By A. Oram
From the Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia, inc.

Opposite Seasons: Summer is during the months of December, January and February. Autumn is March, April, May; winter is June, July, August; Spring is September, October and November.

Sapodilla- a Delicious Dehydrated Product
Achras sapote, Manilkara zapota

SAPODILLA or chiku (Manilkara achras) is grown the world over, mainly for tapping milky latex (chicle) which is used largely as a base for manufacturing chewing gum. In India, it is grown mainly for its fruit, which has very low acid and high sugar content. It is, however, not yet used for processing on commercial scale, though attempts were made to can it in syrup and also for preparing jam. As it is a poor keeper (shelf life of 3 days) there are gluts in the local markets, bringing down its price considerably. The latex, on drying, produces black spots on the fruit skin, which also adversely affect the price.

Therefore surplus as well as scarred fruits need to be utilized for processing. Preparation of a dehydrated product of sapodilla (sapota fig) was therefore tried. The product obtained had appealing chocolate-brown colour, mild chiku flavour, sweet taste and appearance of dried figs.

Harvesting and Ripening of Fruits

Though the tree flowers throughout the year, there are 2 major harvesting periods (January-March and August-October). When the fruits develop good colour on their surface and are still firm, they are harvested. Such fruits, on scratching with finger nail, give a yellow streak compared with green in the case of immature fruits. Mature fruits ripen within 4-5 days at room temperature (25-30°C). During the ripening process, the milky latex completely disappears and the fruit becomes soft and sweet.

Sketch of Sapodilla fruit and leaves
Sketch of Sapodilla fruit and leaves
Sapodilla illustration by Jenny Taranto out of Glen Tankard's book - Exotic Tree Fruits

Preparation of Dehydrated Product

Wash the fully ripe fruits, peel and cut them into halves (on the 'equator') with a stainless steel knife. Remove the seeds and dry the deseeded halves in an electric dryer, maintaining initially a temperature of 70°C and finally of 55°C. It takes about 4 days to complete the drying when the oven is operated only for 8 hours a day (during office hours). The yield of dried product is about 30%.

The dried halves are then cut into slices (rings) and made into a garland, using a twine cord. The product is finally packed in 400-gauge polyethylene bags, which are sealed by heat and then stored at a low temperature (5°C). The quality of the product thus packed and stored may be retained even up to one year. However, under ambient storage condition (25-35°C temperature and 65-85% relative humidity) storage pests are a problem. The quality also deteriorates very fast, making the product unacceptable within six months.

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Oram, A. "Sapodilla - a Delicious Dehydrated Product." Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia. Indian Horticulture, Oct. Dec. 1985. Sept. 1987. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.

Published 29 Apr. 2015 LR. Reviewed 8 Feb. 2016 KJ
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