanish Plum)
1. Strengthens the Immune System
Jocote (Spanish Plum) consists of iron and other nutrients, such as vitamins A, B and C, calcium and phosphorus which make it an excellent ally for strengthening the immune system in general. It is so good for this purpose that it is even used to treat debilitating diseases such as dengue.
2. Improves Digestion
Spanish Plum consists of good amount of fibers, so it helps in proper bowel functioning, preventing and aiding in the treatment of problems such as diarrhea, dysentery, and gas thus improves digestion.
3. Helps in Weight Loss
As mentioned before, the fruit consists of large amount of fibers, it is essential to encourage a sensation of satiety, therefore spacing the time the body returns to hunger. Additionally, every 100 grams of seriguela consists of only 76 calories, and it is rich in vitamins and many other essential nutrients.
4. Give Energy
Carbohydrates present in the fruit, as well as iron, act in a way to energize the body, in general. This is why it is specified for sportsmen and to reduce the effects of fatigue on the body, pro tennis players are known to use this to their advantage.
5. Combats anemia
Since it is rich in iron, Jocote (Spanish Plum) helps fight anemia, as it benefits the process of oxygenation of the cells, strengthening the whole organism.
6. Helps in proper functioning of the body
It is also rich in antioxidants, thus preventing the action of free radicals, which degenerate the cells of the body, facilitating the entry of diseases and premature aging.
7. Relieves Spasms
Great amount of vitamins, potassium, and calcium found in seriguela provides to the body nutrients essential to diminish spasms, involuntary contractions of the muscles that commonly occur by a deficiency of such mineral salts.
Traditional uses and benefits of Jocote (Spanish Plum)
- Fruits are regarded as diuretic and antispasmodic in Mexico.
- Fruit decoction is used to bathe wounds and heal sores in the mouth in folk medicine.
- Syrup prepared from the fruit is used to treat chronic diarrhea.
- Cubans used the fruit as emetic; Haitians use the fruit syrup for angina and the Dominicans use it as laxative.
- Fruit has been used as ingredient in laxative marmalade and shoots are considered astringent in French Guiana.
- Astringent bark decoction is used as a remedy for mange, ulcers, dysentery and for bloating caused by intestinal gas in infants in Mexico.
- Decoction of the fruit used for diarrhea, dysentery and gonorrhea in Philippines.
- Sap of the bark is used to treat stomatitis in infants and a decoction of the bark used for dysentery and infantile tympanites.
- Tikunas Indians used the decoction of bark for pain and excessive menstrual bleeding, for stomach pains, diarrhea, and for washing wounds in Amazon.
- Bark has been used for minor skin ulcers.
- Juice of the fresh leaves has been stated as a therapy for thrush.
- Decoction of the leaves and bark is used as a febrifuge.
- Gum-resin of the tree is combined with pineapple or soursop juice for treating jaundice.
- Amazonian Indians use a daily cup of decoction for permanent sterility.
- An infusion of shredded leaves is used for washing cuts, sores and burns in South western Nigeria.
- Researchers at the University of Ife have found that an aqueous extract of the leaves has antibacterial action, and an alcoholic extract is even more effective.
- It can be made into juice and used as treatment of swollen glands and trauma.
- Leaves can also be crushed and used as poultice for headaches.
- Other plant parts are used for dysentery, diarrhea, and sore throat.
- High fever can be reduced using a decoction prepared from either the bark or the leaves.
- Savory pulp of ripe fruits is commonly eaten fresh, out-of-hand.
- They can be stewed whole, with sugar, and consumed as dessert.
- Fruit can be preserved by boiling in brine and drying in the sun for future use or eaten as dried fruit snacks.
- Another way to preserve the fruit is to heat it in unsalted water and dry it in the sun, while a third process used in Mexico is to obtain ciruelo negro, this consists of pricking the skin of the fruit, placing it in syrup and letting it simmer until the sugar burns or becomes concentrated.
- Strained juice of cooked fruits yields an excellent jelly and is also used for making jam, marmalade, syrups, soft drinks, wine chichi (maize liquor) and vinegar.
- Juice makes pleasant fresh beverage on its own or mixed with other fruit juices.
- Other uses of the pulp include as an atole, mixed with maize flour and sugar.
- Unripe fruits are made into a tart, green sauce, or are pickled in vinegar and eaten with salt and chilli peppers in Mexico.
- New shoots and leaves are acid and eaten raw or cooked as vegetables in northern Central America.
- One typical dish in Salvadoran cuisine consists of syrup made of panela, jocote and mango.
- Young shoots and leaves are often eaten raw but can also be cooked.
- Fruits, leaves and bark are fairly rich in tannin.
- Fruit has been used to remove stains from clothing and for washing hands.
- Cattle eat the leaves.
- Large stumps are used as fence posts.
- Soft and light wood is suitable for pulp.
- Wood ashes are used in soap making.
- Wood is soft, light in weight, and not durable but can be used for paper pulp production.
- Seeds have a thick gum coating commonly used in chilli stews.
- The easily cut and brittle branches are potential fuel wood.
- Tree exudes a gum that has served in Central America as glue.
- Leaves are readily grazed by cattle and the fruits are fed to hogs.
- Avoid use if allergic to aspirin and pregnant.
- Sap and fruit contain urushiol, oil that causes an allergic rash upon contact with skin.
- It is said that eating a large quantity of the fruits on an empty stomach may cause stomachache in Philippines.