The tree is evergreen in the sub-tropics where it grows, but will drop its leaves if lacking water or otherwise stressed. It likes an average temperature of about 68 F (20 C.) Young trees can be frost damaged at 30 F (-1) but mature trees are good down to 20 to 24 F (-6 to -4 C.) It doesn’t like extremely high summer heat or very high humidity. You can grow it wherever you can grow oranges.
The tree will be 15 to 60 feet (4 1/2 to 18 metres) tall, with thick, light-grey bark, and leaves 5 to 6 inches (13 to 15 cm) long. The leaves are tinged red when young, turning glossy dark green later on top and pale green underneath.
The tree doesn’t grow reliably from seed — only about 25% of the time. The rest of the time, the resulting trees with either produce sub-quality fruit, or none at all. Growing them from seed is therefore said by some to best be considered as a way to discover new cultivars. From seed, the tree will need about 10 years before it bears fruit.
Consequently, White Sapote is generally propagated by grafting. A grafted tree will bear fruit in 3 to 4 years.
The tree produces small blossoms that are greenish-yellow with no real scent. The fruits are ready to harvest 6 to 9 months after the tree blossoms.
The fruit size will be 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 inches (6 cm to 11 1/2 cm) wide, depending on the cultivar, and up to 4 inches (10 cm) tall. It can be round or ovalish, and be shaped somewhat a green apple, or like a persimmon. The thin, smooth skin is sometimes bitter; may people treat it as inedible. Varieties with green skin will have white flesh; yellow skinned varieties will have yellowish flesh. The fruit bruises very easily, and where bruised, the skin will turn black and the flesh beneath the skin will become bitter. For this reason, it is shipped in trays to prevent bruising.
When the fruit is ripe enough to eat, the stem will fall off or come off very easily. If the fruit is allowed to overripen, it can become unpleasant quickly. When harvested, it is cut off leaving a bit of stem attached. If they are just pulled off the tree and detached from their stem, they will bruise and discolour where the stem was, and the flesh underneath that part of the skin will decay quickly.
They are usually picked a few weeks before when they would be fully ripe. Most of the time, they will develop quite good flavour when ripened off the tree (not every cultivar’s fruit, though will — one variety such as Pike doesn’t develop its flavour well when picked so early.) They are often shipped not fully ripe.
Inside the fruit, there will be 1 to 6 seeds. The size of the seeds will vary by cultivar, from 1 to 2 inches (2 1/2 cm to 5 cm) long and anywhere from 1/2 to 1 inch (1 to 2 1/2 cm) thick. They are bitter and inedible.
The texture of the flesh is a bit like custard. It has a sweet taste, with tones of vanilla, banana and peaches, and a touch of bitterness.
The tree grows wild in Nicaragua and southern Mexico, and is cultivated throughout the Caribbean, in New Zealand, and South Africa, and in northern New South Wales and Queensland in Australia.
There are many cultivars and chance hybrids. Cultivars include Chestnut, Cuccio, Ecke, Fiesta, Lemon Gold, Louise, Mac’s Golden, Malibu No. 3, Maltby, McDill, Michele, Pike, Reinecke Commercial, Stickley, Suebelle, Vernon and Wilson.
When buying, choose bruise free ones, as the bruises will indeed be more than skin deep.
Can be used for jellies, sherbets, ice creams, pies, or drying, or eating out of hand.
Wash. Peel if skin is too bitter for your taste (bitterness will vary by variety.) Discard seeds, watching particularly for seeds that are thin and undeveloped and harder to spot.
Will darken when exposed to air. Needs to be treated with lemon juice or acidulated water for use in a fruit salad, etc.
The flavour is diminished by cooking.
1 medium-size White Sapote = 1/2 to 3/4 cup sliced fruit
1 pound White Sapote = 5 x 2 1/2 inch fruits
1 pound White Sapote = 1/2 cup / 125 ml puréed
Let ripen out of fridge until they change from very firm to yielding to a bit of pressure. Then store in fridge unwashed in a bag for up to 3 to 5 days.
White Sapote doesn’t freeze well, even as a puree. Nor does it can well, even in a sugar syrup.
White Sapote is native to central Mexico. It was introduced into California around 1810 by Spanish monks. It was introduced into Israel in the 1900s for commercial trials, but was not successful.
Called White Sapote because much of the fruit is of the varieties that have white flesh inside.
The “Casmimiroa” part of its scientific name is not in honour of a Spanish botanist named Casimiro Gomez de Ortega, as you may see elsewhere.
Instad, it was documented in 1824 upon its being classified, as being in honour of Casimiro Gomez, who died fighting in Mexico’s war of independence:
“Casimiro Gomez, ad Cardonal ex tribu Ottomitarum edito, viro sobrio ac temperanti, in gerendo bello, promto, sagaci animosissimo, ipsi, quod a luxu abhorrens, et se et milites suos humili victu ac vestitu conservans ac ducens, exigua Ottomitarum manu, innumerabilia ac gloriosissima pro patriae bono gesserit.” — De la Llave, Pablo, and Juan Martinez de Lexarza. Novorum vegetabilium descriptiones. Mexico: Martinus Rivera. 1825. Volume 2, page 2.
[Rough translation: “Casimiro Gomez, a published author. From the Ottome tribe from Cardonal [state of Hidalgo, Mexico]. A sober and moderate man. In conducting war, willing. A wise man, who abhored luxury. He led his humble militia force, protecting their goods and clothing, though weak in force, to many glorious achievements for the good of their homeland.”]
Called “Mexican Apple” in South Africa.
Crane, Jonathan. H. and Carlos F. Balerdi. White Sapote Growing in the Home Landscape. Horticultural Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication HS1054. 2005.
Johnson, David. San Joaquin Valley Chapter, California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc. Correspondence with CooksInfo.com. August 2010.
Morton, J. White Sapote. p. 191–196. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL. 1987.
White Sapote. California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc. 1996. Retrieved December 2010 from http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/whitesapote.html