Two plants that we are often asked about and that are now ready for sale are the Casimiroa (White Sapote) and Dragon Fruit. We have limited stock and there are lots of you who have asked for these. Before I do a email campaign, I'm hoping those that actually look at the blog will get first dibs.
There is plenty of information about these plants in the catalogue, but a bit more detail on White Sapote I have gleaned from the internet is...
Common Names: White Sapote, Sapote, Zapote blanco, Casimiroa.
Origin: The white sapote is native to central Mexico. The wooly-leaf sapote is native from Yucatan to Costa Rica.
Adaptation: The white sapote is hardy but is brittle in wind. Is usually successful wherever oranges can be grown. Established trees withstand occasional light frost, young trees are a bit more susceptable. Consider frost cloth early on if in doubt.White sapotes are also tolerant of cold wet roots and south sides of buildings. Only grafted trees are suitable for containers; seedlings get large fast.
Growth Habit: The white sapote forms a medium to very large evergreen tree, 5 to 15 m, depending on the cultivar and soil. It is deciduous under drought and other stress. The tree casts a dense shade. Growth is rapid, in flushes. It is densely branching, drooping at maturity. Young trees tend toward a single, limber stem for first 2 years often requiring staking. White sapotes have a taproot and other fibrous roots that are wandering and greedy like citrus.
Foliage: The white sapote has glossy, bright green, palmately compound, hand-shaped leaves with 5 - 6 inch leaflets on a long petiole. New growth is usually reddish, becoming dark green with age, pale green beneath. Stress such as either prolonged cold or abnormal heat, will cause defoliation and a subsequent new growth flush. Leaves will burn in hot winds, which may also scar the fruit or cause it to drop.
Flowers: The odourless flowers, small and greenish-yellow, are 4- or 5-parted, and born in terminal and axillary panicles. They are hermaphrodite and occasionally unisexual because of aborted stigmas. They follow growth flush and often re-bloom again several months later. The flowers are attractive to bees and ants.
Fruit: White sapote fruit ripens six to nine months from bloom. Fruit size varies from 1 inch to 6 inches for some of the newer cultivars. Fruit colour ranges from apple-green to orange-yellow at maturity, according to cultivar. The fruit shape is round, oval or ovoid, symmetrical or irregular. The skin is very thin and smooth, with a waxy bloom, and is sometimes bitter. Green-skinned varieties have white flesh; yellow skinned varieties have yellow flesh. The flesh has a custard-like texture and a sweet delicious flavour reminiscent of peach or banana, although sometimes with a hint of bitterness. The fruit becomes pungent and unpleasant if overripe. The fruit contains 5 - 7 short-lived seeds that resemble a greatly enlarged orange seed. They range in size from 1 - 2 inches in length. The fruits also usually contain several aborted, thin, papery seeds. White sapotes bear within 10 years from seed, or 2 - 8 years from graft.
Location: Before planting, consider the mess made by unpicked fruit. Planting over a patio can be a big mistake. The ultimate size of the the tree should also be kept in mind. They prefer full sun.
Soils: White sapotes prefer a well-drained soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.5, but the tree will grow in almost any soil as long as it is well-drained. Ours grow in clay soil on a hillside and do very well with regular fertilising.
Irrigation: White sapote trees are drought tolerant but produce better fruit with regular, deep watering. Deep watering is also necessary to keep greedy roots deep in the ground. Shallow watering can encourage surface roots that will break pavement or ruin lawns. Drip irrigation is suitable for young trees. They will tolerate some salts, but gradually decline. White sapotes are often most productive following wet winters.
Fertilization: Fertilizer formulas should vary with the nature of the soil, but, in general, the grower is advised to follow procedures suitable for citrus trees. Many white sapote trees have received little or no care and yet have been long-lived.
Pruning: Young trees tend to grow vertically without much branching. After planting, remove the flowers and pinch out the terminal bud to encourage branching. Since branches are brittle in wind, and will often break at crotches that are either too narrow or horizontal, it is important to prune to eliminate such weak joints. Too much pruning or heading-back, however, may encourage weak growth.
Pests and diseases: The white sapote has few natural enemies but the fruits of some cultivars are attacked by fruit flies where that is a problem. Black scale often occurs on nursery stock and occasionally on mature trees. Mealybugs are sometimes found around fruit stems, and aphids can infest new growth. The trees also attract fruit-eating animals.
Harvest: White sapote fruit ripens in late winter early spring. Large trees can produce a ton of fruit per year. The fruits taste best when tree ripened, but they tend to fall first. The fruits must be handled with care even when unripe as they bruise so easily and any bruised skin will blacken and the flesh beneath turns bitter. Mature fruits should be clipped from the branches leaving a short piece of the stem attached. This stub will fall off when the fruits become eating-ripe.
The fruit is said to be soporific and have an effect upon the central nervous system, but it is pleasing and wholesome. It is very high in carbohydrates and low in acids.
Commercial potential: The white sapote is liked by most people who taste it. Its best markets are local stands and luxury or health food stores. Chain stores require a steady source of round, non-bitter fruit, packed in a single layer.