Benefits Of: SAPODILLA

Sapotaceae (Sapodilla family)

Description. Large evergreen tree with white, gummy latex in all plant parts, 25-35 m (80-115 ft) tall. Alternate, elliptic leaves are spirally clustered at tips of branches, glossy, 7-12 cm (2.8-5 in) long by 2-4 cm (0.8-1.6 in) wide. White flowers are small, inconspicuous, with 3 hairy brown sepals enclosing the inner light green corolla. Fruits spherical, oblate or oval, 5-10 cm (2-4 in) in diameter, with brown and scruffy skin when ripe. Soft pulp yellowish to brown, very sweet and fairly juicy with a malty taste reminiscent of caramel. Fruits contain 3-10 shiny brown or black seeds.

Benefits Of: SAPODILLA Photo Gallery

Origin and Distribution. Probably native to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, northern Belize, and northeastern Guatemala. The tree was widely planted throughout tropical regions of Central America and the Caribbean before the arrival of Europeans. During the great colonial interchange of fruit trees, sapodilla seeds were carried to Asia and Africa. Today the tree is widely cultivated in India, Pakistan, and the Philippines.

Food uses. The ripe fruits are usually eaten raw. The soft, sweet pulp can be blended with fruit juices and cream to make a delicious dessert sauce. In Indonesia and Malaysia, the flesh of the sapodilla is cooked with ginger and lime juice. The pulp can also be used as a filling for pies and tarts. The flavor and texture of dried slices are very similar to dates (Phoenix

In Indonesia and Malaysia, the flesh of the sapodilla is cooked with ginger and lime juice. dactylifera, p. 254). In Indonesia, after the milky latex is eliminated by rinsing with water, the young shoots are eaten as a vegetable.

Comments. The flavorless and nontoxic latex of M. zapota and closely related M. chicle contains resins and rubber. It has been produced from wild and planted trees in Central America for millennia by cutting the bark in a zigzag manner and collecting the latex. The latex, called chictli by the Mayans, was coagulated in the smoke of a fire; it was used for chewing and also for making rubberlike balls for use in their famous ball games. Around 1866, samples of the dried latex arrived in the United States and were given to the son of Thomas Adams, who quickly realized the great potential of chicle-based chewing gum. In 1943 about 9,000 tons of chicle latex were exported from Mexico to the United States for making chewing gum, which was very popular with American soldiers in World War II. Until about 1960 the latex of Manil-kara trees was the only source of chewing gum, but it was later largely replaced by synthetic products. The true rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family.

The dark red wood of sapodilla is very hard and durable, and fully termite resistant. It was commonly used in Mayan temples, where pieces of it can still be seen today.

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