Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

INFO: Sapote 101

I go to the Farmer's Market almost every week for practical reasons, for the most part. I go to get exercise (it's a 1.5 mile walk) and I go to purchase fresh, seasonal produce direct from the producers for my weekly meals. I like knowing where my fruit comes from, and whether or not it's organic and I like being able to ask the producer directly questions about the fruit, like when it was picked or when it should be eaten by, etc.

But I also have some less practical reasons for going. I love to go beyond the ordinary and I am always hoping that in among the ordinary apples and green beans I go to purchase, I will also find some new and exciting exotic fruit or vegetable, or even just some new and exciting type of an already familiar fruit or vegetable. And sometimes I do. This summer I have learned about several different types of heirloom tomatoes, discovered kyo-ho grapes and "tongue of fire" beans and discovered that there are so many types of potatoes that it boggles the mind.

But this week I was pleased to discover something completely new. Something I have never seen or heard of before in my life. This is what I go for. You see ... I am jaded. I am a cynical, jaded, apathetic soul. I am over it all. I am over the world. Nothing surprises or shocks me any more and so much amazes and delights me these days. But then, suddenly one day I can stumble across a piece of fruit that I never even knew existed and it reminds me that the world is full of things and places I have not seen or experienced and that there's a multitude of experience waiting out there for me and a lot of it is good.

This week I discovered sapote. I was perusing some herb plants at a stand and suddenly noticed a box of apple green fruits labeled sapote. I asked the vendor what they were. He said that they were "sapote." Okay, I've gotten that far by myself, actually.

"But what do they taste like?"

He looked kind of blank.

"Are they sweet?" I asked, trying to be helpful.

"Yeah," he said, "They're kind of sweet."

I think I must have looked frustrated then because he finally grabbed one out and sliced a piece off and gave it to me. It was white inside and had the consistency of an avocado. It tasted a little like an apple, and a little like a banana.

"Oh, so it's kind of like a mix of an apple and an avocado," I said.

He looked blank. I decided that I wasn't going to get an education today, so I just started to pick some out. I thought of what kind of avocado I would pick out.

"So they should be kind of soft, but not too mushy, right?"

"Actually," he suddenly gave me an answer, "They are sweeter if they are mushy." And then he just went ahead and picked out some good ones for me, because I think he was getting tired of me.

J. and I ate one just plain, by cutting it in half and scooping out the flesh with a spoon. This seems to be the best way to eat it because I later found out that it's not real easy to cut them up. I do not recommend eating the skin. It's super bitter.

For the rest of them, I cut them up the best I could. The custardy consistency makes it hard to deal with because it just kind of mushes up, but the skin is not as thick and leathery as an avocado so you can't just scoop it all out like you would an avocado. Once I had it sort of cut up, I made a fruit salad with the sapote, some red pear and some green grapes and drizzled it with a "vinaigrette" of lime juice, honey and cardamom.

Now for some edumacation: the name "sapote" comes from the Nahuatl word 'tzapotl,' which means "soft, edible fruit." Not surprisingly given that information, there are different types of sapote that are all related to different fruit families and are not related to each other. The different types of sapote are: white sapote, black sapote, and mamey sapote. I purchased the white sapote, which is the type grown in California.

Black sapote
is a type of persimmon whose flavor and texture have been likened to chocolate pudding. (Note to self: find out how to get some black sapote.) Mamey sapote is found in Cuba and South Florida. Its flavor is a mix of avocado, sweet potato, and honey and is considered by some to be an aphrodisiac.

Finally, white sapote is also called Cochitzapotl in Nahuatl, meaning 'sweet-tasting fruit which causes sleepiness.' This is due to its mild saporific effect. Good thing I ate it on a lazy Sunday. I was dead tired all weekend so I didn't notice if it had any particular effect on me. The seed is said to have narcotic qualities. Damn, I knew I shouldn't have thrown it away! The leaves of the tree also have a mild sedative effect and is an agent for lowering blood pressure. The white sapote is related to citrus.

I'm probably not going to be loading up on sapote. It's good, but not a revelation and I think I lost more than I ate trying to extract the flesh. I would, however, pick one up if I see it again to eat as a snack, scooping out the sweet custardy filling on a hot summer day.



Mamey Sapote sounds like the name of a South Park character. Or something "tooney."

Thanks for the informative post. That's very adventurous of you to find and try them. I have never heard of sapote and now I know all about THREE kinds. You rock KT.

said by Acme Instant Food at 9:24 PM Delete

It sounds more like one of the slaves from Gone With the Wind to me, but South Park works too.

Maybe it would be the South Park version of a Gone With the Wind slave.

If only I was a professional blogger, then I cold get trips to different places to try the other sapotes.

said by KT at 10:22 PM Delete

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