From the Archives
of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia, inc.
by Alan Carle
Mamey Sapote and Green sapote
sapota, Calocarpum viride
am a lover of Mamey Sapote and Green Sapote because they taste very
much the same. The Mamey and Green Sapote are fruits, which in all
probability originated in Central America. They are true members of the
Sapotaceae family - true Sapotes and a lot of these other fruit like
the White Sapote, South American Sapote are not in this family. They
are in a group of trees characterised by their milky sap. Other
important fruits within this same family are the Caimito or Star Apple,
Sapodilla, Canistel, Abiu and the Miracle Fruit, so it's a very, very
important economic family of rare and tropical fruit.
and Green Sapote have many common names, depending on which country you
happen to be in and they also have a great long list of Latin names.
Mamey Sapote is the more common of these fruits and it's often confused
with a tree called the Mamey Apple or Mamey americana, which is a
relative of the Mangosteen and grows in the same areas as the Mamey
Sapote. The Mamey Sapote is distributed throughout the coastal regions
of North and South America, all through Central America and has been
transported through the Pacific into the Philippines. The Green Sapote
on the other hand, is almost entirely restricted to its native habitat
which is the highland areas from Southern Mexico through Guatemala down
into Costa Rica.
More recently trials have been planted in
Florida and now Australia. The name 'Sapote' is basically from a main
word 'Zapott' which just meant fruit and the Mamey Sapote and Green
Sapote are such revered fruits that when forests were cleared these
trees were left standing. When Cortez and his army marched through
parts of Central America there were times when they existed entirely on
Mamey Sapote pulp - so it's a highly nutritious fruit.
into the botany of these plants which will explain the differences
between the two species. Botanically, they are very similar, both being
large evergreen trees which rival the Durian and the Mango as being
some of the largest fruit trees - they reach 30 metres. The leaves are
large, up to 300 mm long and clustered on the terminals of the branches
and below these leaves on the older wood soft yellow flowers appear in
large quantities. The flowers just stick up above the bark and are
fairly perfect in that they have male and female parts. They have five
sepals, five petals, five stamenoids and a single pistil with five
carpels. There is a problem of cross pollination within the whole
Sapotaceae family, incompatibility between plants and pollen sterility.
there are many plants and especially the grafted varieties of selected
clones, which have perfect flowers and fruit entirely on their own. The
fruits are actually a berry, and I believe they might be the largest
berry fruit in the world.
The major difference between these plants is the fruits. I will explain
some of the differences.
skin, scaly, 500-2500 g. Some cvs. fibre. 12-18 mos. ripen, larger
seed, 80-200mm diameter, 60-120mm diameter.
skin, smooth 200-500g little fibre. 10-12 mos. ripen, smaller seed,
50-100mm long 40-90mm diameter.
to 200 kg
and different shaped sepals, shorter staminoides and stamens
leaves, silver underneath, tomentose/downy
|trees can be deciduous, under stress lose
leaves with new flush
moist lowlands 0-1000m, pH 6.0-7.0, rainfall 2300-4000mm
moist highlands 1000-2300m, pH 6.0-8.0, 1500-2500mm
major, some throughout year
the fruit form we have a brown skin on the Mamey Sapote and a green
skin on the Green Sapote. We have a scaly type skin on the Mamey and a
smooth skin on the Green Sapote. The Mamey Sapote is quite large, up to
2.5 kg and the Green Sapote is much smaller, up to 500 gm. The Mamey
Sapote have some cultivars with fibre but the Green Sapote have very
The Mamey Sapote has a much larger seed than the
Green Sapote. To give you some indications as to the size of these
fruits Mamey Sapotes vary from 80 mm to 200 mm long and Green Sapotes
50 mm to 100 mm and consequently the widths vary too. The Mamey Sapote
yield is recorded to reach 200 kg but often does weigh less, but I have
no data on the Green Sapote although they are known to bear reasonably
One of the main differences, other than in the fruit, is
the flowers and the leaves. The flower on the Mamey Sapote has broad
ovate anthers and the Green Sapote has smaller different-shaped sepals
and shorter stamenoids and stamens.
