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Black Sapote: A Tropical Taste of Hawaii

The author lives in a quiet seaside community in Puna on the Big Island of Hawaii. He's an avid gardener, traveler, and photographer.

Immature black sapote has smooth, bright olive-green skin.  It turns brownish green and wrinkly when ripe.

Immature black sapote has smooth, bright olive-green skin. It turns brownish green and wrinkly when ripe.

Black sapote (Diospyros digyna or Diospyros nigra) is one of the most curious tropical fruits. It originates from Mexico's lowland rainforests and is cultivated throughout Central America, the Caribbean, Pacific Islands, Asia, and Australia.

It is the exotic cousin of the persimmon! However, black sapote only grows in hot and humid tropical climates. In contrast, persimmon thrives in temperate zones and can tolerate freezing temperatures.

Black sapote is also called chocolate pudding fruit because, when ripe, the pulp inside the fruit has an intense dark brown color and custard-like texture, which resembles chocolate pudding!

Each fruit usually contains 6-8 hard, brown seeds which are inedible.  Some cultivars have fewer seeds or are completely seedless.

Each fruit usually contains 6-8 hard, brown seeds which are inedible. Some cultivars have fewer seeds or are completely seedless.

How to Eat Black Sapote

Black sapote is delicious when fully ripe. Cut the fruit in half and carefully scoop out the soft pulp with a spoon.

It can be eaten at room temperature or chilled in the fridge for a couple of hours before consumption. If necessary, freeze the pulp for later use – it will stay fresh up to a month in the freezer.

The pulp has a delicate sweet taste and an incredibly creamy texture. However, the flavor is somewhat bland and might be unappealing to some people. It does have the consistency of pudding or pastry cream, but it does not have the chocolate flavor!

Nonetheless, black sapote makes excellent shakes or smoothies when blending with other tropical fruits. In Hawaii, people combine black sapote pulp with other ingredients (particularly cacao powder or melted chocolate) to create mouth-watering desserts like cakes, brownies, muffins, pies, and of course, pudding!

The name chocolate pudding fruit is somewhat misleading because even though the pulp looks like chocolate pudding, it doesn't taste like it!

The name chocolate pudding fruit is somewhat misleading because even though the pulp looks like chocolate pudding, it doesn't taste like it!

Where to Find Black Sapote in Hawaii

Visitors to Hawaii will most likely find black sapote at farmer's markets, or roadside fruit stands. Because the fruits are fragile and have a short shelf life, regular supermarkets will not stock them. However, some local health food stores may sell black sapote since the fruits are popular among raw-food enthusiasts and vegans.

In Hawaii, black sapote season is between September and March. However, some cultivars may produce fruits at different times of the year.

It is tricky to know precisely when the fruits are ready for picking. If picked too early, some unripe fruits will never get soft, only shrivel up and rot!

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Like avocados, black sapote fruits bought at farmer’s markets are usually slightly immature. Let them sit in a sunny spot in your kitchen; they will eventually ripen in about a week.

Unripe fruits have a bitter, sharp, astringent taste and are not suitable for eating.

Unripe fruits have a bitter, sharp, astringent taste and are not suitable for eating.

How to Grow Black Sapote

Black sapote prefers a warm tropical/subtropical climate with plenty of rainfall and humidity. In the United States, it only grows in Florida and Hawaii. In California, it rarely survives the dry weather or frequent spells of cold, freezing temperature in the winter.

Propagation is usually from seed planted directly in the ground or a pot (then transplanted later). It may take a long time for the seed to germinate – up to 30 days! Air-layering might be a quicker method to start a new tree. Stem cuttings will also work with a generous application of rooting hormone.

This black sapote tree is in the author's garden. It is tough to find the fruits because they have the same green color as the foliage!

This black sapote tree is in the author's garden. It is tough to find the fruits because they have the same green color as the foliage!

A young tree grows very slowly for the first 3-4 years. Then, depending on weather and growing conditions, it will suddenly shoot up and quickly develop into a medium-sized tree in a short time! A mature tree can get 60-70 feet tall.

Black sapote prefers slightly to moderately acidic soils (that’s why it grows so well in Hawaii’s volcanic soils!). It should be planted in full sun, although it can tolerate light shade. Use mulch and water regularly when the tree is young. Once established, it doesn’t require much maintenance.

Planting tips: Because mature black sapote has a large, dense canopy, it will shade other plants in the garden. It’s a good idea to plant it in a location by itself. Also, ripe fruits left unpicked will fall and splash on the ground, making a terrible mushy mess – like giant bird droppings! Please don't plant it near the driveway, pool patio, or house roof!

Nutritional Values and Health Benefits

Black sapote is loaded with vitamin C (immunity booster, protects against disease and infection) and vitamin A (ensures vision health).

It is low fat and rich in antioxidants and minerals, especially iron, calcium, phosphorous, and potassium (promote healthy skin, heart, kidney, and bone).

Black sapote also contains an excellent amount of dietary fiber, which helps maintain digestive health and improve blood sugar levels.

One cup of black sapote pulp provides over 2.5g of protein, making it an ideal source of plant-based protein in vegan diets.

The luscious, creamy pulp can be used in making healthy snacks like gluten free brownies and smoothies.

The luscious, creamy pulp can be used in making healthy snacks like gluten free brownies and smoothies.

Recipe for Vegan Black Sapote Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie

  • 2 cups of frozen black sapote pulp
  • 4 cups of cold unsweetened hemp milk, almond milk, or oat milk
  • 1 scoop of organic cacao powder
  • 1 scoop of organic peanut butter (or cashew butter)
  • 1 teaspoon of raw cacao nibs
  • ½ cup of dried unsweetened coconut flakes
  • ½ cup of uncooked rolled oat

Mix in a blender until smooth and enjoy! It should be thick, creamy, and chocolatey. You may also pour the smoothie into an ice cream maker to make a delicious frozen treat!

In Hawaii, birds and rats love to steal ripe fruits. They always seem to know precisely when the fruits are ready and tasty!

In Hawaii, birds and rats love to steal ripe fruits. They always seem to know precisely when the fruits are ready and tasty!

Sources



This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Viet Doan

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