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Sapodilla (Manilkara zapota) is a tropical fruit native to Central and South America, known for its sweet and malty flavor. The fruit has been a staple in many cultures for centuries, not only for its taste but also for its medicinal and cultural significance. In this article, we will delve into the world of sapodilla, exploring its etymology, description, taxonomy, cultivars, distribution, cultivation, production, uses, phytochemistry, flavor, toxicity, nutrition, and cultural significance.


The name “sapodilla” comes from the Nahuatl language, spoken by the Aztecs, in which it is called “tzapotl.” This refers to the fruit’s sweet and sticky sap, which was used as a natural adhesive and sweetener.


Sapodilla is an evergreen tree that can grow up to 30 meters tall, with a broad, rounded crown. Its leaves are elliptical and dark green, with a smooth, glossy surface. The fruit is a berry, typically brown or yellowish-brown, with a soft, grainy texture and a sweet, malty flavor.

Taxonomy and Cultivars

Sapodilla belongs to the family Sapotaceae and is closely related to the mamey sapote (Pouteria sapota). There are several cultivars, including:

‘Prolific’High-yielding, large fruit
‘Brown Sugar’Sweet and flavorful, brown skin
‘Tamarindo’Small, sweet fruit, red skin
‘Oro’Golden skin, sweet and juicy

Distribution and Habitat

Sapodilla is native to Central and South America, from Mexico to Ecuador. It is commonly found in tropical forests, often growing wild, and is also cultivated in many countries, including India, Sri Lanka, and the Caribbean.


Sapodilla trees prefer well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade. They are relatively low-maintenance and can tolerate drought, but require regular watering for optimal fruit production.

Production and Uses

Sapodilla is a popular fruit in many cultures, eaten fresh, dried, or used in jams, preserves, and desserts. The fruit is also used in traditional medicine, and its sap is used as a natural adhesive and sweetener.

CountryProduction (tons)
Sri Lanka300,000


Sapodilla contains a range of bioactive compounds, including:

  • Saponins, which have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Flavonoids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects
  • Polyphenols, which have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties


Sapodilla’s sweet and malty flavor is due to the presence of sugars, including sucrose, glucose, and fructose. The flavor is often described as a combination of pear, apple, and caramel.


Sapodilla seeds contain a toxic compound called saponin, which can cause gastrointestinal irritation and other adverse effects if ingested.


Sapodilla is a nutrient-rich fruit, providing:

  • Fiber (5.6g/100g)
  • Vitamin C (30mg/100g)
  • Potassium (440mg/100g)
  • Antioxidants (high ORAC value)


Sapodilla has significant cultural and historical importance in many societies. In Mexico, it is considered a symbol of good luck and prosperity, while in India, it is offered to the gods as a sacred fruit.

“The sapodilla is a fruit of the gods, sweet and divine.” – Mexican proverb

In conclusion, sapodilla is a fascinating fruit with a rich history, cultural significance, and nutritional value. Its sweet and malty flavor, combined with its versatility and low maintenance, make it a popular choice for many cultures around the world.