Origin of Sapota
Julie Morton writes in her book, “Fruits of Warm Climates” that sapotas most likely came from the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, northern Belize, and the northern regions of Guatemala. Though sapodillas have been harvested since ancient times, the fruit didn’t come to Sri Lanka’s soils until 1802. Despite sapota’s relatively late arrival to India, the fruit has since flourished.
Today, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Mexico, Central and South America, Palestine, and the Philippines grow chikus commercially. The fruit has some recognition in the tropical parts of Florida in the US, but sapodillas are relatively unknown throughout temperate North America and Europe.
Availability of Sapota in India
Indian sapodillas are some of the hardiest in the world. Sapotas grow in abundance throughout Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh. According to 2010 figures published from the National Horticulture Board, sapota orchards cover approximately 160,000 hectares. Almost 30,000 hectares are located in Karnataka-- the top producer of sapotas in the country, yielding 353,000 metric tons. The second highest producer is Maharashtra, growing 70,000 hectares and producing 98,000 metric ton. Although Gujarat only dedicates 27 hectares, their output is a staggering 272 metric tons of fruit.
Interestingly, sapota wasn’t always such a high-demand crop—from 2001 to 2002, the amount of land allocated to sapota crops was only roughly 50,000 hetctares: less than a third of the land used today. Production has since increased six-fold in a mere decade. 41 varieties of sapotas grow in the country, and some of the most well-known and important cultivars are kalipatti, baramasi, cricket ball, dwarpudi, Oval, and various DHS, PKM and CO types.
Most of India’s sapota market is consumed domestically, as less than half a percent are exported. As of 2011, most of India’s sapota exports go to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and the UK, respectively. The US is the 9th largest importer of Indian sapotas.
Where to find Sapota in India
Sapotas are as common and beloved in India as strawberries are to westerners. Sapota season occurs twice in a year: from January to February, and again from May to July. When in season, sapotas sell in every shop from pushcart street vendors to upscale produce markets. Where a seller purveys fruit, so too will there be sapotas during these months in the south.
Checking for Ripeness in Sapota
Sapotas are climacteric, meaning they have to be ripened artificially. Thus, most sapotas sold on markets should already be ripe. A good chiku yields to the touch, has a round, uniform shape with no wrinkles or signs of bruising. It should not be hard and light, although these can be purchased with the expectation that they’ll soften in a few weeks’ time.
Eating an unripe sapota is immediately evident by its bitter latex permeating the overall taste. Though the latex residing near the skin never goes away completely (even in the ripest fruits), it subsides considerably as it ripens. The flesh should not be green, but rather a caramel brown.
Overripe chikus have a withered, shrunken look. The flesh inside is discolored, water-sunken and near black; the smell is slightly fermented. The taste is the biggest indicator, as it’s no longer sweet but musky and sour.
If picking from the tree, pick when the fruit is fully brown or tan and shows no sign of green. Scratch gently to verify there’s no green below the skin. Sapotas will get softer once picked, but not sweeter; therefore, if the sapotas are brown but hard, they may be picked with the expectation of growing more pliable and consumption-friendly.
Taste of Sapota
Sapotas are far from the prettiest fruit, but they more than overcompensate for their stodgy, potato-like appearance with their heavenly marzipan taste. The main profile is sugary but grounded with earthy, caramel, malty notes instead of bright, zesty ones. The fruit’s taste is aptly compared with brown sugar and root beer. Sapodilla’s texture is melt-in-your-mouth granular, akin to the best pear without as much juice.