The leaves of the Mamey
Sapote are large and dark green and this is one way of identifying the
plants. The Green Sapote has smaller leaves which are silver and downey
underside and little like fur. These trees can be deciduous under
stress and lose the leaves with new flushes so if your leaves drop it
could be under stress or it's about to put out new leaves.
the fruit have 1 to 3 seeds, the better selected clones have only one
seed and there is a greater variation in each of the different species.
Grafted 5-year-old Mamey Sapote
are two different common cultivars in the Mamey Sapote - these are
Pontin and Magana. Pontin has a fruit size of about 120 mm - 150 mm and
400 gm - 800 gm, whereas in Magana it has fruit of 150 mm - 200 mm long
and 600 gm - 1500 gm, some of the fruit reaching weights of
kg. I give Pontin a plus because it is a smaller fruit and will be
easier to market.
We have very different flowering to fruit-set
time between the two. In the Pontin we have 18 months and the Magana 12
months. Maturing time from grafting a seedling to fruit, we have 4 - 5
years with the Pontin and 2 - 3 years for the Magana.
a definite plus to the Magana in the last two characteristics. The
Pontin has a higher yield than the Magana. The actual fruiting times
differ as well so in Australia with different varieties we will be able
to have an extended season. They will fruit all year round but will
have major peaks. The major peak for the Pontin is January to February
and Magana November to December in Australia. The flesh colour is pale
salmon in the Pontin and the Magana has a salmon red, a much prettier,
deeper colour. The colour is very important for marketing.
these cultivars are very sweet, but there is less fibre in the Magana.
Most connoisseurs of Mamey Sapote prefer to eat the Pontin and
generally there is only one seed in each of these cultivars. We have
other cultivars in Australia - Cuban No.1 and Cuban No.2 and Benny.
They are still in the development stage and I think that Pontin and
Magana might be the better ones.
the ecology of these two fruits we find that the Mamey Sapote comes
from the moist tropical lowlands and the Green Sapote from the
sub-tropical moist highlands at an altitude of between 1,000 to 2,500
metres. This is one of the benefits of these two different species,
that they can be grown in a very wide part of Australia. They prefer a
pH of about 6 to 7 but they have been known to tolerate quite high
alkaline soils up to 8.4.
They come from quite reasonable
rainfall areas above 1,500 m up to 4,000 m and one of the main
attributes of having both these trees in Australia is that they fruit
at different times. November to March is the major Mamey Sapote
fruiting season and June to September for the Green Sapote. Neither of
these plants can stand frosts while young, however light frosts don't
seem to bother them, more so as the tree gets older. The Green Sapote
is slightly more tolerant than the Mamey Sapote. Both species grow on a
wide variety of soils from clay to sandy loams but drainage is
important as these plants suffer from root rot. A deep humus soil is
With regard to the propagation of Mamey Sapote and
Green Sapote, most of their lives they have been propagated almost
entirely by seed and it is still probably the most popular way. However
with the flowering in the Sapotaceae family it can't be guaranteed of
good fruit set or in fact true-to-type characteristics from planting a
seedling. Seedlings take much longer than a sexually propagated tree
and they have far greater genetic variation. Propagation by seed will
always be necessary as there is a need for root stocks, and if you
remove the hard seed coat which surrounds these seeds, germination is
Grafting is the main way of propagating these
trees, and inarching is the most favoured way. They are a difficult
tree to graft; it is thought this is due to the fact that the pores in
the wood are so small that it actually restricts the flow of water in
grafting. Depending on the availability of root stocks, Green Sapote
can be grafted onto Mamey Sapote and this is the way it is done in
Australia and Florida, as Green Sapotes are far less plentiful.
