Manilkara zapota, commonly known as sapodilla, sapota, chikoo, chico, naseberry, or nispero is a long-lived, evergreen tree native to southern Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. An example natural occurrence is in coastal Yucatán 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, Pakistan, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Mexico. Sapodilla is a large round berry with fleshy pulp inside that ranges from a pale yellow to an earthy colour with a sweet smell and pleasant flavour. The plant can thrive only in warm and tropical climates. The sapodilla tree yields fruit twice a year, though it flowers all through the year.
Table of Contents
60 to 100 feet
6.0 - 8.0
Growth Nutrition of Sapota Trees
The Sapota trees need a foliar spray of NPK, Mg and Zn during the fruit set period so that the size of the fruit is improved. Application of nitrophoska 8: 12: 24:4 @ 100 g/tree has proved to be beneficial for the growth of Sapota trees.
Varieties of Sapodilla
Silas Woods is a dwarf variety that can be maintained to 4-5 feet in height. It is cold-resistant and ideal for containers.
Alano is another good option for containers. The fruits from this tree are 2-3 inches in diameter and have a fine texture and sweet taste.
Hasya is a Central American variety that forms football-shaped yellow-red fruits with few seeds.
Makok can reach up to 2-3 feet tall. It produces smooth brown flesh with a sweet aroma.
Morena is a Mexican variety; the tree can grow up to 4-5 feet in containers. It produces hard fruits in half red half caramel shade with an exceptional taste.
Tikal is a Central American variety. It grows tall but can be pruned 2-3 feet. It forms small, elongated, fine-textured fruits.
Molix is a Mexican variety that grows up to 3-4 feet tall. It produces exceptionally sweet, red-colored fruits.
Sapodilla Tree Propagation
You can propagate sapodilla through seeds sowing them in a pot or directly in the garden soil. Though some gardeners are also known to use grafting and other methods. But, growing from seeds might take about 6-9 years to grow into a sapodilla tree producing fruits. However, getting a young, established sapodilla tree from a nursery will save you a lot of time.
The perfect time for growing sapodilla is during late summer and early fall. It grows well in humid or arid environments.
Place the nursery-brought plant upright, bury the roots properly, and pack it with soil. Spread a fine layer of compost over the soil as this will work as a mulch for the young tree. Water the plant evenly, avoiding stems and leaves. Use a bamboo stick or wooden stake to give support to the growing tree.
Take an 18-24 inches diameter pot with drainage holes. Wooden boxes and whiskey barrels can also be used.
Growing Sapodilla Tree
For the tree’s best growth and fruit production, choose a site that gets plenty of bright sunlight. The location must also be free of any other trees as sapodillas may get large if not pruned to keep their size in check.
Use organically rich, well-draining, and fertile soil. If you are using garden soil for growing sapodilla trees, blend it with equal amounts of sand and perlite. The pH of the soil should be around 6 to 8.
For the homemade potting mix, combine equal quantities of peat moss, bark, sand, perlite, or vermiculite, with organic compost. The tree does exceptionally well in the highly calcareous soil of south Florida.
You will have to water the newly planted sapodilla on alternate days for the first week and twice a week after a month for the next 6-8 months. Once the tree gets established and is 4-5 years old, it will not need frequent watering.
Sapodilla Tree Care
If you notice young trees to be leggy with fewer lower branches, prune the top part. This will induce lateral bud break on the lower trunk. As the tree matures, you will only have to prune out the damaged, diseased branches or dead wood.
Do not cut out the lower branches. Keep the height to about 10-14 feet.
Mulching helps in maintaining the moisture of the soil and protects the roots in freezing temperatures. Mulch with a 3-5-inch layer of bark or wood chips. For fully grown trees, keep the mulch 8-12 inches away from the bark.
Feed the plant with an all-purpose, 5-5-5 fertilizer, every 8-10 weeks during the first year as per the instructions on the label. It will provide nutrients. For well-established trees, use 2.5 to 5.0 lbs of fertilizer 2 to 3 times a year. Apply it at the base of the tree.
Harvesting and Storage
Wait until some fruits drop from the plant. Start harvesting those of similar size from the tree. Another way to make out if the fruits are ready to harvest is skin color. When it changes its color from brown to amber, they’re ready to be picked.
Also, scratch the surface of the skin, if it is tan in color, the fruits are ripe. But if it is green or oozes latex, it indicates an unripe fruit.
Sapodilla can be stored in the refrigerator for more than a week.
Pests and Diseases
In general, the sapodilla tree remains supremely healthy with little or no care. In India, it is sometimes attacked by a bark-borer, Indarbela (Arbela) tetraonis. Mealybugs may infest tender shoots and deface the fruits. A galechid caterpillar (Anarsia) has caused flower buds and flowers to dry up and fall. In Indonesia, caterpillars of Tarsolepis remicauda may completely defoliate the tree. A caterpillar, Nephopteryx engraphella, feeds on the leaves, flower buds and young fruits in parts of India. The ripening and overripe fruits are favorite hosts of the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Mexican and other fruit flies.
Various scales, including Howardia biclavis, Pulvinaria (or Chloropulvinaria) psidii, Rastrococcus iceryoides, and pustule scale, Asterolecanium pustulans Ckll., may lead to black sooty mold caused by the fungus Capnodium sp. on stems, foliage and fruits. In some years, during winter and spring in Florida, a rust (possibly Uredo sapotae) may affect the foliage of some cultivars. A leaf spot (Septoria sp.) has caused defoliation in a few locations. The moth of a leaf miner (Acrocercops gemoniella) is active on young leaves. Other minor enemies have been occasionally observed.
