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Sapodilla (Sapota) nutrition facts

Sapodilla or sapota (chikoo) is another popular tropical fruit in line with mango, banana, jackfruit, etc. Sapota composes of soft, easily digestible pulp made of simple sugars like fructose and sucrose.

Sapota is a tropical evergreen, fruit-bearing tree belongs to the family of Sapotaceae, in the genus: Manilkara. Scientific name: Manilkara zapota.

sapodilla plant
Sapota fruits. Note for rusty grey raw fruits. (Photo courtesy by Narith5)

Sapote thought to have originated in the central American rain forests, probably in Mexico and Belize. Today, its cultivation has spread all over the tropical belt and is being grown as a major commercial crop in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Malaysia. The tree is one of fast growing, wind and drought resistant, and it flourishes well even under dry arid regions receiving scanty rains. However, water irrigation during summer would results in good fruit yields.

Each sapodilla fruit is a berry; round or oval, measures about 10 cm in diameter, and weigh about 150 g. A tree bears as many as 2000 fruits/year.

sapodilla with seed
Sapota fruits. Note for rusty grey raw fruits. (Photo courtesy by Narith5)

Sapota fruit has grey/brown, sandy, “kiwifruit like” outer surface but without the fuzziness. Unripe fruits possess white, hard, inedible pulp that secrete sticky latex containing toxic substance saponin. This milky latex gradually disappears and its white flesh turns brown as the fruit ripe. Once ripen, it becomes soft, aquires sweet taste and smooth or grainy texture with slight musky flavor. It contains about 3-10 black, smooth, shiny “biconvex/bean” shaped, inedible seeds, located at its center.

Health benefits of sapodilla

  • 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.

There exists many cultivars of sapodilla are grown worldwide like:-

  • Brown Sugar variety - Fruit is medium to small, 2 to 2-1/2 inches long, nearly round. Skin is light, scruffy brown. Flesh pale brown, fragrant, juicy, very sweet and rich, texture slightly granular. Quality is very good.
  • Prolific variety - the fruit is round-conical, 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 inches long and broad. Skin is scruffy, brown, becoming nearly smooth at maturity. Flesh is light-pinkish, mildly fragrant, texture smooth, flavor sweet, quality good. Tree bears early, consistently and heavily.
  • Russel type- The fruit is large, round, 3 to 5 inches in diameter and length. Skin is scruffy brown with gray patches. Flesh is pinkish, mildly fragrant, texture somewhat granular. Flavor is rich and sweet.
  • Tikal - A new seedling selection with excellent flavor. Elliptic in shape, light brown in color, smaller than Prolific. Ripe very early.

Selection and storage

Sapodillas can be available all around the season in the markets. Harvesting is usually done by plucking each fruit gently as you do in mango. It is often difficult to tell when a sapodilla is ready to harvest. Mature fruit appears brown and easily separates from the stem without leaking of latex. Scratch the fruit to make sure whether the skin is not green beneath the scurf.

In the stores, buy fresh sapodilla with smooth intact skin and without cuts/cracks, bruises or wrinkles. Once ripen, the fruit just yields to gentle thumb pressure.

Mature but unripe fruits must be kept at room temperature for 7 to 10 days to ripen. Firm, ripe sapodillas can keep well for several days inside the home refrigerator and if set at 35° F, they can be kept for upto six weeks.

Preparation and serving method

Wash the sandy scruff before eating in cold water. Fresh sapodilla should be eaten when it turns soft. Cut the fruit into two equal halves, then scoop the flesh using a spoon and discard the seeds. It should be enjoyed without any additions in order to experience its unique flavor.

Here are some serving tips:

  • Fresh sapota sections are a great addition to fruit salads.

  • Sapodilla-milk shakes/smoothie is a favorite drink in Asia.

  • It is also used in ice-creams, fruit-jam, cakes, pie,...etc.

Safety profile

Raw sapodilla fruits are high in latex and tannins and intensely bitter in taste. Eating unripe fruits may cause mouth ulcers, itchy sensation in the throat, and breathing difficulty, especially in the children. (Medical disclaimer).

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Further resources:

1. Subtropical gardening- pdf.

2. USDA National Nutrient database.

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