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Nance fruit grows in clusters on large shrubs approximately 10 meters tall. The small fruits are round and only 1 to 2 centimeters in diameter. Nance fruit matures from green to a yellow-orange color. The fruit has a thin skin that can be easily peeled. Nance fruit has an oily white pulp that surrounds 1 to 3 small inedible white seeds. The aroma of the pulp has been described as "soap-like" due to its high oil content. Nance fruits have a starchy texture and are somewhat acidic but have a subtle sweetness when fully ripe.
Nance fruit is available in the late summer and early fall months.
Nance fruit is scientifically classified as Byrsonima crassifolia, and also commonly referred to as Golden Spoon, Yellow Cherry or Golden Cherry. The trees play an important role in Costa Rica, supplying one of the main sources of nectar for bees in the spring. Nance fruits are considered fully ripe once they have fallen from the tree. They are then easily collected and submerged in water for at least one day so as to minimize their astringent flavors.
Both the fruit and the bark of the Nance shrub have nutritional value. Nance fruits are high in Vitamin C, and also contain minerals like calcium and phosphorus. The fruits are also a good source of fiber. Unripened Nance fruit and the bark contain tannins and oxalic acid.
Nance fruit can be eaten raw or cooked. It is most often used in sweet applications but is occasionally used in savory dishes as well. Nance fruit is commonly juiced and used for jams and flavoring ice cream. The Panamanian dessert called 'pesada de nance' is a custard served either hot or cold and topped with fresh cheese or milk. A Mexican stew-like dish combines the Nance fruit with olives, rice, and chicken.
Nance is used as a traditional antidote for snakebites in Belize. In Central America, Nance is used to make an alcoholic beverage called chicha, which is a beer-like drink traditionally made from fruits or corn. In Costa Rica, the small fruit is used to make the rum-like liquor, Crema de Nance.
Native to Central and South America, the Nance tree can be found growing from the southern tip of Mexico through the Pacific side of Central America and into Peru and Brazil. They are most often found growing wild but have become a favorite in domestic ornamental gardens known for their decorative blooms and plentiful fruit. Valued for their drought resistant properties, the trees thrive in both tropical and subtropical climates and prefer sandy and rocky soils. In markets, Nance fruit is customarily sold in jars of water which acts as a way to preserve the fruit.
People have spotted Nance using the Specialty Produce app for iPhone and Android.
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