Samui Wining & Dining
Tropical Pick

Little known in the West, the Sapodilla is a popular fruit in the tropics.

 

20You may never have heard of a sapodilla, or perhaps you know this delicious tropical fruit by one of its other names – zopato, chikoo, sawo or sofeda and here in Thailand, la-mut. Don’t be put off by the rather nondescript outer shell of this fruit – as inside lies a treat. A combination of peach, pear, cinnamon, honey and perhaps just a hint of brandy best describes the glorious flavour of the sapodilla. Inside their boring brown exterior, the fruit is soft and sweet, with a delicate aroma, hinting of the reward to come.

      Sapodillas can be eaten peeled and sliced – cut through the meridian to reveal a beautiful star pattern. They’re normally eaten fresh, by cutting the fruit in half and scooping out the flesh, like little spoonful’s of caramel, but take care not to eat the tiny black pips inside. But in saying that, it’s not easy to tell when they’re ripe. To tell if a sapodilla is ready to eat, gently scratch off a little of its brown fuzz (it’s a little like a kiwi), if the skin beneath is green, the fruit isn’t ready; if it’s brown and slightly soft to the touch, it’s ripe – a similar texture to that of a ripe pear. The best way to ripen sapodillas is to keep them at room temperature for five to ten days. The fruit should be eaten when still slightly firm, not mushy. Firm-ripe sapodillas may be kept for a week in good condition in the fridge, and they’re best served fresh and chilled, and they can be halved or cut into wedges. A few of the choice variants from Asia and South America can be eaten skin and all.

      As with all fruit, the sapodilla has many nutrients and health benefits. Its calorie-rich soft, easily digestible pulp contains simple sugars like fructose and sucrose that replenish energy and revitalize the body instantly. Indeed, it’s a vital source of vitamins, particularly A and C, as well as minerals such as iron and potassium. It’s also a great source of dietary fibre, as well as health benefiting anti-oxidants.

      The fruit originated in the Central American rain forests, probably in Mexico and Belize, but today it can be found all over the tropical belt, and is being grown as a major commercial crop in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as in Thailand. The tree grows very fast and is wind and drought resistant, and even suitable for dry, arid regions with little rain. However, irrigation during summer season results in good fruit yield – so with the naturally high rains in Southeast Asia, the trees thrive and produce well. Each round or oval fruit measures about 10cm in diameter, and weighs about 150g, and a tree bears as many as 2,000 fruit per year.

       Several types of sapodilla are grown worldwide, but two are native to Thailand. ‘Makok’ is long, pointed, and one of the best tasting of the sapodillas. The pulp is smooth and brown with a sweet aroma and each fruit has a single, small seed. ‘Alano’ is an oval-shaped fruit, and it is arguably the finest sapodilla in the world. The fruit is sweet and the texture is that of an ultra-fine pear. Sapodillas are available during their main season in the markets, from August to December – look for fruit with smooth intact skin and without cuts, bruises or wrinkles.

       Other than enjoying the sweet fresh scooped straight from the shell, Sapodilla also makes a great addition to fruit salad as well, and is a favourite smoothie flavour in Asia. It’s also used in ice-creams, cakes and pies. It’s possible to freeze the flesh, but the consistency will change a little, making it then only suitable for ice-cream, puddings and syrups.

       Overall it’s a great way to get your daily fruit intake. So if you’ve not yet tasted this delicious fruit, always walking past the boring-looking little brown balls at the market, do yourself a favour and give them a try, either fresh from the shell, or if you’re feeling a little creative, by experimenting in the kitchen.

         

Rosanne Turner


 


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