Caimito: The Wondrous Star Apple

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Caimito fruit is indigenous to the Caribbean, Central, and South America. The fruit’s outer layer is either purple or greenish-brown, and its pulp is white, sweet, and juicy. It can be enjoyed fresh or used in various culinary preparations.

What is a Caimito?

The Caimito (Chrysophyllum cainito), otherwise known as milk fruit, golden leaf tree, purple star apple, estrella, or star apple, is an exotic fruit in the Sapotaceae family. Although it originated in Central America and the Caribbean, it has been extensively cultivated in tropical regions such as Southeast Asia.

The fruit is typically spherical, resembling an apple size, and has a sleek and polished appearance, with green or dark purple skin. Its flesh is white, juicy, and sweet, with a smooth and mildly pleasant taste. Certain types of Caimito may also have a mild tartness.

The fruit may be propagated by air-layering, grafting, and budding to produce superior varieties. Star apples have several relatives, including abiu, canistel, mamey and white sapote.

The History of Caimitos

Star apples were first grown in the West Indies and Central America’s lowlands. Today, this fruit tree is widely grown in numerous tropical regions across the globe, including Miami Florida, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

The growing popularity and demand for these fruits have made them a significant commodity in the international market. These fruits are exported to numerous countries, including the United States, and are sold in specialty markets and supermarkets.

The fruit holds considerable cultural significance in certain societies. In Jamaica, for instance, consuming the fruit during the Christmas holidays is customary. In various other countries, the fruit is used in traditional medicinal practices to treat conditions like fever and diarrhea.

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Star apples get their name from the star-like pattern found within the fruit.

What Does a Caimito Taste Like?

Caimito exhibits a supple and succulent consistency in its raw state. Cooking caimito enhances its taste with a more intensified flavor profile and a somewhat denser texture.

How to Tell When Caimito is Ripe

ColorAn unmistakable indicator of a mature caimito is its hue. The fruit transitions from a green shade to a rich purple as it ripens, with a few variants exhibiting a yellowish or reddish hue when fully mature.
TextureTo identify a ripe caimito, one should apply slight pressure using their fingertips. A caimito ready for consumption will feel slightly soft, while an unripe fruit will feel hard to the touch.
ScentA mature caimito emits a pleasantly sweet aroma with delicate floral notes.
SmoothnessA ripe caimito’s skin should be smooth and unblemished. The presence of evident damage or coarse patches may indicate that the fruit is not fully mature.

To ensure quality caimito, opt for fruits that exhibit firmness and have unblemished, smooth skin. Discard any fruits that display bruises, soft spots, or skin wrinkling. A ripe caimito will emit a pleasantly sweet fragrance, serving as a useful indicator of readiness for consumption.

Cooking with Caimito

Start by handpicking fully ripened caimito with a firm yet slightly compliant texture and a rich purple skin hue. Here are the steps on how to prepare caimito:

  1. Thoroughly rinse the fruit under running water to eliminate dirt or contaminants before preparing. 
  2. Bisect the caimito horizontally, uncovering its star-shaped core.
  3. Utilize a spoon to extract the pulp, disregarding the core and seeds.

You are now poised to embark on a culinary expedition with this extraordinary fruit. The caimito fruit is commonly used in traditional cuisines, especially in tropical regions like Southeast Asia, Central America, and the Caribbean.

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Caimito is popularly cooked down into jam, similarly to regular apples.

Here are a few examples of popular caimito recipes:

Caimito Salad: A refreshing and vibrant salad that combines the sweetness of the fruit with other tropical fruits like pineapple, mango, and papaya. It is a perfect side dish or light lunch option. 

Caimito Ice Cream: Mix pureed caimito fruit into your favorite ice cream base. Freeze the mixture according to your ice cream maker’s instructions, and enjoy a creamy caimito-flavored treat.

Caimito Jam: Transform caimito into a luscious jam that you can spread on toast, use as a filling for pastries, or enjoy as a dessert topping. The natural sweetness of the fruit is enhanced with a touch of citrus and a hint of spice.

Caimito Smoothie: Blend caimito with other tropical fruits like bananas, pineapples, and coconut milk for a creamy and refreshing smoothie. Add a drizzle of honey or a squeeze of lime to enhance the flavors. 

How to Store Caimito

For optimal storage of caimito, keep it at room temperature on a dry and cool surface, away from direct sunlight. Consume the fruit within 2-3 days of purchase to savor its freshness and flavor. 

It is advised against refrigerating caimito as it may impair its taste and texture. Freezing or drying the fruit is uncommon as it may lead to losing quality.

Nutritional Benefits of Caimito

The Caimito fruit presents several nutritional advantages. With 3 grams of fiber per serving, it is a great source of dietary fiber, promoting digestive health and a healthy gut.

It has moderate levels of vitamin C, which aids in collagen production and boosts immune function. This fruit provides essential minerals like potassium, which aids in managing blood pressure, and calcium, crucial for maintaining bone health. 

The deep hue proves the presence of antioxidants which help to neutralize free radicals in our bodies. Incorporating star apples into one’s diet can significantly enhance overall health by supporting digestion, strengthening the immune system, promoting heart health, and maintaining strong bones.

Where to Purchase Caimito

Caimito is commonly found at select fruit establishments or Hispanic or Asian farmers’ markets with a broad assortment of tropical fruits. This fruit is generally accessible during its peak season, which varies based on the location. 

In tropical areas, including Southeast Asia and portions of the Caribbean, the fruit is usually available throughout the year. In moderate regions, Caimito is mostly found in the warmer months, from late spring through early fall.


Tabitha is a freelance writer with love for food and drinks. She loves gardening and is always looking for new ways to get more fresh produce. She also loves animals and has dairy goats, chicken, sheep, a dog, and a cat at her home.

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