It is often described as being the size of an egg. Egg is even mentioned in many of the names used for it in English and other languages. The shape of it, though, isn’t always egg-shaped. Sometimes it’s as round as a small tomato; othertimes, while still about that size, it’s shaped like a spinning top.
The fruit is 3 to 5 inches (7 1/2 to 12 1/2 cm) long by 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7 1/2 cm) wide. It matures from green to pale green to yellowish-orange, and generally has smooth, glossy skin, though russetting can occur.
The sweetness of the fruit varies; it tastes something like a baked yam.
The tree it grows on an evergreen in its native Central America, but it won’t tolerate temperatures below 23 F(-5 C.) The tree generally grows about 25 feet (8 metres) tall. Occasionally, it can reach 90 to 100 feet (27 to 30 metres) tall, with a trunk up to 3 feet (1 metre) wide. It has brown bark and glossy green leaves 4 1/2 to 11 inches (11 to 28 cm) long by 1 1/2 to 3 inches (4 to 7 1/2 cm) wide.
To grow, the seeds have to be planted within a few days after you take them out of the fruit. The trees will bear fruit in 3 to 6 years. Teeny flowers grow by themselves or in bunches, springing out from the young branches.
When the fruit is ripe for eating, it will be soft, and its flesh will be yellowish-orange, smooth, and have a musky flavour. But, it needs to be picked when ripe but still firm: if left to ripen on the tree, it will fall off. It will soften after picking in 3 to 10 days, though it shouldn’t be allowed to go mushy.
Just below the skin, the fresh of the fruit is fibrous, but it changes towards the centre to get a mealy like boiled egg yolk, or yam. It is not juicy, or crisp, like other fruit.
At the centre, there will be 1 to 4 hard, large, glossy dark-brown seeds, up to 2 inches (5 cm) long and 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide.
There are many varieties. One of the largest one is called “Saludo”; it’s flesh also tends to be a bit more juicy. One variety, called “huicon”, has fruits only 1 inch (2 1/2 cm) long. The Canistel fruit shape generally known in the Bahamas, for instance, differs from that known in Mexico or Guatemala. Different varieties of Canistel dominate in different countries, but not enough attention has been paid to it yet to classify and name all the varieties.
Canistel has only been found in the wild in Southern Mexico. It can be grown in Florida, but doesn’t do well in California.
Can be eaten out of hand salted with lemon juice, or with pepper, or lime, or mayonnaise, but it easier to use it as an ingredient in dishes such as custards, ice creams, milk shakes, pies.
1 cup pulp = 100g / 3 oz weight
Once softened, store in refrigerator for up to a few days. Pulp mixed with sugar can be frozen for up to 6 months.