In India, it may be necessary to spread nets over the tree to protect the fruits from fruit bats.
Benefits of Sapodilla
Provides Ample Energy
Sapodilla is a calorie-dense fruit made up of simple digestible sugars like fructose and sucrose. Being a natural source of sugar, consuming sapota can instantly replenish energy levels and serves as a great snack option during intense sports activities or exercise.
Furthermore, sapodilla is the best choice of fruit for children and pregnant women to meet their increasing demand for energy and uplifts overall health.
The presence of natural plant compound tannins in sapota helps to neutralize acid secretion in the intestinal tract. While the high volume of dietary fibres adds bulk to the stool, regularize bowel movement, treats constipation and cures all other digestive problems. Apart from this, potent antiparasitic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial characteristics of sapodilla can calm the irritated gastrointestinal tract and treat gastritis.
Strengthens Immune System
Bestowed with vast reserves of vitamins A, C, polyphenol and antioxidant compounds sapota holds a remarkable role in building a robust immune system, combat detrimental toxins and lowers the risk of diseases. Moreover, adding sapodilla as a part of healthy diet safeguards the system from harmful microbes and treats seasonal cold and cough.
Stress has become one of the common issues that take a toll on your health. This could be greatly managed by having wholesome foods. Sapodilla is one such food heaped with essential nutrients particularly vitamin C that uplifts weakened immune system and enhances total well-being. Furthermore, being a natural sedative it soothes the nervous system and uplift mood.
If you are above 30 and already dealing with joint problems, then add chickoo on to your diet regimen. An immense quantity of minerals like calcium, phosphorus, copper, selenium, magnesium and iron present in sapodilla aid to strengthen the bone, prevents joint pains and also averts the risk of osteoporosis. Deficiency of copper can increase the risk of osteoporosis, the richness of copper in chickoo is important for maintaining healthy bones, connective tissue and muscles.
Sapodilla blessed antioxidants savageness free radicals, combats oxidative stress, prevent the formation of tumour cells and lowers the risk of several forms of cancer. Being intrinsically rich in vitamins A and B helps in keeping the mucus lining healthy and averts the risk of lung and oral cancers. Aside these, being a good source of natural dietary fibre supports to keep the gut health and shields the body from colon cancer.
Anaemia is a common health condition in women in their reproductive age caused due to the deficiency of iron. Where the body is unable to make haemoglobin the red blood cells that transport oxygen and nutrients to all the cells. Sapota loaded with iron and copper help to improve iron levels and treats anaemia.
Regulates Blood Pressure
Sapodilla is one of the preferred fruit for controlling high blood pressure. Ample amount of potassium in chickoo, a key mineral aids in lowering sodium levels, relaxes muscles, improve blood circulation and maintains blood pressure.
Sapota bestowed with a huge amount of Vitamin A holds a significant role in maintaining good vision by uplifting the health of the cornea, the outer covering of the eye. It is also a component of rhodopsin, a protein present in the eyes that helps you to see in dim light and promotes eyesight.
Good For Arthritis
The goodness of copper in sapota exhibits anti-inflammatory properties that reduce stiffness and joint pain. While it also strengthens muscles, bones and repairs the connective tissue. People suffering from arthritis can improve their condition by adding sapota in their diet regimen.
Sapodilla Uses For Pregnant Women
Laden with vitamins A, C, folate, B6 and a good source of simple carbs, sapodilla is a great fruit for pregnant and lactating women that replenishes energy levels. Rich in electrolytes like potassium help to manage morning sickness and dizziness. The potent antioxidant properties of chickoo fight bacterial infections, while anti-inflammatory effect reduces inflammation in the gut.
Potent Anti-Inflammatory Agent
The goodness of tannins in sapota or chikoo works as an effective anti-inflammatory agent that aids in enhancing the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract and averts the risk of diseases like enteritis, irritable bowel syndrome and gastritis. Furthermore, it also lowers inflammation and eases swelling and pain.
Rich Source Of Antioxidants
Chikoo being a powerhouse of antioxidants plays a crucial role in scavenging free radicals and fend off oxidative stress. The essence of antioxidants like ascorbic acid, polyphenols, and flavonoids aids in delaying early signs of ageing and makes the skin look nourished and youthful. While the seed oil is bestowed with hair nourishing properties that help in treating hair fall due to seborrheic dermatitis.
Uses For Healthy Skin
Sapodilla is an amazing fruit blessed with skin-friendly nutrients for improving skin health and beauty. The richness of essential vitamins A, C and B sapota rejuvenates new skin cells and locks the skin moisture from deep within. A huge array of polyphenols, flavonoids and antioxidants averts detrimental toxins from damaging healthy skin cells, fades away wrinkles, fine lines, slow down ageing, and enhances skin complexion and radiance naturally.
The tree is famous for the white gummy sap, in the bark called chicle. Long ago, the Mayas and Aztecs boiled the ‘chicle’ sap, molded it in blocks, cut it into small chunks to chew as chewing gums.
The tannin-rich bark is used by Philippine fishermen to tint their sails and fishing lines.
The fruit tastes best when eaten fresh.
The pulp is also famous to make sherbets, milkshakes, and ice creams.
Sapodilla wood is strong and durable and timbers which formed lintels and supporting beams in Mayan temples have been found intact in the ruins. It has also been used for railway crossties, flooring, native carts, tool handles, shuttles and rulers.
A paste of the seeds is applied on stings and bites from venomous animals.
The latex is used in the tropics as a crude filling for tooth cavities.
A decoction of old, yellowed leaves is drunk as a remedy for coughs, colds and diarrhea.
A "tea" of the bark is regarded as a febrifuge and is used to halt diarrhea and dysentery.