By Alfredo Chiri

CANISTEL - Pouteria campechiana var. nervosa - Sapotaceae

Donated by: Tom and Glenda Ponder and planted in 2000 (r.f.-09)

Common names: Canistel, egg-fruit, ti-es, yellow sapote, siguapa, fruta de huevo.

The canistel has been the subject of much confusion as to its binomial dentification. In general in Central America it is known as Lucuma nervosa, while in the USA it is known as Pouteria campechiana. There are many more synonyms, each name depending on the location where it is grown in Central America and the Caribbean Islands.

The canistel tree is erect and can reach from 25 to 100 feet, and the trunk may attain 3 feet in diameter. It has brown bark and abundant white, gummy latex. When the branches are young, they are velvety brown, turning green at maturity. The leaves are alternate and grouped at the
branch tips. Flowers borne in the leaf axils are bisexual in solitary or small clusters.

The fruit is variable in form and size. It may be almost round, with or without a pointed apex. The length varies from 3 to 5 inches, with a width between 2 to 3 inches. When unripe, the fruit is green, hard and gummy internally. On ripening, the skin turns lemon-yellow, very smooth and glossy, occasionally coated with light brown tint. Fruits ripen at room temperature in 3 - 10 days and can remain in the refrigerator for several days. Canistel fruit can be eaten fresh with salt and lemon juice or mayonnaise, made into custard or ice-cream, or into pies.

When ripe, below the skin the yellow flesh is firm with fine fibers. By the center of the fruit it is softer and similar in texture to the yolk of a hard-boiled egg. The flavor is sweet, somewhat like a baked sweet potato. At the center there may be 1 to 4 hard seeds, 1 ½ to 2 inches. The seeds are glossy and chestnut-brown with a curved ventral side which is tan. Both ends are sharp- tipped.

The canistel is sometimes believed to be native to northern South America, but this error is due to the fact that in South America there are varieties which are similar. The plant grows primarily in the southern coast of Mexico, Florida, and most of the countries in Central America and the Caribbean islands. Southern Mexico is the only area where the canistel grows in the wild. In all other countries it has been planted as commercial groves.

When the canistel is started from seeds, there is considerable variation between trees as to the timing of the setting of fruit and flowering.

The canistel needs a tropical or subtropical climate. It does well in regions with a long dry season. It is tolerant to a diversity of soils but prefers well-drained soil. It can be cultivated in soils that are too thin and poor for most other fruit trees.