In the tropical regions of Central America, the white sapote tree grows soft, custard-like fruit that you can eat with a spoon. It boasts a unique creamy texture with notes of banana, citrus, and the rich caramel flavors of custard or flan.
Table of Contents
What is White Sapote?
White sapote, pronounced sa-PO-tae, is a creamy, tropical fruit. It grows in tropical climates, primarily in South and Central America but has also made its way a little farther north to places like California and Miami, Florida.
Outside of the Americas, white sapote trees also thrive in places like New Zealand, the Caribbean, South Africa, and Australia. Today, this unique fruit tree is found worldwide, but Central Mexico is its home.
It has many names, such as the Mexican apple, zapote blanco, tzapotl, casimiroa, or the scientific name Casimiroa edulis. It’s sometimes called cochitzapotl, which translates to “sleeping apple” in Aztec, where this fruit originated.
Many describe the flavor and texture of a white sapote as a sweet avocado. It’s creamy and custard-like with a bright tropical sweetness that blends flavor notes like coconut, vanilla, and bananas. It’s not a very acidic fruit, but it belongs to the Rutaceae citrus family.
The History of White Sapote
The white sapote is the fruit’s common name, but it is also known as the cochitzapotl, an old Aztec word for ‘sleep sapote.’ Almost 700 years ago, the Aztecs used the white sapote as a sleeping aid.
Today, scientists discovered that the Aztecs might have been on to something. By studying the compound in the white sapote seeds, scientists found that it has properties that reduce inflammation and help aid sleep.
When Spanish colonists landed in Central America, they took the white sapote seeds with them. This allowed the propagation of white sapote trees to spread to other tropical climates in the Caribbean and Asia. And in the early 1800s, Franciscan monks brought young trees to California.
Since the weather in California isn’t ideal for seedling trees to thrive, they are primarily decorative in California. Mature trees and shrubs have beautiful glossy leaves and are a great accent even if they don’t produce ripe, sweet fruit.
What Does a White Sapote Taste Like?
If consumed at the peak of ripeness, the flavor of the white sapote has an intense sweetness that boasts unique tropical flavors. There are many types of white sapotes, such as the Suebelle, mamey sapote, and black sapote.
The flavors of the white sapote are very mild and custardy, with almost a milky, caramelly flavor. It also boasts subtle hints of tropical flavors like citrus, banana, and peaches.
While most love to enjoy the raw flavors of white sapote, it’s also excellent as a sweet treat. Thanks to its natural creaminess, this tropical fruit makes terrific ice cream, sorbet, or even cookies. Green-skin varieties have excellent white meat inside, while yellow-skin grafted varieties have a more yellowish coloring.
How to Tell When White Sapote is Ripe
Determining whether a white sapote is ripe is much like picking out a perfectly ripe avocado.
|The best way to tell if the fruit is ripe is by gently squeezing it. The insides are juicy and ready to eat if the skin bends slightly. If the outside still feels firm, it needs more time to ripen.
|Another easy way to tell if a white sapote is ripe is by observing its skin color. Ripe white sapote fruit of the yellow skin varieties have a muted yellow skin with touches of green. If the skin is still green, it’s not ready to eat.
|If you bite into an unripe white sapote, you’ll know it. The flavors of an unripe white sapote aren’t sweet and taste herbal, like basil.
Are White Sapote Seeds Poisonous?
Yes, white sapote seeds are poisonous! Many believe that the ancient Aztecs used white sapote seeds to create poison for their enemies. It sounds a little scary, but don’t worry. The seeds of a white sapote are very large and easy to recognize.
They are hard and oval-shaped and look very similar to a clove of garlic. Before you cut into a fresh white sapote, remove and dispose of the seeds first. The seeds can be fatally toxic if consumed by humans or animals.
Can I Eat Raw White Sapote?
You can cook with white sapotes, but they are best consumed raw. The flavors of this delicate creamy fruit shine on their own. Cut one in half, and use a spoon to eat it like a custard.
The flavors are mild, but it has a bold sweetness that doesn’t need a single drop of extra sugar. Many describe the flavors of a raw white sapote as eating vanilla custard or flan.
Cooking with White Sapote
Before cooking with white sapote, one first needs to prepare the fruit:
- Cut the fruit in half lengthwise, careful not to cut the seeds.
- Always remove the poisonous seeds! It’s the most crucial step before cooking with white sapote because, as mentioned earlier, those seeds are incredibly toxic. Luckily, they are easily scooped out with a spoon.
- After you remove the seeds, use a sharp knife to peel away the skin.
- Once the seeds and skin are properly discarded, you are ready to cook.
White sapote is commonly found in sweet dishes like ice cream, sorbet, and cookies. Since the texture of white sapote is very creamy and custard-like, it makes the most fantastic ice cream, like the white sapote ice cream. You can create an amazingly creamy summer treat with just a few ingredients and a little patience as it freezes.
And for a sweet morning treat, check out this white sapote smoothie. But frozen and raw dishes aren’t the only way this custardy tropical fruit shines. You can also use white sapote in cookie recipes like this deliciously crispy and crunchy white sapote biscotti.
How to Store White Sapote
White sapote is a temperamental fruit and stores very similar to an avocado. If you selected a white sapote fruit that still needs to ripen, place it on the countertop at room temperature to mature for a few days until the outside feels soft.
Place ripe white sapotes in a bag and pop them in the vegetable crisper in your fridge. They will last for up to 5 days when stored in the refrigerator.
Unfortunately, this tropical fruit is not a good candidate for freezing. The high moisture content and custard-like insides become mush once it hits the freezer.
Nutritional Benefits of White Sapote
It’s hard to believe that a fruit that tastes like a descendant dessert hosts many positive health benefits. The white sapote contains Vitamin C, B-Complex vitamins, potassium, calcium, and Vitamin A.
B-complex vitamins are a great way to fight off infections and promote the growth of red blood cells. They boost energy levels (which is why white sapote is excellent in a morning smoothie) and help curb your appetite.
What’s also great about white sapote is that it contains a good dose of potassium. A potassium-rich diet helps keep blood pressure low, stabilize blood sugar levels, and help to maintain a healthy nervous system.
Where to Purchase White Sapote
White sapotes bloom in late fall, and growers harvest them in the late spring to early summer. Since they are temperamental tropical fruit, finding them at your local grocery store may be challenging.
Your best option to find white sapote is to start your search during the peak harvesting season between April and October. Opt for smaller markets, fruit stands, or local farmer’s markets.