BY NORIS LEDESMA
FAIRCHILD TROPICAL BOTANIC GARDEN
As published in the Miami Herald
White sapote (Casimiroa
edulis) is a relative of citrus and sometimes called "Custard
Apple" because of the texture of the flesh. Though, it is not the same as
the fruit of that actual name. Nor is White Sapote actually related to other
fruit called Sapote. Originally introduced from central Mexico and is well adapted to South Florida.
Fruit can be shaped
similar to a green apple with a smooth skin; it can be green, yellow, or orange
in color. The smooth textured pulp, is pleasantly flavored like banana with
peach and some people say reminiscent of caramel, and custard apple flavor. The
fruit is highly nutritious, being rich in vitamins A and C. I particularly I like to eat it with a spoon,
its gorgeous golden fruit flesh being as soft and delicate as any mousse. Some
of the people I ask for uses of this fruit express that it is anything better
than the white sapote ice cream.
It makes a beautiful
medium-sized spreading evergreen tree and a good addition to any South Florida landscape. Good Floridian selections are available in
local nurseries. A good grafted tree can start bearing in three to four years. The harvest season varies with variety but generally is
during the spring and summer, ans some even extend the season through
November. Although the white sapote can be easily grown from seed, it is not
recommended. The fruit from a seedling
is almost always inferior to that of a named, grafted variety.
White sapote trees at Fairchild full of fruit, more often times break branches with their weight.
The white sapote
prefers well draining soils, but will tolerate almost any type of soil.
Fertilization is best done with three applications per year (March, July, and
September), with 8-3-9
or other fruit tree formulation. Annual
pruning will produce trees at a manageable height and provide ready access to
the fruit. As the branches elongate, some pruning is done to induce lateral growth.
Many white sapote trees have received little or no care and yet have been
Mature and all ready
established trees are quite drought-resistant; they have been known to thrive
in vacant lots, however, water the tree on a regular basis during dry season. A
mature white sapote tree also will tolerate more cold than an avocado tree.
Sapotes can be eaten alone or combined with other fresh fruits in salads. It
can be used for jellies, sherbets, ice creams, pies, or drying, or eating out of
hand. White sapote can vary in color from dark green to bright yellow at
maturity. Color is an important measure to determine the optimum time to
harvest. When the fruit is ripe enough to eat, the stem will fall off or come
off very easily. If the fruit is allowed to over ripen, it can become
Keep them in room
temperature. Don’t pile them up as they
get soft when ripe and are highly susceptible to bruising. Before eating,
remove the skin which has a bitter flavor, overripe fruit also becomes bitter. Some cultivars have a slight amount of
bitterness in the flesh, particularly near the skin.
They are usually picked
a few weeks before they would be fully ripe. Most of the time, they will
develop quite a good flavor when left to ripen off the tree. Not every cultivar's fruit, though, will, -
one variety such as Pike doesn't develop its flavor well when picked so early. They are often shipped not fully ripe.
The white sapote are
the model of efficiency for the modern homeowner. There will be a maximum
amount of time to enjoy the fruit of one’s labors and a minimum of work in
managing the tree. It may take a little more time to find a good selection, but
the reward is indeed substantial. Find one, plant it and enjoy!
Ledesma is Curator of Tropical Fruit at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.