February 27, 2011


In the U.S. Virgin Islands when home owners are selecting trees and bushes for their gardens a popular choice is tropical fruit bearing trees. These might include a wild array of fruit such as; coconuts, mangos, soursop, sugar apples, guava, papaya – just to name a few. Some of these produce fruit year round while others are seasonal. So what’s fruiting in the backyard right now?

Sapodilla fruit are also known as mespel in the U.S. Virgin Islands. They are small fruit with slightly rough brown skin and a pale yellowish-brown to reddish-brown flesh. The flesh is usually gritty, similar to that of a pear, and contains smooth black seeds. The shape of the fruit is round to egg-shaped. The flesh inside is edible once ripened. A ripe sapodilla is soft to the touch. Unripe fruit contain latex so full maturity of the fruit is critical to edibility and good taste. The flavor of the fruit is unique but is sometimes described as malty and having a likeness to caramel.

A sapodilla tree grows only in warm environments and takes 5-8 years to bear fruit which it does 1-2 times a year. The tree is a medium to large evergreen. The tree is the source of chicle, a principle ingredient in chewing gum.

While visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands be sure to try some local fruit. Road-side fruit stands often have a nice selection of locally grown fruit, in addition to some brought in from neighboring islands. Both St. Thomas and St. Croix also have market days a few times a month and these open-air markets often have a selection of locally grown fruit. Another great opportunity to sample local fruit is to attend the annual Agricultural Fairs on St. Thomas and on St. Croix.


Chiku is one of the best delicious and healthy tropical fruit cultivated in huge quantities in India, Pakistan and Mexico. This chiku fruit is commonly popular as sapodilla or sapota or sapote. This tropical fruit contains many healthy vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Chiku or sapota is brownish like potato outer surface. When this fruit ripens the pulp is very deliciously sweet and help for digestion along with many health benefits.

Some of the health benefits of chiku or sapota:
  1. Chiku or sapota contains rich dietary fiber making it a good laxative, Fibers in ripe, sweet and tasty chiku fruits help to prevent constipation.
  2. Taking sufficient quantity of ripe chiku in raw form or as chiku shake will protect colon system preventing chances of colon cancer.
  3. Chiku contains natural antioxidant properties. Hence eating this seasonal fruits will be the most effective natural health cure medicine to prevent viral, bacterial and parasitic effects in human internal organ system.
  4. Vitamin A contents in ripe, sweet and delicious chiku fruits take care of vision , lung and oral health even at the old age also helping to enjoy younger happy life.
  5. Vitamin C natural medicinal property in chiku is useful for maintaining healthy and shining skin texture.
  6. Eating this delicious and healthy seasonal fruits will develop body resistance to fight against many infectious diseases throughout the year.
Some types of preparation and serving system of ripe chiku:
  1. To enjoy eating this healthy and nutritious fruits the following system of preparation and serving the fruits will make this fruit diet more delicious and attractive:
  2. Fresh ripe chiku fruit should be cut into four parts and after removing the seeds the sweet and tasty flesh can be taken directly to enjoy a different flavor taste.
  3. After removing the outer cover and inner seeds in equally cut four pieces this tasty fruits can be added to fruit salds.
  4. Sapota milk shake prepared with ripe and fresh chikus after removing outer skin and inner seeds in fruit mixer machine is very popular health diet.
  5. Processed sapota fruits are widely used in preparing ice-creams, cakes etc for its natural flavor along with addition of nutrition values in such popular food articles.

February 26, 2011


One of the most interesting and desirable of all tropical fruit trees, the sapodilla, a member of the family Sapotaceae, is now known botanically as Manilkara zapota van Royen (syns. M. achras Fosb., M. zapotilla Gilly; Achras sapota L., A. zapota L.; Sapota achras Mill.).

Among numerous vernacular names, some of the most common are: baramasi (Bengal and Bihar, India); buah chiku (Malaya); chicle (Mexico); chico (Philippines, Guatemala, Mexico); chicozapote (Guatemala, Mexico, Venezuela); chikoo (India); chiku (Malaya, India); dilly (Bahamas; British West Indies); korob (Costa Rica); mespil (Virgin Islands); mispel, mispu (Netherlands Antilles, Surinam); muy (Guatemala); muyozapot (El Salvador); naseberry (Jamaica; British West Indies); neeseberry (British West Indies; nispero (Puerto Rico, Central America, Venezuela); nispero quitense (Ecuador); sapodilla plum (India); sapota (India); sapotí (Brazil); sapotille (French West Indies); tree potato (India); Ya (Guatemala; Yucatan); zapota (Venezuela); zapote (Cuba); zapote chico (Mexico; Guatemala); zapote morado (Belize); zapotillo (Mexico).

Fig. 107: The sapodilla (Manilkara zapota) is sweet, luscious, practical and borne abundantly by a handsome, drought- and wind-resistant tree.

Food Uses

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.

