Thursday, July 16th, 2015. Flora Pereira Reporting: As a child I looked forward to this time of the year – “summer vacation” – especially on rainy mornings to run outside and pick up the fresh craboo from under the craboo tree.
The excitement increased when there were different types to pick up including the big green or red ones and the regular yellow craboo. I remember eating craboo “so so” just eating the plain fruit as is or waiting for my mom to buy a tin of condensed milk to crush up in a cup and eat with a spoon, so delish!
On hotter days we would make delicious milk and craboo ideal and would wait patiently for them to get frozen so we could enjoy after lunch. Then in the height of the craboo season we would pick and wash craboo to soak with sugar and leave to ferment so that we have stew craboo all year round.
The Craboo Tree – Byrsonima crassifolia – Muréi in Garifuna, also known as ‘Nance’, is native to Central and South America, ranging from Southern Mexico all the way to Peru and Brazil. In the Amazon it is called ‘murici’. It is also found in Cuba and most of the Eastern Caribbean. In fact, the craboo’s claim to fame is that it has the widest native range of any fruit tree!
Craboo trees have elliptical-shaped leaves and bunches of tiny, vibrant orange, yellow and red flowers that bloom in May through June here in Belize. They can grow as high as 10 meters (30 feet) and are found from Corozal to Punta Gorda, and everywhere in between. They are drought tolerant and grow well in sandy soils.
The small fruit averages 10-15 mm across and are ready in July and August. The craboo tree is just one of 1100 species in the plant family Malpighiacea, known as the ‘Barbados Cherry’ family. And as every Belizean knows, there are several different varieties of craboo: some fruit are tiny and bitter and others are large and sweet.
The fruit doesn’t last long, but you can stretch its life by dropping them in a bottle or jar of water. Most people enjoy them mashed with milk, but you can eat them right off the ground (the ripe ones fall to the ground), or buy a bag at the markets. The fruits are rich in calcium and vitamin C.
A study done in Mexico on herbal medicines listed the craboo tree in the top ten most frequently used plants. The leaves are most commonly used as a tea to treat gastrointestinal disorders, especially diarrhea and dysentery. Some Mexicans also use the pulverized bark on ulcers.
As an adult I enjoy all this and Nance Liquor and Craboo Wine too. Craboo season just one of the many reasons I love and enjoy my Beautiful Belize!
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