Article from the
Tropical Fruit News magazine of the Miami Rare Fruit Council
by Gene Joyner
The Sapodilla, Manilkara zapata,
is a large evergreen tropical tree native to Central America and
Mexico. Although it is slow growing it is a recommended large shade
tree because of its high resistance to breakage and uprooting by strong
winds. The tree also has a high degree of tolerance to salt and is
often used in seaside plantings.
The sapodilla will adapt to a
wide range of soil types and growing conditions but will be injured by
low temperatures of 26°F or lower. The tree is quite drought
resistant once it has been well established, and will also survive
short periods of flooding with no ill effects. Young trees should be
fertilized about every other month with a citrus or fruit tree type
fertilizer. After the first year, trees only need to be fertilized 2 or
3 times a year.
Small inconspicuous 3/8 inch flowers are born
throughout the year and the large 2 to 4 inch, round or egg shaped,
brown fruit mature primarily during the warmest months, though some
fruits may mature during the winter. The flesh is usually light
yellowish- brown with a texture that varies from smooth to granular,
and has a sweet pleasant taste. There might be no seeds at all or there
could be as many as 6--10 hard, shiny, flat, black 3/4 inch seeds. When
fruits reach their maximum size they are usually picked and allowed to
ripen off the tree. If you allow them to ripen on the tree, the fruit
will likely be destroyed when it falls to the ground as fully ripe
fruits are quite soft.
Sapodilla fruits can be used in a variety
of ways as a fresh fruit, as the latex in the fruit is a problem when
fruit are cooked.
Landscape nurseries offer sapodillas for sale
but many of these have been propagated from seed and may be inferior in
fruit quality and productivity. a number of seedling trees in South
Florida produce good quality fruit and these can be propagated by
grafting or airlayering. Named varieties you may find include
"Prolific", "Brown Sugar", "Modello'" "Russell", and "Martin". When
selecting for fruit characteristics, trees of good quality can be
grafted or air-layered.
Sapodillas have very few pest
problems. However, the mature fruit is attacked by the Caribbean fruit
fly. It is important that the fruit be picked and not allowed to get
too mature on the tree or else there will be severe damage to the tree.