Maya Nut is a large neotropical forest tree. It produces a nutritious and delicious seed, which was used as food by pre-Columbian people throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Maya Nut trees are enormous and can reach 45 m in height and over 2 m in diameter. Trees grown in plantations in full sun with regular weeding to reduce competition for water and nutrients grow much faster than trees in natural forest and will produce seed in the 4th year. Maya Nut grows at altitudes ranging from 0-1800 meters above sea level and is highly adaptable. It thrives in dry, shallow, alkaline soils as well as in rich humid soils, and does not seem to be affected significantly by diseases or insects.
Maya Nut is known by more than 150 different indigenous and local names including Ujuxte, Ojoche, Breadnut, Capomo, Mojo, Mojote, Guaimaro, Manchinga, Ramon, Sande, Ox, Huje and others. It is a neotropical species ranging from northern Mexico (Sonora) to the Brazilian Amazon, Cuba, Jamaica and Trinidad. It is presumed extinct on Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. It has been introduced and is flourishing in Florida, California, Hawaii, Haiti, and Puerto Rico. It was introduced to India in the 1800’s but is not currently reported there.
Maya Nut shows alternate bearing, producing massive quantities of seed one year, and little or even no seed the next. Some populations are reported to produce no seed at all for up to 3 consecutive years. Fruits mature within a 6-8 week period and individual trees can be extremely prolific, producing up to 400 kg of seed per harvest, in extreme cases!
Maya Nut boasts exceptional nutritional, agronomic and culinary properties, making it fun to cook with and add to traditional and more modern recipes. It is not a true nut, but a berry. It must be ground into a powder for consumption because it is extremely hard. Maya nut powder is much like cocoa, and can be added to bread, cookies, cake, pancakes, oatmeal, porridge, yogurt, ice cream. It can also be used to make flavourful hot and cold drinks to substitute coffee and cocoa!
(Text contributed by Erika Vohman, Maya Nut Institute, Colorado, United States)