The capulin tree and it’s fruit are not something you ever see in the markets here. It is however indigenous to southern Mexico and can be found growing in Playa Del Carmen. In fact many people walk past these trees never knowing that you can eat the fruit and that it is pretty tasty.
This tree and fruit is also known as Jamaican cherry, muntingia, calabura, and many other local names around the world where it has been cultivated. There are also versions of capulin fruit which are different from the ones growing here in Playa Del Carmen.
The Capulin Fruit Tree
The trees grow to about 7-12 meters or 21-36 feet tall. The branches droop down from the center. The leaves are long and almost look like larger and slightly smoother spearmint plant leaves. The tree flowers with small white blossoms which are similar to strawberry blossoms and is the reason why in Florida the trees are also known as the “strawberry tree”.
These trees can thrive in poor soil which is good for the Yucatan Peninsula because we have poor soil conditions. Plus they like full sun and can produce fruit throughout the year.
The Capulin Fruit
The capulin fruit is the size of a blueberry. When it is ripe it turns red. As you can see from the two different cross sections below, the fruit has tiny yellow seeds inside.
The taste is unique and pleasant to most people. Some would describe it as a light cherry/almond taste. The fruit has the consistency of blueberries. Some people prefer to squeeze out the inside and discard the tougher skins.
Bats love this fruit and in season at night you can see bats swooping in and out of this tree. It is part of the reason people do not like having these trees living near their houses because of the bat droppings.
You can eat these fruits raw, make them into jam or mixed with beverages.
The leaves are used in some places to make tea.
Where can you see these trees in Playa Del Carmen?
There are several on 5th Avenue between CTM Avenue and 60th Street. There is also a tree on 10th Avenue between Juarez Avenue and 2nd Street.
The capulin fruit is just another example of the richness of things to discover here. Make sure you take the time to try new things in the markets and visit small towns in the Yucatan.
Have you discovered something here that you did not know about? Let us know in the comments below.