As a child I looked forward to this time of the year – “summer vacation” – especially on rainy mornings to run outside and pickcraboo article Its craboo season in Belize! up the fresh craboo from under the craboo tree.

The excitement increased when there were different types to pick up including the big green or red ones and the regular yellow craboo. I remember eating craboo “so so” just eating the plain fruit as is or waiting for my mom to buy a tin of condensed milk to crush up in a cup and eat with a spoon, so delish!

On hotter days we would make delicious milk and craboo ideal and would wait patiently for them to get frozen so we could enjoy after lunch. Then in the height of the craboo season we would pick and wash craboo to soak with sugar and leave to ferment so that we have stew craboo all year round.

The Craboo Tree – Byrsonima crassifolia – Muréi in Garifuna, also known as ‘Nance’, is native to Central and South America, ranging from Southern Mexico all the way to Peru and Brazil. In the Amazon it is called ‘murici’. It is also found in Cuba and most of the Eastern Caribbean. In fact, the craboo’s claim to fame is that it has the widest native range of any fruit tree!

Craboo trees have elliptical-shaped leaves and bunches of tiny, vibrant orange, yellow and red flowers that bloom in May through June here in Belize. They can grow as high as 10 meters (30 feet) and are found from Corozal to Punta Gorda, and everywhere in between. They are drought tolerant and grow well in sandy soils.

The small fruit averages 10-15 mm across and are ready in July and August. The craboo tree is just one of 1100 species in the plant family Malpighiacea, known as the ‘Barbados Cherry’ family. And as every Belizean knows, there are several different varieties of craboo: some fruit are tiny and bitter and others are large and sweet.

The fruit doesn’t last long, but you can stretch its life by dropping them in a bottle or jar of water. Most people enjoy them mashed with milk, but you can eat them right off the ground (the ripe ones fall to the ground), or buy a bag at the markets. The fruits are rich in calcium and vitamin C.

A study done in Mexico on herbal medicines listed the craboo tree in the top ten most frequently used plants. The leaves are most commonly used as a tea to treat gastrointestinal disorders, especially diarrhea and dysentery. Some Mexicans also use the pulverized bark on ulcers.

As an adult I enjoy all this and Nance Liquor and Craboo Wine too. Craboo season just one of the many reasons I love and enjoy my Beautiful Belize!


This is a simplified method of how to ferment a 5 gallon bucket of craboo (Byrsonima crassifolia).

Step 1: Wash the craboo and take out the stems.

Step 2: Drain the water and add 10 lbs of brown sugar. Put the lid on tightly so no air can spoil the craboo.

Step 3: After 3-4 weeks check to see if all the sugar has dissolved; if not then mix the craboo and sugar with a clean utensil. After maybe another 1-2 weeks sugar should be dissolved; drain out all the water (liquid) that is in the bucket. The reason for this is that all that liquid is very sour!! (not spoiled but sour as in ‘lime sour’). By this time the craboo has changed in color from yellow to light brown.

Step 4: After you drain the sour liquid add 10 lbs of brown sugar again.

Step 5: Check again maybe 2-3 months later and taste the craboo. If it is still sour then add more sugar, and leave it until maybe 2 more months to check again. By this time the color of the craboo is very brown and not yellow as fresh craboo.

*** The secret for not spoiling the craboo is not to tamper with it very often. Leave it and the sugar will ferment the craboo fruit by itself. The other thing is that the bucket should be tightly sealed, or else air could go in and it would make the craboo spoil. And, when mixing make sure that you use clean spatula or spoon.

The craboo that is well fermented can last for years, and the more years the more fermented it stays. Remember when serving the fermented craboo always use clean utensils (spoons etc.)Some people put spices, but that is at your discretion to maybe to add cinnamon or other spices. In the case of this recipe, it calls for only Belizean brown sugar!!

Byrsonima crassifolia, aka: CRABOO
Love it, or …………..not

It’s craboo time in Belize as we go to print. Children along the Hummingbird have been hawking them for weeks, and now in most of Belize it’s craboo season too.

There are some fruits, if one is not a native to their native area, growing up with them and their exotic smells and tastes, can never attain a ‘favorite fruit’ status. Newcomers to the tropics seldom stop by the speed bumps to purchase a $1. bag of craboo. But to those raised in craboo’s native lands, from Mexico to Brazil and in much of the Caribbean, Byrsonima crassifolia is a treasured fruit, a reminder of their childhood, collecting ripe fruit under trees and eating fermented craboo during the Christmas holidays. Craboo has a particular aroma – indescribable, but unlikely to be utilized by the perfume industry. Other names include nance in Mexico, tapal in Guatemala, nance verde in El Salvador, and golden spoon in some of the Caribbean.

Craboo can be either a large shrub or a tree, reaching up to 33 feet. More commonly it’s 20 feet or less. It thrives on sandy, alkaline-sandy and rocky soils, in elevations from sea level to 6,000 ft. It’s a lovely tree in bloom when it’s covered with racemes, starting yellow, turning orange and finally red. The flowers provide a notable late dry season source of nectar for bees. It tolerates droughts, is easy to cultivate and has been recommended as suitable for restoring infertile lands.

In Belize, trees blossom in the dry season, and fruits ripen from July thru September. Fruits fall off the tree when ripe and are mainly harvested after they fall to the ground. If not harvested, the area will smell from the fermentation. If you pick them or if you buy them, make sure the bag is open until you are ready to use them. Don’t wash them either, until ready to consume or prepare.

Even though most trees fruit abundantly, there is very little commercialization of it. It is said that children, birds (especially parrots), small animals, and a shrinking group of ‘rural folks clinging to the old ways’ are the main consumers of craboo. Tapirs are said to like nibbling on the bark.

Crabboo is a member of the acerola family and is a drupe or stone fruit. There are many varieties but basically there are the usually larger sweet ones and the smaller less sweet ones. Folks who eat fresh or canned and also ferment Christmas craboo use the larger sweet ones for eating fresh and canning and use the more tart type for fermenting, since much brown sugar is added to those anyway. Find a recipe for Christmas (fermented) craboo above...

Craboo can be eaten plain, or as dessert, crushed with evaporated milk, or stewed with sugar. Some make craboo ice cream and a craboo wine. Costa Rica and Mexico make nance (craboo) liquors. Older recipes, (1800's) mention craboo in soups, in stuffings for meat and with stewed chicken.

Other uses for craboo include dyeing cotton with green (unripe) fruit which makes a light brown color, stunning fish by putting small pieces of branches into streams, and using the bark to tan hides. The bark can contain between 17 -28% tannin and almost 3% oxalic acid. Presumably the oxalic acid is what stuns the fish. Strong fibers can be taken from the bark. The wood was and is used for boat ribs and other small pieces, such as trims and tool handles.

It is said that the craboo leaves can be used as tea to treat diarrhea. Also reportedly “a bark infusion creates an astringent which is taken to stop diarrhea, lower fever, aid lung ailments, and can tighten the teeth where the gums are diseased” (Morton). Ms. Morton also reports that in Belize it has been used as a snakebite antidote, that the Guyanese use the pounded bark on wounds and that in Mexico it has been used on ulcers. The roots are purportedly anti-bacterial. There has been recent research (, which has found the fruit and seed of craboo useful as an antihyperglycemic (lowering blood sugar for diabetics), as an antihyperlipidemic (lowering fats) and affects antiglycation beneficially as well.