Black sapotes are delicious fruits that are tomato-like in both texture and flavor. These round, squat fruits are native to Mexico, South America, and Central America.
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What is Black Sapote?
Black sapote (Diospyros nigra) is an edible, tropical fruit in the Ebenaceae family.
The fruit also goes by other names like chocolate pudding fruit in Hawaii, black persimmon, black soap apple, zapote prieto, and sapote negro in Spanish.
You may be forgiven for thinking that black sapote is related to mamey sapote, but the fruit is a close cousin to the persimmon.
Black sapotes grow on tropical fruit trees reaching up to 82ft (25m) in height. The trees are evergreen and don’t thrive in desert conditions. But they grow well during the winter months in tropical and subtropical climates.
The black sapote fruit is 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) in diameter. And it has an inedible olive-green outer skin that darkens when ripened. Many don’t like the taste of unripe black sapote as it’s astringent and irritating, but the ripe fruit is delicious and creamy.
The History of Black Sapote
Historical records show that black sapote originated in southern Mexico, from Jalisco to Chiapas, Veracruz, and Yucatan. However, the fruit is also native to Central America and western South America.
The Spanish spread black sapote to the Caribbean and Asian countries like the Philippines in the late 18th century. The fruit later spread to Cuba, Brazil, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Mauritius.
It landed in the United States in the 20th century through seeds and cuttings from the Isle of Pines, Cuba. Also, black sapote seeds from Guadalajara, Mexico, reached the Bureau of Plant Industry in 1919.
Today, different cultivars of black sapote grow in various regions globally, including the Philippines, Australia, Florida, Hawaii, Cuba, Mauritius, and Puerto Rico.
The unripe fruit is used as a fish poison, while the leaves make blistering poultices in the Philippines. In Central America, black sapote is fermented to make brandy. Also, black sapote fruit is eaten raw or used as an additive, especially in desserts.
What Does Black Sapote Taste Like?
Black sapote has a blend of honey, date, and caramel flavors. But the taste is light and not as intense as the flesh appears.
Unripe fruits are astringent and irritating, leaving a puckered feeling on the tongue. However, black sapote is delicious when cooked, especially in baked and non-baked desserts.
How to Tell When Black Sapote is Ripe
Black sapote’s deceiving appearance could tempt you to eat it when unripe. But the fruit is only fully ripened and safe to eat when it looks ready to throw out.
Here are some tips to help you determine when black sapote is ripe:
|When ripe, black sapote fruits turn from olive-green to deep yellow-green (with dark speckles). And the pulp changes from white to dark chocolatey brown.
|The unripe fruit is acidic, bitter, and irritating, while fully ripened black sapote is sweet with a custardy flavor.
|The outer covering of black sapote is hard, and it gradually softens when the fruit is ripe.
|Ripe black sapote is mushy, like very ripe papaya, soaked dates, or chocolate pudding.
Are White Sapote and Black Sapote Related?
Despite the similarity in name, white sapote and black sapote aren’t related. Here are the main similarities and differences between white sapote and black sapote:
- For both fruits, the term ‘sapote’ is related to the Aztec term ‘tzapotl,‘ meaning ‘soft, sweet fruit.’
- Both are grown in Mexico.
- Both are edible and sweet when ripe.
- White sapote belongs to the Rutaceae family, while black sapote is in the Ebenaceae family.
- White sapote is related to citrus, while black sapote is a close relative to persimmon.
- White sapote has a banana- or pear-like flavor. But black sapote’s taste combines honey, date, and caramel flavors.
Cooking with Black Sapote
Although black sapote is commonly eaten raw, it still features in cooked dishes.
Here’s how to prepare black sapote before cooking:
- Wash the fruit well under running water.
- Cut it into wedge-like pieces from the blossom end to the stem.
- Discard the seeds.
- Scoop the pulp gently with a spoon.
You can add the ripened fruit to recipes that use ripe bananas, like banana bread or smoothies. Or use it when making desserts like mousse, ice cream, and pies as filling.
Alternatively, blend black sapote with dates, milk, or nutmeg to make a creamy chocolate pudding. Or use the fruit as a spread on toast, similar to that of Nutella.
Black sapote can also be sweetened and added to beverages or used in cocktails. It pairs well with citrus fruits like lemons and oranges.
Thanks to its strangely delightful flavor, you’ll find black sapote in some Philipino and Mexican delicacies.
Here are some recipes featuring black sapote:
Black Sapote Brownies: Get the best out of your fully ripened ‘chocolate pudding fruit’ and prepare these yummy treats. The brownies have a rich, dense, fudgy texture and taste delicious. And you can pair them with ice cream for an excellent dessert.
Black Sapote Muffins: Craving a sweet, moist treat? Bake these black sapote muffins, and your dessert needs are sorted. You can tweak a few ingredients to your liking to prepare your perfect muffins.
Black Sapote Mousse: Here’s a tropical dessert you can hardly get enough of. Black sapote mousse is a delightful treat that’s so easy to prepare. You only need the ripe fruit, coconut milk, chocolate chips, vanilla (or coconut) extract, powdered sugar, and a pinch of salt.
Black Sapote Bread: Want to give a twist to your classic banana bread recipe? Substitute the bananas for the delicious black sapote fruits, and you’ll love the results.
How to Store Black Sapote
Black sapote can remain on your counter for several days when unripe. But keeping the fruit in perfect condition at room temperature once ripened is challenging.
You can keep it in the refrigerator to extend its shelf life for another three days. But the best way to store ripe black sapote is by freezing the pulp. To do so, scoop the flesh gently using a spoon, put it in an airtight container, and then freeze.
Chilled black sapote fruit or pulp can last for up to six months.
Nutritional Benefits of Black Sapote
Black sapote makes a healthy snack, combining vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
The fruit is packed with Vitamin C, with over three times the Vitamin C content in oranges. It’s also a good source of Vitamin A, fiber, protein, and carbohydrates.
Black sapote also contains a few minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and trace amounts of iron.
The nutritional composition of black sapote presents a host of health benefits. For example, the Vitamin C in the fruit helps boost the immune system due to its antioxidant properties. On the other hand, Vitamin A improves vision and contributes to healthy growth, development, and reproduction.
Calcium, potassium, and phosphorus are also essential in improving immunity. In addition, calcium and phosphorus help strengthen the teeth and bones. On the other hand, potassium regulates the fluid levels inside the cells.
Where to Purchase Black Sapote
You’ll rarely find black sapote fruits in supermarkets, as they don’t look as good as their taste when ripe. But you can purchase unripe black sapote from specialty stores and online retailers like Instacart when the fruit is in season.
Depending on the location, black sapote fruits are harvested in the late summer and winter months.