White zapote from Nerja. A.M.S.
The fruit that tastes like vanilla flan

The fruit that tastes like vanilla flan

Many may not have seen them, but these exotic fruits - sapotes - are slowly appearing in local fruit markets

Alekk M. Saanders

Tuesday, 26 September 2023, 14:35


In autumn it is possible to find a curious fruit, the sapote, being cultivated on the Costa del Sol but still little-known.

The term sapote (zapote in Spanish) is used in Central America to refer to fruits from different species. That means sapote has many different varieties, flavours and colours. For example, black sapote is closely related to persimmon and ebony, all being in the same genus, Diospyros. It originates from Central American, although cultivation has developed in Australia, the Philippines and Florida. The fruit flesh looks like chocolate, with a very creamy texture. Thanks to its consistency similar to chocolate mousse, the fruit is also known as chocolate pudding fruit. The black sapote contains four times more vitamin A and C than an orange and only a few calories. Numerous medicinal properties are attributed to it and it is traditionally used as a remedy for insomnia, as well as to treat respiratory and skin problems, to strengthen the eyesight and as a natural energiser and laxative.

Black sapote is known as chocolate pudding fruit thanks to its consistency similar to chocolate mousse. The taste of white sapote is closer to a vanilla flan

Black sapote along with white, yellow and mamey sapotes are cultivated at the Experimental Station of the Institute of Subtropical and Mediterranean Horticulture (IHSM) 'La Mayora' in Algarrobo (Axarquía). The fruits require tropical climate conditions, which is why none of them has reached a significant production. However, some enthusiastic farmers with land on the border between the Costa del Sol and the Costa Tropical are satisfied with experiments in planting sapote, mostly white ones. They have harvested enough to sell them in some fruit shops.

It is interesting that some sellers present the fruit as a exclusively 'local product' - as an avocado and cherimoya hybrid. However, it came to Europe as the Mexican apple (because it is native to eastern Mexico) after the discovery of the Americas. Scientists named the white sapote Casimiroa edulis and classified it as a species of tropical fruiting tree in the Rutaceae family to which citrus also belongs.

White sapote is an ovoid drupe, 5–10 cm in diameter, with a smooth, fibrous and soft skin which turns from green to yellow when ripe but is inedible. However, the creamy-white pulp is very palatable. It has a smooth texture similar to ripe avocado and tastes like pear, papaya or the forementioned... cherimoya. Indeed, its taste is closer to a vanilla flan than a fruit.

White sapote contains from one to five seeds that are medium-large in size. The seeds are said to have narcotic properties and contain sleep-inducing compounds. In the 16th century, Francisco Hernández de Toledo, a naturalist and court physician to the King of Spain, claimed that the seeds produce drowsiness, apparently referring to the name of the fruit given by Indians, cochitzapotl (meaning 'sleep-sapote').

White sapotes have many beneficial qualities starting with a high fibre content and vitamins A and C. The fruit is a great source of nutrients such as iron, folate, niacin, copper, pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5) and potassium. The high levels of vitamins A and C help boost immunity and ensure heathy eyes.

Besides the fruit, extracts of the plant itself is used for different treatments. Its leaves are used to prepare infusions to help lower blood pressure and to optimise the digestive process.

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