word Sapote is derived from the Nahuatl (Aztec) language word Tzapotl
for a soft, edible fruit. Traditionally it was applied to several fruits of
the Americas, such as: “black tzapotl”, “green tzapotl”, and “white tzapotl”.
Beginning with the European incursion in the 1500’s, the word tzapotl was
latinized into zapotl, zapota, sapota, zapote, and sapote – the latter gaining
much use in English. Since that time these words have also been used to
describe fruits and plants of other, mainly tropical regions. It is also
occasionally confused with “Zapotec” – the pre-Aztec peoples of Oaxaca,
Mexico. Several plants also bear this name, such as Zapotec Tomato and
there are about two dozen fruiting plants which incorporate sapote into
their common or taxonomic name. I have adopted the following rating system for
the fruits of these plants:
😀 = excellent eaten
fresh, or when prepared with other food, baked, etc.
😐 = o.k. when eaten fresh, but much
better when prepared or cooked
😒 = extremely poor taste or
characteristic, such as gluing your mouth together
💀 = a serious toxin or carcinogen
this rating system in mind, let’s look at some of these fruits and see which
you recognize and what surprises might be in store.
😀 Sapote (Manilkara
zapota), named Sapodilla by the Dutch.
😀 White Sapote (Casimiroa
edulis; syn. C. sapota), cultivar Sue Belle is excellent for San
Diego. Warning: no plant produces more fruit per square foot than the White
😀 Green Sapote (Pouteria
viridis), tolerates San Diego coastal regions with warm summers.
😀 Wild Sapote Tree (Madhuca
longifolia), The Indian Butter Tree.
😀 Zapote Mamey (Pouteria
sapota), aka Mamey Colorado.
😀 Zapote de Santo
Domingo (Mammea americana), aka Mammee Apple.
😀 Melón Zapote (Carica
papaya), Common yellow- and red-fleshed papayas.
😐 Black Sapote (Diospyros
digyna), a member of the persimmon family that tolerates San Diego climates.
😐 Yellow Sapote (Pouteria
campechiana), often called Canistel or Eggfruit – can be grown in San Diego
with proper care.
😐 Zapote Bobo (Pachira
aquatica), sold as a braided houseplant and called ‘Money Tree’. Outdoors
in San Diego it grows like ornamental Ficus and produces potato-sized
😒 Sapote de Perro
(Morisonia americana), aka Pachaca.
😒 Zapote Faisán (Sideroxylon
stevensonii), the latex content will glue your mouth together.
💀 Zapote Negro (Diospyros
revoluta), aka Black Apple – deadly to confuse with Black Sapote.
💀 Sapote of India (Parkia
timoriana), aka Yongchak. #1 cause of throat cancer in Thailand.
💀 Sapote Agrio (Annona
muricata), aka Graviola, Guanábana, Guyabano, Soursop, and Zapote. Each fruit (or 12 oz. of
the popular drink) contains about 35 mg of Annonacin compounds. Consuming on
average 25 mg or more per day on a weekly or monthly basis for a period of a
few years or more causes significant destruction of brain cells and a permanent
dementia condition. Some natives to the island of Guadalupe who have eaten the
fruit on a daily basis for over two decades have become completely
dysfunctional. Persons voluntarily taking the herbal supplement Graviola (600
mg Annonacins) on a daily basis for cancer prevention are at serious risk. The
popular fruit ‘Cherimoya’ (Annona cherimola) is a very close relative of
Graviola and 5-12 mg of Annonacins. The North American relative PawPaw (Asimina triloba)
is not considered a health risk.