About abiu

Fruit of abiu (Pouteria caimito).

Fruit of abiu (Pouteria caimito).

Introduction

The abiu (Pouteria caimito) is a fruit crop native to the warm and moist lowlands of South America. Although introduced to many other locations throughout the world, the abiu is still relatively rare in Australia. It has been described, along with four other tropical fruits (durian, mangosteen, rambutan and longan), as having good potential for commercial development in northern Queensland.

The abiu tree is a precocious, heavy producer and is relatively free from pests and diseases. It is a densely foliaged evergreen with light green leaves and a dense pyramidal crown like the mangosteen. The tree produces shiny, dark green lanceolate leaves.

Economics/market

The fresh fruit have to be marketed soon after harvest as it only takes up to 5 days for them to reach full ripeness under ambient temperatures. Abiu is eaten slightly chilled or in a fruit salad. The fruit is sold domestically. Due to insufficient production data and a firm idea of market prices, the economics for abiu production are not established.

General botanical description

The abiu tree is a medium sized evergreen tree, which can grow up to 15 m in height under ideal conditions. The fruit is oval to spherical-shaped and ranges from 6 to 12 cm in length. The fruit weighs between 400 and 700 g, and is pointed at the stigma end. When ripe, the skin turns a yellow colour. The skin can be leathery in texture, 3-5 mm thick and produce a sticky latex. The translucent, white flesh inside has a caramel flavour and surrounds1-5 seeds.

The flowers are born along the branches between the outer canopy or leafy tip and the main trunk. Each flowering branch can produce between 20 and 280 flowers. The hermaphrodite flowers are small and white in colour and found singly or in clusters at the axil of the leaf. The flowers generally open in the morning and last for up to 2 days. First fruiting begins anytime from 2 years onwards for seedlings and grafted trees can flower in the first year. The crop flowers three times a year in northern Queensland. However, fruit set is more bountiful during the warmer months.

Fruit development and enlargement proceeds at a constant rate, taking between 100 and 130 days from flowering to fruit maturity, depending on the temperature and orchard management. Fruit development is slower from flowers produced during the cooler months of the year than from flowers produced during the warmer November-January period.

Fruiting and bearing patterns

The abiu is a relatively fast growing tropical fruit tree and the bearing age seems to be determined by growth rate. Seedlings take about 2-5 years to bear while grafted trees take only 1-2 years.

Several selections currently grown in northern Queensland are precocious, highly productive and also have good fruit quality. Propagation is predominantly by seed.

There are three main flowering periods in northern Queensland and these may overlap fruit setting. There are no known specific requirements for floral initiation (photoperiod or period of moisture stress) of flowering in abiu. Harvesting is carried out just over three months from flowering. Fruit from any one crop mature over a 3-4 week period.

Good fruit have a distinctive caramel flavour and are rich in vitamins A, B3 and C. The abiu is also a rich source of energy and fibre.

Table 1. Nutritional information for abiu (Anon., 1961)
Components per 100 g edible portion
Energy (cal.) 140
Protein (g) 1.8
Fat (g) 0.4
Carbohydrate (g) 36.3
Fibre (g) 0.9
Ash (g) 0.9
Calcium (mg) 22
Phosphorus (mg) 41
Iron (mg) 1
Vit A (m g) 130
Thiamine (mg) 0.02
Riboflavin (mg) 0.02
Niacin (mg) 34
Ascorbic acid (Vit C) (m g) 49

Further information

  • Crop management of abiu
  • Infopest (database of chemicals registered for agricultural use)
  • Parker, G.H. (1986). Rare Fruits Council of Australia. Fact Sheet No.13 Abiu.
  • Lim, T.K. (1991). Abiu. An old/new fruit. Northern Territory Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries Agnote 446.
  • Lim, T.K. (1991). Abiu. A botanical and agronomic review. Northern Territory Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries Technical Bulletin No. 169.
  • Anon. (1961) Food composition table for use in Latin America. The Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama, Guatemala City and National Institute of Health, Bethesda, Maryland U.S.A.

Last updated 10 March 2010