Persea schiedeana Nees. is a fruit tree species belonging to the Lauraceae family that is found from the central part of Mexico to Panama (Munsell et al., 1950). The trees grow wild in the mesophile forests, and the fruit is a drupe that is eaten by mammals (Gallina et al., 1996). P. schiedeana is sometimes used to produce shade in coffee (Coffea arabica L.) plantations.
In the Mesoamerican region, i.e., southern Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Belice, the pulp of the P. schiedeana fruit is a popular food. When the fruit is mature, the pulp is spread on corn (Zea mays L.) tortillas and eaten as a “taco,” and in Guatemala, the mesocarp is also used in black bean soup. This fruit is mainly sold in regional markets and rarely appears in supermarket chains, also because it has a short postharvest life, which limits its marketability.
P. schiedeana has not been cultivated on a large scale in orchards (as a monoculture) for fruit production, but it is generally cultivated in home gardens. No cultivars have been selected for the production of fruit for human consumption. P. schiedeana has also been used as a rootstock for avocado because it can tolerate attacks of Phytophthora cinnamomi Rands to the root system (Zentmayer et al., 1988).
The fruit of P. schiedeana is called chinín or chinene in Mexico; chucte, chupte, or coyou in Guatemala; and shucte or sucte in Honduras.
The few studies that have been conducted on the fruit of P. schiedeana have investigated its mineral content (Munsell et al., 1950), morphology (length and diameter, skin and pulp color), weight, and composition in terms of dry matter, fiber, and oil (Cruz-Castillo et al., 2007; Joaquín-Martínez et al., 2007). The physical and chemical characteristics of the oil and its fatty acid composition have also been evaluated (Cruz-Castillo et al., 2007; Joaquín-Martínez et al., 2007; Rendón-Cantillano, 2003). The dimensions and weight of the fruit vary greatly, ranging from 100 g to 450 g (Cruz-Castillo et al., 2007; Joaquín-Martínez et al., 2007). Different lines of P. schiedeana can be distinguished according to the skin color of the fruit (Joaquín-Martínez et al., 2007), which can be black, green, dark red, orange, or greenish yellow. The oil content ranges from 25% to 36% of the fruit fresh weight (Joaquín-Martínez et al., 2007). This oil content is much higher than the 4% to 7% oil in the mesocarp of West Indian avocados (Biale and Young, 1971), which are grown in areas where P. schiedeana is also found. These values are also higher than those reported for high oil-containing avocado varieties (Gómez-López, 2002) and are similar, higher, or much higher than those reported for the fruit of olive cultivars (Lavee, 1996). The fatty acid composition of the oil is quite variable. The oleic acid content ranges from 37% to 60%; this represents the main fatty acid and it is very important from a nutritional point of view (Cruz-Castillo et al., 2007; Joaquín-Martínez et al., 2007; Rendón-Cantillano, 2003). Genotypes that have fruit with high oil and oleic acid contents are potentially a source for oil that could be extracted and used in the human diet. Because this fruit is used as food and could be used to extract oil, P. schiedeana is of interest as a possible special crop. For this, the best genotypes need to be selected.
The fruit is harvested according to the number of days after fruit set (Cruz-Castillo et al., 2007) and the color and the firmness of the fruit evaluated by sight and squeezing the fruit with the hands. No quantitative (instrumental) color and firmness data are available that can be used as reference points to determine when to harvest. The ripeness for the fruit to be eaten is evident from the fruit firmness and color (pale green for green-colored fruit); again, no quantitative reference data are available as a measure of eating ripeness.
The present study has investigated the fruit characteristics (color and firmness) at the time of harvesting and during the postharvest ripening as well as the physiological processes related to ripening such as respiration and ethylene production. The results obtained allow initial characterization of the ripening process of the P. schiedeana fruit, provide a better understanding of its physiology, and are useful to improve its postharvest management.
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