When time and funding permit, each flower (each plant species) will have its own page, and its own PDF, and eventually its own PPT so that professors and students have plenty of material on Guatemala (and Honduras, etc) to study.

Brugmansia arborea, Florifundia
Photo by Sofia Monzon with a Canon EOS Rebel T2i.

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Tropical fruits of Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador used by the Maya for thousands of years. Print E-mail

Fruits and nuts have always been part of Mayan diet

Most Mayan house gardens have fruit and nut trees surrounding the homes. And in many Mayan milpas the fruit and nut trees are not cut down when the rest of the forest is slashed and burned.

So fruits, nuts, and the soft flesh of seed pods such as Inga species have been a part of Mayan diet for millennium.

Paterna, Inga paterna fruits in a local market in Guatemala

Paterna, Inga paterna fruits in a local market in Guatemala

Paterna, Inga paterna fruit, notice the seed inside the fruit, the withish and soft thing is the edible part of the fruit

Paterna, Inga paterna fruit, notice the seed inside the fruit, the whitish and soft goo is the tasty edible part of the fruit

Most studies of Maya diet and agriculture focuses on maize, beans, squash, and root crops. So our www.maya-ethnobotany.org will have plenty of discussion of those seeds and vegetables. But we do not want to forget fruits and nuts either.

So on this page, rather than devoting an entire page exclusively to one single plant or flower, I will introduce several groups of related fruits.

Zapotes & Sapotes: yummy fruit still raised today

Over the coming months we will introduce all the zapotes, sapotes, sapotones, chico zapotes, mamey zapotes and everything else that has a sapote-like name.

Some are related to each other; but most have no biological relationship whatsoever. It is merely that Hispanic nomenclature dumps any fruit that has a mouse-colored brown outside, and is a tad furry, into calling it a zapote or sapote. So our goal is to introduce them all, and then discuss them in detail.

Chicozapote, Manilkara zapota fruit in a local market in Guatemala

Chicozapote, Manilkara zapota fruit in a local market in Guatemala, Photo by Nicholas Hellmuth

Anona fruit

There are almost as many different fruits named anona as there are fruits named zapote. So we will have a long discussion of the anona group of fruits. Their genus is Annona; in Spanish spelled simply anona.

Anona, Annona purpurea fruit, another species called with the local name anona, Photo by Jaime Leonardo, San Marcos, Guatemala.

Anona, Annona purpurea fruit, another species called with the local name anona, Photo by Jaime Leonardo, San Marcos, Guatemala.

Cacao and relatives: fruit of the gods (and High Priest)

Cocoa is a modern mispronounciation and gringoized variant of cacao, the plant from whose seed chocolate is made. Actually cocoa is another way of saying cacao which is a Spanish mis-prounounciation of the Aztec word which was their slightly twisted mis-pronounciation of the Mayan word cacaw(a) which was was the Maya mis-pronounciation of the word in the original language from which the name cacao came (generally conceived to be an Olmec-related or at least Mixje-zoque languages of a thousand years before Christ).

So the word cacao is about 3000 years old, and still pronounced and spelled very similar to its original form long long ago in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.

We will introduce relatives of cacao such as pataxte and also show other pods which look a bit like cacao but are not biologically related. FLAAR raises both cacao and pataxte in our ethnobotany institute at 1500 meters elevation.

Pataxte, Theobroma bicolor, a species relative to cacao, Photo by Jaime Leonardo, FLAAR studio, Guatemala, Guatemala

Pataxte, Theobroma bicolor, a species relative to cacao, Photo by Jaime Leonardo, FLAAR studio, Guatemala, Guatemala

Passionflower fruits

Passionflowers are among the most beautiful flowers in the world. There are hundreds and hundreds of species and endless varieties. As I write this I look out at hundreds of passionflowers whose vines decorate the walls and crawl all over the roof of our 7-level office-residence in the mountains overlooking a row of volcanoes.

The world’s leading botanist on passionflowers, especially of Mesoamerica, Dr. John MacDougal, is fortunately a professor in St Louis (where FLAAR has its US office).

Fruits from cactus or cactus-like plants

nopal and tuna, cactus, Opuntia ficus

Pitaya, Pitahaya, Hylocereus undatus. This is one of the most colorful fruits in the world. This vine-like cactus-like plant is common in the Highlands of Guatemala, though in my ethnobotany garden it refuses to grow significantly and never flowers or does anything. It does not die: it simply never grows. I think it does not receive enough sun.

Pitaya, Hylocereus undatus open and unopen fruit, a cactus plant. Photo by Jaime Leonardo at FLAAR studio, Guatemala City

Pitaya, Hylocereus undatus open and unopen fruit, a cactus plant. Photo by Jaime Leonardo at FLAAR studio, Guatemala City.

Other fruits we will cover

  • Avocado, Persea Américana
  • wild avocadoPersea schiedeana
  • Jocote, Spondias purpurea
  • nance, Byrsonima crassiflora
  • papaya, Carica papaya.
  • Wild papaya, Carica cauliflora, Carica mexicana
  • Pineapple, a terrestrial bromeliad, Ananas comosus.
  • Piñuela, Bromelia pinguin, motate 
Papaya fruit, notice the irregularly shape or this fruit. Photo by Jaime Leonardo at FLAAR studio, Guatemala City

Papaya fruit, notice the irregularly shape or this fruit. Photo by Jaime Leonardo at FLAAR studio, Guatemala City.

And dozens and dozens more fruits that are native to southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador: the parts of Mesoamerica inhabited by the Maya people for thousands of years.

 

Most recently updated August 16, 2011.
First posted in late July 2011.

 

Tobacco Ingredients of Aztec & Maya

Tropical Nuts

Spices, condiments, food coloring

Dye plants for textiles

Plants and trees used to produce incense

Camera Reviews for Photographing Flowers and Plants

Trees with conical Spines

Flowers native to Guatemala visible now around the world

Ethnobotany site page Donations acknowled Botton DONATE NOW

SUBJECTS TO BE COVERED DURING NEXT 6 MONTHS

Fruits (typical misnomer mishmash of Spanish language)

Fruits (vines or cacti)

Flavoring, herbs, and spices

Flowers, sacred

Plants which are sacred

Plants or trees that are used to produce incense

Most common introduced plants (not native)

We Thank Gitzo, 90% of the photographs of plants, flowers and trees in Guatemala are photographed using a Gitzo tripod, available from Manfrotto Distribution.
We thank Hoodman, All images on this site are taken with RAW CF memory cards courtesy of Hoodman.
Pachira aquatica, zapoton, zapote bobo, crucial sacred flower for Maya archaeologists and iconographers
Read article on Achiote, Bixa orellana, annatto, natural plant dye for coloring (and flavoring) food (especially cacao drink) in Guatemala and Mexico.
Read article on Cuajilote or Caiba: Parmentiera aculeata, a forgotten fruit.
Read article on Split leaf philodendron, Monstera deliciosa.
Read article on Gonolobus, an edible vine from Asclepiadaceae Family.
Pachira aquatica, zapoton, zapote bobo, crucial sacred flower for Maya archaeologists and iconographers
Flor de Mayo,Plumeria rubia, plumeria alba, plumeria obtusa. Edible flower used to flavor cacao
Guanaba, annona squamosa, Chincuya, Annona purpurea, Sugar apple, Chirimoya
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