Other names: Manilkara zapota
General Information: The fruit is a large ellipsoid berry, 4-8 cm in diameter, very much resembling a smooth-skinned potato and containing 2-5 seeds. Inside, its flesh ranges from a pale yellow to an earthy brown color with a grainy texture akin to that of a well-ripened pear. The seeds are black and resemble beans, with a hook at one end that can catch in the throat if swallowed. The fruit has a high latex content and does not ripen until picked.
The fruit has an exceptionally sweet malty flavor. Many believe the flavor bears a striking resemblance to caramel. The unripe fruit is hard to the touch and contains high amounts of saponin, which has astringent properties similar to tannin, drying out the mouth.
Applications: Generally, the ripe sapodilla, unchilled or preferably chilled, is merely cut in half and the flesh is eaten with a spoon. It is an ideal dessert fruit as the skin, which is not eaten, remains firm enough to serve as a "shell". Care must be taken not to swallow a seed, as the protruding hook might cause lodging in the throat. The flesh, of course, may be scooped out and added to fruit cups or salads. A dessert sauce is made by peeling and seeding ripe sapodillas, pressing the flesh through a colander, adding orange juice, and topping with whipped cream. Sapodilla flesh may also be blended into an egg custard mix before baking.
It was long proclaimed that the fruit could not be cooked or preserved in any way, but it is sometimes fried in Indonesia and, in Malaya, is stewed with lime juice or ginger. I found that Bahamians often crush the ripe fruits, strain, boil and preserve the juice as a sirup. They also add mashed sapodilla pulp to pancake batter and to ordinary bread mix before baking. My own experiments showed that a fine jam could be made by peeling and stewing cut-up ripe fruits in water and skimming off a green scum that rises to the surface and appears to be dissolved latex, then adding sugar to improve texture and sour orange juice and a strip of peel to offset the increased sweetness. Skimming until all latex scum is gone is the only way to avoid gumminess. Cooking with sugar changes the brown color of the flesh to a pleasing red.
History: The sapodilla is believed native to Yucatan and possibly other nearby parts of southern Mexico, as well as northern Belize and Northeastern Guatemala. In this region there were once 100,000,000 trees. The species is found in forests throughout Central America where it has apparently been cultivated since ancient times. It was introduced long ago throughout tropical America and the West Indies, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Florida Keys and the southern part of the Florida mainland. Early in colonial times, it was carried to the Philippines and later was adopted everywhere in the Old World tropics. It reached Ceylon in 1802.