It is a sunny Saturday afternoon and I’m walking through Thika market. The market stands are overflowing with fresh vegetables and fruits. As I approach a vendor to get some avocados, I notice a unique green fruit that I have never seen before.
The vendor tells me the fruit is popularly known as white sapote commonly known as the Mexican apple or custard apple.
The fruit has four seeds and is pleasantly banana flavored with hints of peach. When it is overripe, the flavor is similar to an overripe banana.
White sapote (Casimoroa edulis) originated from Central Mexico and appears to be well adapted in California, South Africa, New Zealand, and Israel.
The fruit is a bit larger than a baseball and its either green, yellow, or orange. Its leaves are usually green with 5 to 6-inch leaflets, and occasionally hairy on the base.
South Africa and New Zealand widely grow the fruit for commercial purposes while Israel is breeding several varieties with numerous colors for profitable purposes.
White sapote is rarely known to majority of Kenyans but could be a thriving farming business that many farmers would venture into. However, the enormous productivity in addition to a potentially mature height of 30 to 50 feet and an extensive horizontal root system makes the fruit a debatable choice for the home garden.
The fruit is said to have numerous nutritional values among them being good source of potassium, iron and Vitamins A and C. The fruit is also rich in dietary Fiber.
My interest in the fruit motivates me to do a research on how it’s grown and where in Kenya, the fruit can thrive to its best.
A mature tree can endure temperature of up to -6 degrees Celsius. This means that it can flourish in highland areas unlike some fruit species. The fruit grows in elevated regions that range from 600 – 900m above the sea level with moderate rainfall.
The fruit can tolerate a wide range of soil types that have good drainage. However, the preferred soil type is sandy loam or clay soil with a pH range of 5.5 – 7.5. Nevertheless, salty soil conditions should be avoided at all costs.
To sprout a sapote seed, you need to,
- let the fresh seed dry
- plant in a container of moist soil.
NB/ They can also be propagated by air layering, which is commonly done by commercial growers. Seeds should be planted within 3 weeks of harvesting from the fruit, and seedlings may begin to bear in 3 to 4 years.
Regular deep watering is important for White sapote, unlike shallow watering which will encourage surface roots which can be a nuisance to your farm.
Most farmers do not apply fertilizers to White Sapote compared to other trees. However, it is very essential to have regular application of nitrogen fertilizer for enormous productivity.
It is very important to prune your farm in a bid to control the size and secondarily shape of the fruit.
Pests and Diseases
White sapote may be attacked by bugs and aphids but snails are the major pests that need to be controlled since they damage the fruit. Phytophthora and armillaria are not a nuisance.
Harvesting and Storage
White sapote has very thin skin thus provides little protection against bruises. The growers should ensure that they don’t pick under ripe fruit as it will pick up unpalatable bitterness. Careful selection of cultivars can mitigate these drawbacks. Of importance to note, is that delicate flavor of white sapote is easily lost if mixed with other fruits such as lemon to provide a better acid, sweetness balance.
White sapotes can be found in Thika market, the Kiboswa market in Kisumu, Mudhurwa market in Nairobi among other big markets in the country. One white sapote ranges from Kshs 30-40. Internationally, the fruit is in demand in California, Florida and Australia. The fruit is also marketable in subtropical high elevation regions of Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica.