Sapodilla (Manilkara zapota).
Sapodilla - Manilkara zapota
Manilkara zapota, commonly known as sapodilla, sapota, chikoo, chico, naseberry, or nispero is a long-lived, evergreen tree native to southern Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. An example natural occurrence is in coastal Yucatán in the Petenes mangroves ecoregion, where it is a subdominant plant
species. It was introduced to the Philippines during Spanish colonization. It is grown in large quantities in India, Pakistan, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Mexico.
Sapodilla is an ornamental evergreen tree with a dense, widely spreading crown that can grow 9 - 20 metres tall in cultivation, but can be 30 - 38 metres tall in the forest. The straight, cylindrical bole can range in diameter from up to 50cm in cultivation and up to 150cm in the forest.
As a cultivated species, the sapodilla tree is medium-sized and slow-growing. Strong and wind-resistant, it maintains an extensive root system. The reddish wood is hard and durable. The bark is rich in a white, gummy latex called chicle.
The ornamental leaves are medium green and glossy. They are alternate, elliptic to ovate, 7–15 cm (3–6 in) long, with an entire margin. The white- cream flowers are inconspicuous and bell-like, with a six-lobed corolla. An unripe fruit has a firm outer skin and when picked, releases white chicle from its stem. A fully ripened fruit has saggy skin and does not release chicle when picked.
The fruit is a large berry, 4–8 cm (2–3 in) in diamete, with rough, rusty brown skin when
ripe and is spheroid to ovoid in shape. Inside, its flesh ranges from a pale yellow to an earthy brown color with a grainy texture akin to that of a well-ripened pear. Each fruit contains one to six seeds. The seeds are hard, glossy, and black, resembling beans, with a hook at one end that can catch in the throat if swallowed. When the fruit is immature, its flesh contains both tannin and milky latex and is unpalatable.
The fruit has an exceptionally sweet, malty flavor. The unripe fruit is hard to the touch and contains high amounts of saponin, which has astringent properties similar to tannin, drying out the mouth.
The fruit can be eaten raw, or used in making sherbets, custard, ice cream, pies, jams, jellies etc. Slightly larger than a plum, when fully ripe, the flesh is soft, very sweet, slightly acid and totally delicious, with the flavour of pears, cinnamon and brown sugar combined. The fruit contains tannin, which is astringent. In order to be at its best, the fruit needs to be eaten when it is absolutely ripe and has lost that astringency, and so it is difficult to grow commercially.
The trees can survive only in warm, typically tropical environments, dying easily if the temperature drops below freezing. From germination, the sapodilla tree will usually take anywhere from five to eight years to bear fruit. The sapodilla trees yield fruit twice a year, though flowering may continue year round.
Propagation is usually by means of seed, but superior trees can be reproduced by grafting.
The sapodilla tree supplies the building blocks for a number of products utilized by humans.
The stems are a source of a milky latex called balata or chicle. This inelastic polymer can be coagulated when it becomes hard and brittle until chewed. It has long been used as the base for chewing gum.
Long ago, the Mayas and Aztecs would boil its ‘chicle’ sap, mold it into thick blocks and cut them into small pieces to chew. They were making the first chewing gum! In 1866, former Mexican president General Santa Anna brought a sample of chicle sap to a New York businessman named Thomas Adams. Adams decided to mix sugar with the chicle, creating a new kind of chewing gum. Producing chicle is a labor-intensive process.
Natural chicle chewing gum represents a very small portion of the chewing gum market, because of its labor intensive collection. Instead, most chewing gums are derived from other natural latex, or are made with petroleum-based synthetic gum. In Mexico, it is illegal to harvest the sapodilla tree because of its value as a chicle source.
The very young leaves and shoots can be eaten raw or cooked,. Some caution is advised since older leaves contain poisonous alkaloids.
In Medicinal, a leaf decoction is taken for fever, haemorrhage, wounds and ulcers. For neuralgia, leaf with tallow is applied as a compress on the temples.
The flowers are used as one of the ingredients of a powder that is rubbed on the body of a woman after childbirth.
The bark is astringent, febrifuge and tonic. Tannin from the bark is used to cure diarrhoea and fever.The fruit is eaten as a remedy for indigestion and diarrhoea.
Seeds are antipyretic, and when ground with water they act as a diuretic. They are used to expel urinary and gall bladder stones.
The plant is a source of sapotin, a glucoside used in medicine as a febrifuge.
Wild and cultivated trees in America are tapped for their milky latex, which coagulates into chicle, the principal constituent of chewing gum before the advent of synthetic alternatives. The gum is also used in transmission belts, dental surgery, and as a substitute for gutta-percha, a coagulum of the latex of Palaquium spp.
Chicle gum is obtained from oblique cuts or slashes made in the trunk of the tree during the rainy months. From these cuts there issues a milky latex which must be coagulated by heat, and formed into solid blocks for export.
Tannin from the bark is used to tan ship sails and fishing tackle.
The heartwood is dark reddish or reddish brown, the sapwood pinkish. It is without distinctive odour or taste, of rather low lustre, rather fine-textured and with fairly straight grain. The wood is noted for its strength and durability, it is also very
hard, tough, dense, and resistant to insects. It is not easy to work and has a tendency to splinter, but can be finished smoothly. It is suitable for heavy construction, railway ties, furniture, joinery and tool handles. The sapodilla wood is a deep red color, strong, and durable—it was used for lintels and beams in Maya
temples. Elaborately carved lintels of sapodilla wood, some 1,000 years old, are still seen
intact in some Mayan ruins.