Manilkara zapota, commonly known as the sapodilla is a long-lived, evergreen tree native to southern Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. An example natural occurrence is in coastal Yucaton in the Petenes mangroves ecoregion, where it is a subdominant plant species. It was introduced to the Philippines during Spanish colonization. It is grown in large quantities in India, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Mexico.The name “zapota” from the Spanish zapote ultimately derives from the Nahuatl word tzapotl.The fruit is a large berry, 4-8 cm (1.6-3.1 in) in diameter, ellipsoid, round. or compressed, containing two to five 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 an exceptionally sweet, malty flavor. 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.
HOW TO GROW
- Select a ripe sapote fruit and cut it open with a knife. Extract the seeds and rinse them of all pulp.
- Crack the coat of each seed before planting to increase chances of germination. Place a seed between two wooden boards and apply light pressure to the top board. A hairline crack in the seed is ideal.
- Plant sapote seeds in soil-free potting medium, no more than 14 days after harvesting, since sapote seeds do poorly in storage. Make sure that the pointed side of each seed faces up 1/2-inch from the surface of the soil. Water each seed deeply.
- Continue watering deeply throughout germination, which occurs in two to four weeks, and through seedling growth, keeping the potting medium moist. Once seedlings outgrow their pots, transfer them to increasingly larger containers.
- Select an outdoor planting space once trees grow between 2 and 4 feet tall. Choose an area with well-drained soil that receives full sun, and with no nearby structures.
- Water each sapote tree thoroughly before planting. Dig holes 30 feet apart that are three to four times wider than the root ball and three times as deep as the tree’s container. Backfill and tamp down soil once trees are planted.
- Mulch newly planted sapote trees with 2 to 6 inches of wood chip mulch, staying 8 to 12 inches away from the trunk of each tree. Water each tree with 1 to 2 inches of water.
To grow a sapodilla tree, most propagation is done by seed, which will be viable for years although some commercial growers use grafting and other practices. Once germinated, use some patience as it takes five to eight years to grow a sapodilla tree of bearing age.
As mentioned, the fruit tree is tolerant of most conditions but prefers a sunny, warm, and frost free location in most any type of soil with good drainage.
Additional care for sapodilla trees advises fertilizing the young trees with -8% nitrogen, 2-4% phosphoric acid and 6-8% potash every two or three months with ¼ pound and increasing gradually to 1 pound. After the first year, two or three application a year is plenty.
Not only are sapodilla trees tolerant of drought conditions, but they can take soil salinity, need very little pruning and are mostly pest resistant.
As long as the sapodilla tree is protected from frost and patience is in abundance for this slow grower, flavorful fruit shall be the reward from this tolerant specimen.
Wilt or die back is common where sapota cultivation is being extended to traditionally rice growing regions. Due to anaerobic conditions in monsoon and post monsoon season in such areas wilt is of common appearance aggravated by Fusarium spp. This can be controlled by effective drainage facility before planting.
The shape of fruit is related with number if seeds init which depend on conditions for pollination at anthesis. High temperature and rainfall during flowering cause oblongation of fruits. Therefore, cultivation of sapota in areas with extreme summer temperature should be avoided.
Sometimes fruits do not develop into their normal shape but develop a depression or furrow towards the calyx end. This symptom usually appears immediately after heavy rainfall and is aggravated by high intensity of irrigation. Therefore over irrigation should be avoided.
The fruits exposed to intense sunlight do not ripen uniformly, developing corkiness during winter. This is probably due to killing of hydrolyzing enzymes by alternation moisture accumulation and heating of fruit surface in winter. Thus its trees need to grow vigorously.
- Sapodilla is one of the high calorie fruits; 100 g provides 83 calories (almost same as that of calories in sweet potato, and banana). Additionally, it is a very good source of dietary fiber (5.6 g/100g), which makes it an excellent bulk laxative. This fiber content helps relieve constipation episodes and help protect mucousa of colon from cancer-causing toxins.
- The fruit is rich in antioxidant poly-phenolic compound tannin. Tannins are a complex family of naturally occurring polyphenols. Research studies found that tannins have astringent properties and shown to have potential anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anti-bacterial, and anti-parasitic effects. Hence, these compounds may found useful applications in traditonal medicines as anti-diarrheal, hemostatic (stops bleeding) and as a remedy for hemorrhoids.
- Furthermore, the anti-inflammatory effect of tannins help limit conditions like erosive gastritis, reflux-esophagitis, enteritis, and irritating bowel disorders. Some other fruits that also rich in tannins include pomegranate, persimmon, grapes…etc.
- Sapote contains a good amount of antioxidant vitamins like vitamin C (24.5% of recommended daily intake per 100 g of fruit), and vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for vision. It is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin A has been known to offer protection from lung and oral cavity cancers. So also, consumption of foods containing vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and help scavenge harmful free radicals from the human body
- Fresh ripe sapodilla is a good source of minerals like potassium, copper, iron and vitamins like folate, niacin and pantothenic acid. These compounds are essential for optimal health as they involve in various metabolic processes in the body as cofactors for the enzymes.