Known as the sacred fruit of the Aztec Indians of Mexico, the White Sapote (pronounced Suh-Po-Tee) has been around for over a thousand years.
The Sapote actually has quite a long history. It is known as the sleepy fruit. This is because it is best eaten after supper time and several hours before sleep so as not to cause gastro backup of bile. The pits are toxic and the fruit usually has several. Eating them can put a person into a permanent coma, hence the name sleepy fruit.
Since there are many varieties of White Sapote the colors can vary from each. So do the flavors. The fruit usually resembles a little green apple, has a bitter skin and tastes like a banana custard that leaves a pleasant cantaloup after taste. I know, because I have a tree, my variety being a Suebelle Sapote, and I have tasted many varieties. The tree begins fruiting from bud in mid December and delivers in my case by early spring though varieties do vary on their fruiting times.
The tree is closely related to the Edulis group and is in fact a cousin. The best way to handle the fruit is much like an avocado. You slice it around its equator down to the pit all the way around. Then holding it gently twist the top and bottom halves until you get this.
Then scoop out those toxic pits and toss em in the trash. There are also a few small flat seeds much like pumpkin seeds near the top by where the stem goes into the fruit. You scoop those and toss them as well.
Once done, scoop with a spoon very gently as close to the skin without breaching it if possible, the remaining meat of the fruit out of it and into a cup. No need to add anything as it is sweet tasting unless of course you accidentally get some skin mixed in. It should look like these below if you got the innards of the fruit.
The taste is sugary as mentioned, but unlike the photo above try and remove the skin fragments for a more enjoyable taste.
Growing the fruit. The only state where it grows best in the USA appears to be Southern California, though the tree is said to tolerate cold temps down to around 24 degrees above zero. I feed mine a 0-10-10 much like the Inga Edulis Vanilla Ice Cream Bean tree I have on premises. This is because the Sapotes are nitrogen fixing and don’t need a full fertilizer, though using a standard 10-10-10 feed works well too.
Lots of water. The Sapotes are thirst mongers and will push wandering roots capable of cracking cement if necessary. So a lot of water is essential to the trees well being. Pests include from what I have seen caterpillars, long legged leaf hoppers, squirrels and birds. You can get a pest spray for the larger varmints called “Repels All” which I use throughout my orchard with great success.
And the bottle above while not really cheap does the trick. Of course bugs are a different story. Since the Sapote is self-fertilizing I generally spray on the tree Seven which is also available like the above product at your local nursery.
There are other methods you can try such as worm castings at the base of the tree. This works good for critters such as caterpillars who might work from the ground up. Cats’ are voracious eaters and an infestation can strip a tree fast. Another ally believe it or not are spiders. They say spiders are a gardener’s best friend and that goes for all of them. Spiders in a tree will go after any and all other bugs. That includes poisonous to human spiders such as the Black Widow though rarely will you spot those in a tree as they are more adept at dark crawl spaces.
The current varieties of White Sapote are:
‘Coleman’–was one of the first named in California; fruit is oblate, somewhat lobed, furrowed at apex; to 3 in (7.5 cm) wide; skin is yellow-green; flesh of good flavor (22% sugar) but resinous; seeds small. Fruit ripens from late fall to summer. Tree somewhat dwarf; leaflets small and tend to twist. Difficult to propagate.
‘Dade’–grown at the Agricultural Research and Education Center, Homestead, Florida from a seed of a selected fruit of a local seedling tree. It was planted in 1935 and fruited in 1939. Round; skin golden-yellow tinged with green, thin; flesh of good, non-bitter flavor. There are 4 to 5 seeds. Ripens in June-July. The tree is low-growing and spreading, with smooth leaflets.
‘Gillespie’–originated in California; fruit is round, 3 in (7.5 cm) wide; skin is light-green with russet cheek, fairly tough, rough; flesh is white, of very good flavor. Tree is prolific bearer.
‘Golden’, or ‘Max Golden’–woolly-leaved; fruit conical, depressed at apex; up to 4 1/2 in (11.25 cm) wide; skin yellow-green, fairly tough; flesh has strong flavor, somewhat bitter; few seeds.
‘Harvey’–originated in California; round; 3 1/2 in (9 cm) wide; skin smooth, yellow-green with bright orange cheek; flesh cream-colored to pale-yellow; not of the best flavor. Tree is a prolific bearer.
‘Maechtlen’–named for the parent, an old tree on property owned by the Maechtlen family in Covina, California. Propagated by budding and sold by nurserymen in the 1940’s.
‘Maltby’, or ‘Nancy Maltby’–originated in California; round, faintly furrowed, blunt-pointed at apex, base slightly tapered; large; skin yellow-green, smooth, of good flavor but slightly bitter. Tree bears well.
‘Parroquia’–originated in California; oval, 2 1/2 in (6.25 cm) wide, 3 in (7.5 cm) long; skin yellow-green, smooth, thin; flesh ivory, of very good flavor. A fairly prolific bearer.
‘Pike’–originated in California; rounded or oblate, slightly 5-lobed; to 4 in (10 cm) wide; skin green, very fragile; flesh white to yellowish, of rich, non-bitter, flavor. The tree bears regularly and heavily in California and South Africa.
‘Suebelle’, or ‘Hubbell’–originated in California; round; medium to small; skin green or yellowish-green; of excellent flavor (22% sugar). Tree is precocious and blooms and fruits all year. Fairly widely planted in California.
‘Wilson’–originated in California; round to oblate; medium to large; skin smooth, medium thick; flesh of high quality and excellent flavor. Fruit ripens in fall and winter or more or less all year. Tree bears heavily and has been rather widely planted in California.
‘Yellow’–originated in California; oval with pointed apex, furrowed; skin is bright-yellow and fairly tough; flesh is firm. Fruit keeps well. Tree bears regularly and heavily in California.
These are the main whites but remember that many growers are experimenting with grafted new varieties all the time so the old growing landscape is changing rather rapidly. Whatever your choice eating these for health and because they taste so damned good can’t leave you anything but enjoying a fruit worth having. Known to kill all forms of arthritis and possibly also as a serious cancer fighter, the white sapote can hurt.