Sapota (Manilkara zapota) commonly also known as sapodilla is a slow growing long lived evergreen tree native to southern Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. It is also grown in huge quantities in India, Pakistan and Mexico and was introduced to the Philippines during the Spanish colonization. Sapota is also commonly known as chikoo or chiku in Hindi, chapotta or chimaiyilluppai in Tamil, simaippacettu in Telugu, sapeta in Bengali different languages in India.
Sapota comes from the Sapotaceae (Mahua) family. Chikoo tree is upright and elegant, distinctly pyramidal when young. It grows upto 18 m high in the open but reaching 30 m when crowded in a forest. It is strong and wind-resistant, rich in white, gummy latex. Its leaves are highly ornamental, evergreen, glossy, alternate, spirally clustered at the tips of the forked twigs; elliptic, pointed at both ends, firm, 7.5-11.25 cm long and 2.5-4 cm wide.
Flowers are small and bell-like, with 3 brown-hairy outer sepals and 3 inner sepals enclosing the pale-green corolla and 6 stamens. They are borne on slender stalks at the leaf bases. The Sapota fruit may be nearly round, oblate, oval, ellipsoidal, or conical; varies from 2 to 4 in 5-10 cm in width. When immature it is hard, gummy and very astringent. Though smooth-skinned it is coated with sandy brown scurf until fully ripe.
The flesh ranges in color from yellowish to light- or dark-brown or sometimes reddish-brown; may be coarse and somewhat grainy or smooth; becomes soft and very juicy, with a sweet flavor resembling that of a pear. Some sapota fruits are seedless, but normally there have from 3 to 12 seeds which are easily removed as they are loosely held in a whorl of slots in the center of the fruit.
They are brown or black, with one white margin; hard, glossy; long-oval, flat, with usually a distinct curved hook on one margin; and about 2 cm long. The sapota plant is also grown for its Latex. Chicle and gutta parcha are extracted from its latex as they are used as the base material in chewing gum and other industrial products. In India, Sapota is cultivated mainly for its delicious sweet fruits which are a favorite to many all over the country.
Sapota fruit is fleshy berry, soft inner pulp, melting, crumbling with a sandy or granular texture. The fruit is a good source of digestible sugar (12-18%) and an appreciable source of protein, fat fibre ad minerals, Calcium and Iron. It has become a very popular fruit crop in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Sapota is thin skinned may be bright green to canary yellow and bruises easily. The skin is edible, but is slightly tart.
A ripe sapota will yield to gentle thumb pressure, similar to a ripe plum. Sapota is a seasonal fruit and available from October through December when November is said to be its peak season. The fruit has an exceptionally sweet malty flavor. Many believe the flavor bears a striking resemblance to caramel. 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.
Chiku is one of the best delicious and healthy tropical fruit containing many healthy vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Sapota when ripe is made into a tasty fruit punch or juice. Sapota juice is a very luscious drink and taste exotic. Sapota has a unique flavor with natural sweetness. When ripe and turns soft it can be just eaten by itself or is a great addition to fruit salads. Chikoo milk shake is a favorite drink in Asia. Sapota could also be included in ice creams, cakes and pies etc.
Sapota is also known as mud apples. Sapota is fat free and its rich sweetness is an excellent way to curb sweet carvings. Chikoos also is packed in a healthy dose of vitamin C and vitamin A as Vitamin C is for immunity, skin, hair, teeth, cartilage and anemia while 'A' is essential for vision, skin and bones, it is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Fresh ripe chikoos are also good sources of minerals like potassium, copper, iron and vitamins like folate, niacin and pantothenic acid.
These compounds are essential for optimal health as they help keep our metabolism functioning smoothly. due to its abundance in the powerful anti-oxidant tannin. Tannings have antiviral, antibacterial and anti-parasitic effects, automatically Chiku or sapota contains rich dietary fiber making it a good laxative, Fibers in ripe, sweet and tasty chiku fruits help to prevent constipation. Taking sufficient quantity of ripe chiku in raw form or as chiku shake will protect colon system preventing chances of colon cancer.
Eating this delicious and healthy seasonal fruits will develop body resistance to fight against many infectious diseases throughout the year. The nutritional values per 100g of fresh sapota are: Energy: 83 Kcal Carbohydrates: 19.9 g Protein: 0.44 g Total Fat: 1.10 g Dietary Fiber: .3 g Folates: 14 mcg Niacin: 0.20 mg Pantothenic acid: 0.25 mg Riboflavin: 0.02 mg Thiamin: 0.05 mg Vitamin A: 60 IU Vitamin C: 14.7 mg Calcium: 21 mg