I read a bittersweet autobiography by the outrageously talented Jeanette Winterson while living in the UK in the early 2000s. It was wonderfully titled Oranges Aren’t the Only Fruit. Without going into it, you immediately understand the essence. I think about that title as much as the story itself.
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Spending a few winters in the Northern Hemisphere, I began to understand how you might only see one or two different fruits (although many varieties of them) during the lean winter months.
As a native of the southern hemisphere, with a climate varied enough to grow just about anything, I saw a wide variety of fruit growing up in Australia.
It helped that I grew up in a restaurant house. Throughout the year we store many varieties of ripe mangoes, persimmons, stone fruits, pears, bananas, citrus and more, cool on the stairs or warm on the kitchen counter, depending on the stage of ripeness.
So, oranges are not the only fruit.
Especially if you live in a “neither here nor there” microclimate like the northern rivers of New South Wales.
“Neither here nor there” can be, liberatingly, the exact place to try to grow anything. There have been so many well-meaning people who have warned me not to grow this or that, claiming it won’t work well here. Your advice is always welcome but not necessarily listened to. I have a rebellious streak that sometimes leads to spectacular failure, like thinking I could get the basil to keep spending the whole winter in the polytunnel… not so! It turns out that daylight hours change regardless of the weather.
A locally renowned fruit farmer has become our close mentor and luckily he lives next door. He is very helpful, especially since he is the first to point out my mistakes. John and Lyndall Picone are true farmers in every way, the kindest and most generous people you will ever meet. John is an inquisitive botany student, a home grower of commercial fruits, spices, and small cured goods.
He has succeeded where others have given up, especially when it comes to his unlikely orchard, with prickly pears growing amicably alongside apples, grapes, vanilla and cocoa. Lyndall takes care of the capers: it’s a complicated job that takes years.
When I was first invited into his Garden of Eden nine years ago, I was pleased to note that my strong upbringing as an immigrant in the restaurant industry helped me greatly in recognizing much of what he cultivated there.
But in John’s orchard, one fruit mystified me: the black sapote, also known as the chocolate pudding fruit.
I have a problem with that name, mainly because it’s misleading. The texture is not pudding-like – it is not custard nor does it have the consistency of boiled pudding.
Black sapote is best consumed when the exterior of the fruit looks old-fashioned. When ripe (left) it looks bruised and wrinkled. When immature (right) it is firm, bright green, and very unpleasant. Photography: agefotostock/Alamy Stock Photo
As for the chocolate flavor, you would be very confused if that’s what you expect. However, if you approach black sapote with an open mind, it is absolutely unexpected and enchanting, with tones of honey, caramel, dates, and minerals.
The fruit is best consumed when the exterior appears well past its prime, with a somewhat bruised appearance. Unfortunately, this makes it an unattractive supermarket fruit. The texture of a perfectly ripe sapote is similar to that of soaked dates or very ripe papaya. It is creamy and very pleasant, if like me you like that soft texture.
I like to eat it plain with a bit of squeezed citrus, like most fully ripe, sweet soft fruits. In the same way that blackberries stain your hands when you pluck them, after polishing a black sapodilla, your entire face will be stained like a child’s. One who has no self-control around a bowl of chocolate pudding. The fact that it has different shades of brown, depending on maturity, is probably where the name comes from.
To me, the black sapote tastes similar to a Hachiya persimmon, and like the Hachiya, it must be completely smooth to the touch to be ready to eat, otherwise the astringency will cause your mouth to wrinkle and your tongue to wrinkle. recoil in horror.
The clue to when to eat it is in its other name: sapote is the Spanish word for red fruit. The similarity of the black sapote with the persimmon is not a coincidence: it belongs to the same Ebenaceae family. The trees look somewhat similar too, with a glorious, full canopy. However, unlike the persimmon, which can withstand the cold, the black sapote is a tree from the tropics, native to Mexico, Central America, and Colombia.
I guess it was called “zapote” for lack of a better description. Many plants from the forests and jungles of South America received the same name, the differentiating factor being another color or shape identifier. It is in the same way that many native fruits in other colonized countries received the names of fruits commonly eaten by their conquerors. How else do we end up with so many “apple” this and “apple” that, none of them related to the Malus species?
Probably accidentally and without thinking. And now the language is difficult to change, commercially it is called as confirmed by the general consensus.
So there are black and white zapotes (unrelated), mamey and chiku zapotes (same family). Black sapodillas aren’t the only sapodillas, but I think Jeannette Winterson would totally agree that there should be a place for one in her fruit bowl.
black sapote bread
Black sapote can be used very successfully in place of plantains when baking. It can also be made into a no-bake dessert like ice cream or even sherbet – it emulsifies beautifully.
Here is an easy recipe that can be cooked in a cake pan or loaf pan, the texture on the outside will be delicious and crumbly, while the inside will be like a steamed pudding. You could also top it with a sour cream frosting, that would go really well. However, as it is, it makes a delicious breakfast or even afternoon tea. Use the best quality organic ingredients whenever possible.
1 kg of fully ripe black sapodilla, hand crushed
1 cup coconut flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
½ cup tapioca flour
¾ cup of whole milk
1 cup Greek yogurt
¾ cup chopped organic dates
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 shaved vanilla pod (put the scraped pod in the sugar jar afterwards)
1 cup melted cultured butter
¾ cup toasted chopped pecans (optional)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons granulated brown sugar (sprinkle on top)
Mix all the wet ingredients together, combine the sifted dry ingredients and mix gently, being careful not to over mix.
Let the mixture rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Pour into a lined loaf pan. Sprinkle granulated brown sugar and a little salt.
Bake 170C for one hour. Insert a toothpick into the center of the cake, and if it comes out clean, it’s ready.