Feast your eyes on the fruit of the Manilkara zapota tree, commonly known as the sapodilla. I was first introduced to this variety of sapote while living in Taiwan and now I was being re-introduced to it in Kauai. It turns out that these little brown fruits have a different name in about every country that grows them. Bananas are pretty much bananas where ever you go but this sapodilla goes by the name baramasi (Bengal and Bihar, India); buah chiku (Malaya); chicle (Mexico); chico (Philippines, Guatemala, Mexico); chicozapote (Guatemala, Mexico, Venezuela); chikoo (India); chiku (Malaya, India); dilly (Bahamas; British West Indies); korob (Costa Rica); mespil (Virgin Islands); mispel, mispu (Netherlands Antilles, Surinam); muy (Guatemala); muyozapot (El Salvador); naseberry (Jamaica; British West Indies); neeseberry (British West Indies; nispero (Puerto Rico, Central America, Venezuela); nispero quitense (Ecuador); sapodilla plum (India); sapota (India); sapotí (Brazil); sapotille (French West Indies); tree potato (India); Ya (Guatemala; Yucatan); zapota (Venezuela); zapote (Cuba); zapote chico (Mexico; Guatemala); zapote morado (Belize); zapotillo (Mexico). Keep in mind this list isn’t complete. I’m calling them chico sapote. You can pick your favorite name and go with it. Chicos only ripen once they’ve been pulled from the tree similar to avocados. Like many tropical fruits they have latex that oozes from the tree when picked. This latex substance is referred to as chicle which if you know Spanish then you know this word means gum. Yes, the sap from the sapodilla tree was used by natives as chewing gum. Once upon a time all chewing gum was made from this natural tree sap. Unfortunately most chewing gums made today are made from butadiene synthetic rubber. Yes, that’s a petroleum by product you are chewing. Enough about chewing gum, what about the chico? There is also some of this latex in the unripe fruit as well as a very tannic chemical called saponin. This strongly discourages the consumption of unripe fruit because of the mouth drying effect of this chemical. Once ripe though the flesh of the fruit is soft, juicy and sweet with a malty caramel flavor and a gritty pear like texture. Inside the fruit are 1 to 3 black seeds. I ended up with a ton of these chicos so I had to get creative. Since apples are an imported novelty in the tropics I immediately felt that the sapodilla could be an acceptable substitute in my apple crumble recipe. Sure enough the chicos did the trick. All I was missing was a scoop of coconut mylk ice cream.
If you’re not living in the tropics then you can look for chicos/sapodillas at Asian markets, farmer’s markets and specialty grocery stores. The trees fruit twice a year so you can find them throughout the year. Be patient and wait until they ripen fully. They become soft and their flaky and leathery skin will wrinkle slightly when they’re full on ripe. If you have a chico surplus…. which I had after buying 20 lbs of chicos in Hawaii, you can puree the ripe flesh and pour them mixture into ice cube trays to be frozen. This makes a great exotic addition to smoothies. To eat a ripe chico cut it in half from top to bottom and scoop the flesh out of the skin with a spoon. Look out for the seeds.
Here’s the recipe for the Chico Sapote Crumble, dehydrator required:
- 5 C nuts, pecans are my choice
- 1/4 C maple syrup
- 1/4 C dates – pitted
- 2 T chia
- 1 t cinnamon
- 1/4 t nutmeg
- 1/2 t salt
- 3 cups chico sapote
- 1/4 to 1/2 C mesquite, I like a lot of mesquite
- 1/4 C maple syrup
- 1/2 T cinnamon
- 1/8 t clove
- fold in 1 C raisin
1. Prepare the crust in the food processor.
2. Split the crust mixture in half.
3. Press half of the crust into the bottom of a casserole dish or rectangular spring form (10 by 12 inches).
4. Pour the filling into the spring form on top of the crust.
5. Crumble the remaining crust onto the filling evenly.
6. Dehydrate at 115F – 120F 12 hours until crispy and dry.
7. Serve warm with a scoop of your favorite raw vegan ice cream.
Stay tuned for the chico pie recipe… Keep it Live!