Budding, side veneer and cleft grafting are other ways of grafting and
the results are much higher if the scion material is girdled in Autumn
and left to swell to about two times its natural size and then grafted
in the spring. If you do this with juvenile wood you will get much
better results than with mature wood. Grafting under conditions of warm
days and cool nights seems to be preferred. Trials have been done with
cleft grafting leafy scions into tender terminals of trees 2 - 3 years
old and placing them under intermittent mist, with good results.
this early stage of a seedling's development some of the tissues are
still undifferentiated and the graft can draw nutrients and the
seedling can draw nutrients from the remaining seed. Marcots and
cuttings have been successful but they are not recommended because they
don't give very healthy plants. The root development is not the best.
regards to the cultivation of Mamey Sapote and Green Sapote, they are
very large trees and should be planted at about 10 m x 10 m to 14 m x
14m spacings in a frost-free area. The young tree should be gradually
introduced to full sun and provided with wind protection. Basically
what this means is "the better you look after the tree, the better it's
going to perform for you".
If the soils are heavy it is
important to provide good drainage, and mounding is advisable. With
fertilising, a basic formula of about 10/10/10 NPK to 14/14/14 NPK is
suitable and that should be applied about two or three times a year, up
to 500 g for every year old the tree is. When the tree gets a bit older
and is ready to fruit you can change that formula to about 10/10/10 and
increase the p in it and possibly the k as it will help reduce the
nitrogen for foliage and help in the fruit set. You also use dolomite
and trace elements, minor elements as necessary.
Sapote and Green Sapote are beautifully-shaped trees, lovely to look
at, and their leaves come out in whirls at horizontal intervals and
little pruning is necessary. If you have a grafted tree, the basic rule
of thumb of removing any shoots below the graft is important. Grafted
trees will be smaller than seedling trees and it would be of some merit
to prune the top out to keep them small for picking fruit, which is not
an easy task at 30 metres.
Irrigation in our Australian climate
in a particularly dry season is essential, as dry period will cause
leaf defoliation and fruit drop. It is beneficial to irrigate and
provide heavy organic mulches if possible. Never put mulches and
fertilizers too close to the trunk as, especially with mulches, root
rot is a problem in Mamey and Green Sapotes.
They are very hardy
plants and don't have many diseases if they are grown under ideal
conditions. However, the greatest problem we encountered is different
types of fungi. Root rot problems and collar rot are common and
anthracnose, sooty mould and rusts have been observed. Insect pests
such as scale, spider mites and swarming beetles have been recorded but
they are easily controlled with normal horticultural practices.
problems that may crop up are flying foxes, bats, birds, rats and
finger blight (that's your neighbour!). With the harvesting of these
fruits, it's quite common to see a number of different crops on the
tree at the same time, as they take anywhere from 12 months to 2 years
for the crop to ripen. The largest fruits will ripen first, obviously,
and the common method of determining whether they are ripe is to
scratch the shoulder of the fruit. If the flesh underneath is green, do
not pick, but if the flesh is turning pink or salmon-coloured, you can
pick it and it will remain hard for a few days then ripen quite
successfully. They have a very good shelf life if you know exactly when
to pick them. The crop that flowered at the same time will also ripen
almost at the same time, so it is not necessary to scratch each
individual fruit. Just harvest the whole particular crop when you
determine the fruit is ripe enough.
Picking is obviously by
hand, quite laborious, and you either cut the fruit or twist it off the
branches. In the post-harvest aspects of these fruits it is important
that you don't mark the skins of the fruit, so that they will arrive to
the consumer in prime condition. Try not to sell the ones with your
fingernail scratches on them.
they are such a heavy, dense, big and strong fruit, it is important
that you have good strong boxes and you pack the fruit correctly. You
can tell when the fruit is ripe when it becomes soft and a beautiful
aroma, similar to almonds and marzipans, comes from it. They are
extremely rich fruits, very sweet, a texture similar to avocados; it is
very difficult to eat a whole fruit, it is that sweet and rich. Central
and South American inhabitants and especially the Cubans go absolutely
crazy over this fresh fruit and I would like to read you a little story
that came from the Rare Fruit Council News from the International Body
about Mamey Sapotes.
