Sapodilla is a tropical fruit belonging to the family Sapotaceae
Sapodilla is a Tucatan native of Central America, Mexico, Northeastern Guatemala and the West Indies, where it is a tall tree found in forests. Spanish colonialists brought a variety of Manilkara to Manila where it became known for its fruit. From the Philippines, it spread throughout Southeast Asia as a popular fruit tree. Various species of sapodilla are now cultivated in Africa, India, East Indies, Philippines, Malaysia, the tropics and sub-tropics of the Americas and they are found in almost all tropical countries worldwide. Sapodilla has around 75 related species across the globe although this tropical version is much shorter than its counterparts in Central America. Sapodilla is used for various purposes such as for its fruit, wood or medicinal properties.
The Sapodilla tree is evergreen, has a conical crown and can grow up to 30 m in height. Its bark is light-grey and becomes fissured with age. All parts of the Sapodilla tree contain a white latex. Young twigs of the Sapodilla plant are covered in a woolly layer. Sapodilla leaves are spirally arranged, dark green and pointed. It has a stalk measuring between one to three cm. Sapodilla flowers are white, fragrant, solitary and bisexual. They have six free sepals in two whorls on the outside. The petals are joined in a corolla tube with six lobes and six stamens and six staminodes. The ovary is superior and it has a single style. Sapodilla flowers remain open even at night. Sapodilla fruits are brown, round or oblong, with a thin skin. The flesh is sweet, soft and reddish-brown. The better selections have a taste similar to brown sugar or rapadura. Sapodilla fruits have very few seeds in them that are hard, black, elongated, flattened and shiny.
Sapodilla is usually consumed fresh. The fruit is commercialised for its flavour in sherbets, drinks, butter and ice-creams. It is also cooked to make pies, syrups, sauces, jams and is fermented to get wine or vinegar. In Indonesia, young Sapodilla shoots are eaten either raw or after steaming with rice. The latex of Sapodilla, that coagulates into what is known as chicle, formed the base for chewing gums before synthetic materials came to be used.
In Java, sapodilla flowers are used in a powder with other ingredients that is rubbed on the stomach of women after child birth. Sapodilla seeds, flowers and bark contain tannin and saponin with medicinal properties. The Malaya use Sapodilla seeds in treating fever. Sapodilla seeds are also diuretic. Unripe Sapodilla fruits are eaten to stop purging and to treat mild s diarrhoea. The Chinese use the bark of Sapodilla to treat diarrhoea.
Grafted Sapodilla "Rapadura" - Chiku - Ciku (Manilkara zapota)
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