White Sapote is native to the highlands of central Mexico and Central America. The flesh is deliciously sweet with a custard like texture. Very thin skin (it bruises easily) and a round/oval shape. Very high in sugars and low in acids. Generally eaten fresh, but also used in desserts, smoothies or milkshakes. The fruit tastes best when tree ripened, but often falls first. Clip fruit from tree when ripe or nearly ripe leaving a small piece of stem attached. This stem will fall off when the fruit is ripe. Ripen at room temperature and when ripe will keep up to 10 days in the refrigerator. Handle very gently to avoid bruising. The fruit is not very suitable for supermarket delivery processes, so if you want it, best to grow your own.
White Sapote will comfortably grow in Melbourne conditions, however protect from strong wilds. Will withstand moderate frosts. At maturity forms an attractive weeping densely foliaged tree. Variable in height. Will grow from 5m to 15m. Grows in two spurts, one in spring and a second one in autumn.
Treat as you would a citrus tree. Protect surface roots and feed spring and autumn. A citrus fertiliser is ideal. Will not cope with prolonged saturation of roots – needs well drained soil. The tree is drought tolerant, but for good fruit you will need to irrigate over the drier periods. Regular deep watering is ideal, this encourages the deeper roots over the surface roots. Roots can be vigorous – keep this in mind when siting the tree. Plant in full sun and mulch.
With young trees encourage branching by removing flowers and pinching out the terminal bud (the topmost bud). Remove any branches that are poorly attached (either too narrow or horizontal) as the tree tends to be brittle and branches which have poor attachment will snap off in strong winds. Prune for 2 years and then leave to grow. Once more mature you can take the top out if too tall. The top branches can shade out the lower branches and it is these branches that you want to bear fruit and they are easier to reach and manage. The tree is brittle, so don’t climb it – use a ladder for pruning and picking.
Keep an eye out for black scale, but not much else is a problem for White Sapote.
White v Black?
White and black sapotes are completely unrelated. White sapotes are from the citrus family and are big trees, they will grow wherever you can grow citrus, not really suitable for pots, will fruit easily if you a get self-fertile variety or a pair that are pollinators for each other. Black sapote is a tropical relative of the persimmon and can be grown in a pot and will fruit with a lot of meticulous care, attention, and experimentation. Will it fruit and how much? Customers have brought in fruit they’ve grown, so it can be done in Melbourne, it depends on you and how well you can recreate favorable conditions, like all plants.
Photo © Robyn Jay (commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Casimiroa_edulis_fruit_1.jpg)