It was billed "The Hour of the Mameys" but
it was all over in fifteen minutes at the Sunset Strip Plaza on Sunday.
"That was all the time it took for old developer Raphael Kaboutsen to
sell 500 pounds of the fruit, a rough-skinned oblong Caribbean treat,
the size of a large mango but with a sweet, juicy red pulp that is
passionately loved by the Cubans. The limit was one per customer but at
99¢ per pound, one quarter of the growing price, whole
lined up to get the precious fruit that is a rare and exotic find in
Miami. Kaboutsen sold out the initial batch in the first 15 mins and
had to make desperate retreats to his 30-acre farm to get more Mameys.
He went back three times and then had to turn 100 people away. It shows
that there are people who would do anything for this fruit."
personally think it has the greatest potential in Australia as a
flavouring in ice creams, milk shakes. I feel it will rival chocolate
as one of the best flavouring in the world. It is nutritionally an
excellent fruit, high in carbohydrates, reasonably high in proteins per
fruit and the seeds are often milled to prepare a type of bitter
Both the Mamey Sapote and Green Sapote have a great
future but as with many new products it has to be promoted and marketed
properly. I have yet to meet someone who likes ice cream who doesn't
like Mamey ice cream.
Q. Will some Mamey Sapotes not fruit at all?
Yes, that is possible. It could be possibly for a number of reasons
including pollen sterility or pollen incompatibility with the
neighbouring plants, if they are grown from seeds.
Q. Will they all flower though?
Yes. I've never known one not to flower. Reports from overseas is that
they can take up to 12 years to flower but we have seen them flower in
4 years in Australia.
Q. When you graft your Green Sapote back
onto your Mamey Sapote will it lower the cold tolerance of the Green
Sapote because of the Green Sapote coming from the highlands and should
have a higher resistance to cold and the Mamey from the lowlands should
be more of a tropical tree?
A. I don't know. I do know that the
Green Sapote is a more sub-tropical tree but I don't know the
difference on Mamey rootstock. When the Mamey is fairly big it can
handle a couple of degrees of frost but it doesn't like it.
When I bought my Mamey Sapote I was told that I should leave the fruit
fall to the ground and it would be ripe then. Is that advisable?
If it's a home garden and you are not worried about pests getting to
it, that is a reasonable way to having ripe fruit. But you would need
to have mulch at the base of the tree so that the fruit won't get
Q. At what age do they bear?
A. A seedling will bear
anytime from 4 to 12 years and a grafted plant generally from 2 years
on. It also depends on the variety. Magana will bear at less than 2
years from the grafted time and the Pontin often takes 4 to 5 years. It
Q. What is the productivity likely to be with the Green Sapote as
opposed to the Mamey Sapote from a commercial standpoint?
A. I'm sorry, I can't give you an answer on that. I've seen Green
Sapotes with very good crops, up to 200 kg I would say.
Q. Where can we get grafted trees and how much?
A number of nurseries are beginning to produce these trees. I think
Fitzroy has some and they are available up my way (Cairns) in small
numbers. I think Mamey Sapotes go for $25 and Green Sapotes for $30.
Actually one of those trees went for $92 in Rockhampton a couple of
weeks ago in the auction.
Albert Eckhout (attributed), 'Market Stall in the Indies' (mid 17th
century), Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. This painting exemplifies the Dutch
view of the tropical East at the time of Tasman's voyages to Australia.
thought other members of the RFC of A might have as much fun as I,
identifying the fruits portrayed and of dallying with memories of
markets and tastes. The fruits look top quality and ripeness. Love to
see more variety down south.
Above picture from NSW Art Gallery's Society Journal - LOOK (sent in by
Dr. Bernard Lake)
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