One lady in Florida developed a recipe for sapodilla pie. She peeled the ripe fruits, cut them into pieces as apples are cut, and filled the raw lower crust, sprinkled 1/2 cup of raisins over the fruit, poured over evenly 1/2 cup of 50-50 lime and lemon juice to prevent the sapodilla pieces from becoming rubbery, and then sprinkled evenly 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. After covering with the top crust and making a center hole to release steam, she baked for 40 minutes at 350º F (176.67º C). In India, it has been shown that ripe fruits can be peeled and sliced, packed in metal cans, heated for 10 minutes at 158º F (70º C), then treated for 6 minutes at a vacuum of 28 in Hg, vacuum double-seamed, and irradiated with a total dose of 4 x 105 rads at room temperature. This process provides an acceptable canned product.

Ripe sapodillas have been successfully dried by pretreatment with a 60% sugar solution and osmotic dehydration for 5 hours, and the product has retained acceptable quality for 2 months.

Mr. Edward Smith of Crescent Place, Trinidad, made sapodilla wine and told me that it was very good. Young leafy shoots are eaten raw or steamed with rice in Indonesia, after washing to eliminate the sticky sap.

Food Value

Immature sapodillas are rich in tannin (proanthocyanadins) and very astringent. Ripening eliminates the tannin except for a low level remaining in the skin.

Analyses of 9 selections of sapodillas from southern Mexico showed great variation in total soluble solids, sugars and ascorbic acid content. Unfortunately, the fruits were not peeled and therefore the results show abnormal amounts of tannin contributed by the skin:

Moisture ranged from 69.0 to 75.7%; ascorbic acid from 8.9 to 41.4 mg/100 g; total acid, 0.09 to 0.15%; pH, 5.0 to 5.3; total soluble solids, 17.4º to 23.7º Brix; as for carbohydrates, glucose ranged from 5.84 to 9.23%, fructose, 4.47 to 7.13%, sucrose, 1.48 to 8.75%, total sugars, 11.14 to 20.43%, starch, 2.98 to 6.40%. Tannin content, because of the skins, varied from 3.16 to 6.45%.


The seed kernel (50% of the whole seed) contains 1% saponin and 0.08% of a bitter principle, sapotinin. Ingestion of more than 6 seeds causes abdominal pain and vomiting.

Other Uses

Chicle: A major by-product of the sapodilla tree is the gummy latex called "chicle", containing 15% rubber and 38% resin. For many years it has been employed as the chief ingredient in chewing gum but it is now in some degree diluted or replaced by latex from other species and by synthetic gums.

Chicle is tasteless and harmless and is obtained by repeated tapping of wild and cultivated trees in Yucatan, Belize and Guatemala. It is coagulated by stirring over low fires, then poured into molds to form blocks for export. Processing consists of drying, melting, elimination of foreign matter, combining with other gums and resins, sweeteners and flavoring, then rolling into sheets and cutting into desired units.

The dried latex was chewed by the Mayas and was introduced into the United States by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana about 1866 while he was on Staten Island awaiting clearance to enter this country. He had a supply in his pocket for chewing and gave a piece to the son of Thomas Adams. The latter at first considered the possibility of using it to make dentures, then decided it was useful only as a masticatory. He found he could easily incorporate flavoring and thus soon launched the chicle-based chewing-gum industry. In 1930, at the peak of production, nearly 14,000,000 lbs (6,363,636 kg) of chicle were imported.

Efforts have been made to extract chicle from the leaves and unripe fruit but the yield is insufficient. It has been estimated that 3,200 leaves would be needed to produce one pound (0.4535 kg) of gum.

Among miscellaneous uses: the latex is employed as birdlime, as an adhesive in mending small articles in India; it has been utilized in dental surgery, and as a substitute for gutta percha. The Aztecs used it for modeling figurines.

Timber: Sapodilla wood is strong and durable and timbers which formed lintels and supporting beams in Mayan temples have been found intact in the ruins. It has also been used for railway crossties, flooring, native carts, tool handles, shuttles and rulers. The red heartwood is valued for archer's bows, furniture, bannisters, and cabinetwork but the sawdust irritates the nostrils. Felling of the tree is prohibited in Yucatan because of its value as a source of chicle.

Bark: The tannin-rich bark is used by Philippine fishermen to tint their sails and fishing lines.

Medicinal Uses: Because of the tannin content, young fruits are boiled and the decoction taken to stop diarrhea. An infusion of the young fruits and the flowers is drunk to relieve pulmonary complaints. A decoction of old, yellowed leaves is drunk as a remedy for coughs, colds and diarrhea. A "tea" of the bark is regarded as a febrifuge and is said to halt diarrhea and dysentery. The crushed seeds have a diuretic action and are claimed to expel bladder and kidney stones. A fluid extract of the crushed seeds is employed in Yucatan as a sedative and soporific. A combined decoction of sapodilla and chayote leaves is sweetened and taken daily to lower blood pressure. A paste of the seeds is applied on stings and bites from venomous animals. The latex is used in the tropics as a crude filling for tooth cavities.