If ever a fruit were to teach us not to judge a book by its cover, that responsibility would fall upon what we call abricot in Haitian French or zabriko in Haitian Creole, a fruit people from elsewhere either call Caribbean apricot, abricot-pays (French Antilles) or mamey.
With its dull brown leathery outer shell, a Caribbean apricot does not look attractive.
Those who are unfamiliar with it would definitely pick it last at a fresh market. For years, I was that person. Even though I grew up enjoying my grandmother’s apricot jam, which was my second favorite after my beloved confiture chadèque, for the longest time, I would be the last person to reach out for a raw unpeeled apricot.
I simply didn’t understand that fruit. Not only did it look dull, it never seemed to give off any kind of aroma. Where other fruits release a sweet perfume as they ripen, an apricot could sit in a room for days and you probably would never smell it. Unless you slide a knife through the tough barrier they built, in what seems like an attempt to protect their precious inner pulp, apricots will never tantalize your senses. Yet, their flesh does have a pleasantly bright aroma.
What a carribbean apricot lacks in outer looks, it compensates for with its pulp
The thick outer shell protectively covers a bright orange flesh that’s both tangy and sweet on the palate. You won’t easily get to the edible part of the fruit, however. Another layer wraps itself around it. To get to enjoy the fruit, after removing the thick coat, you must also peel off a thin white membrane, a rather complicated process if you ask me. To make matters worse, as if peeling that layer off wasn’t difficult enough, the flesh remains glued to a few too many oversized seeds. Your knife must dance around those seeds to get to the pulp, which often results in uneven slices. Don’t let these difficulties stop you, though.
There may not be a right way to peel and slice a mamey, but once you bite into it, you will forget all about the challenges it put you through.
Available in late spring and early summer, this fruit can brighten and cool any day both with its color and flavor. Try enjoying it cold. A Caribbean apricot tastes even bolder after just a few minutes in the fridge. But don’t let it sit there too long. A peeled and cut mamey quickly loses its vibrancy when exposed. You may never experience that, however, for you will quickly eat the fruit up. In spite of its tough skin and enormous seeds, a zabriko remains irresistible.
I first published this article on May 27, 2015. The 2020 update includes a revised text and new pictures.