Nutritional Value of Sapota
According to the USDA nutrient database, 100g of sapota contains the following nutritional information:
2.6g Fiber (10% RDI)
2.1g Protein (4% RDI)
410 IU Vitamin A (8% RDI)
20mg Vitamin C (33% RDI)
1.8mg Niacin (9% RDI)
39mg Calcium (4% RDI)
1mg Iron (6% RDI)
30mg Magnesium (8% RDI)
28mg Phosphorous (3% RDI)
344mg Potassium (10% RDI)
Health Benefits of Sapota
Sapotas are one of the higher sugar fruits, but contains a healthy dose of iron, which keeps energy levels sustained and transports oxygen to the blood. Chikus contain magnesium, which keeps bones healthy, stabilizes blood pressure, and maintains nerves. Niacin, also found in chikus, reduces arthritic pain, promotes healthy circulation and assists with the body’s natural energy production.
Sapotas also have been an integral part of home remedies and traditional medicine. Sapota’s high tannin levels make them a prime candidate to stop diarrhea, and astringent underripe fruits mixed with flowers remedy pulmonary issues. Withered yellow leaves treat coughs, colds and also prevent diarrhea. The bark, when made into tea, also alleviates stomach problems like dysentery. Though the seeds are toxic in rats, Yucatans make a fluid extract to serve as a soporific and sedative. The ground seeds also make a paste to alleviate stings and bites.
Though few scientific studies have been conducted on the health benefits of sapotas, the medical community has discovered some positive effects:
--According to a study published in Journal of Natural Products, polyphenols found in the fruit display cytotoxic activities against human colon cancer cells.
--As per a study published in Biological Research, sapota seeds have potent antibacterial properties
--A study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences found sapota extracts are antimicrobial.
--According to a study published in Pharmacognosy Research, sapota leaves have anti-hyperglycemic, hypocholesterolemic, and antioxidant activities
How to Open/Cut:
If eating out of hand, consume like a kiwi: cut the soft fruit in half (with the spoon, if desired), and scoop out the flesh. A few shiny black seeds wait in the middle of the fruit, but these are quite easily removed. Many prefer rubbing the grainy, sandy coating from the fruit before consuming, though it’s not necessary.
*Tip: getting latex on the spoon is an inevitability. This will cause the spoon to be coated in a gummy, difficult-to-remove whitish substance. One of the best methods of cleaning it off is by dipping the spoon in boiling water. The latex can be scraped once sufficiently hot. Rubbing coconut oil on the surface will also help remove the latex.
Ripe chikus last at room temperature for roughly a week, but refrigeration keeps them preserved for up to two weeks. Hard yet mature sapodillas keep for up six weeks in very cold refrigeration, and eight when fully frozen. Sapotas require a “goldilocks” approach to humidity: too much causes sogginess, but not enough causes wrinkly skin. The relative moisture should be 80-90 percent humidity.
Note: chilling sapodillas reduces their quality significantly. Only freeze fully ripe sapotas and ideally, consume at room temperature.
Sapota Recipe Ideas and Uses:
Though sapotas are perfectly delicious on their own, they also make a good addition to several dishes.
--Blend mashed sapota into breads, muffins, pancake batters
--Make a sweet sauce by straining the flesh through a colander and adding other fruit juice (pineapple or orange). Adding a nut based whip cream adds greater dimensions to the taste.
--It’s possible to boil the fruit and make a jam, though it requires frequently skimming the gummy green latex froth from the mixture.
--Make a pie from sapodilla: upon layering the sliced fruits on the crust, drizzle lemon and lime juice to prevent the fruits from becoming rubbery. Blend a bit of banana and avocado with sapota for the filling to make a raw vegan pie.
--Make a sapota milkshake by blending frozen banana, sapota, and nut milk.
--Interestingly, researchers in Thailand discovered potential in the seed coat’s use in cosmetics as an anti-wrinkle. Note: the seeds are quite toxic, so avoid ingestion.
|Sapota fruit salad from|
The Opulent Opossum
Banana, mango, dates, figs, walnuts, pecans, almonds, vanilla, chocolate, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg
The similarity in name between Chiclet gum and chiku fruits is no coincidence: one theory of Chiclet’s namesake is that chicle latex used to come from sapota trees, specifically Manilkara chicle.
The sapotaceae family has many edible, well-loved members: