Mystery Fruit: Sapodilla – A Tree That Produce Both a Delicious Snack And Chicle

I’ve lived in San Pedro, Belize for 8 years now and really, there shouldn’t be any more “mystery fruit”.   I have a whole section devoted to them on my blog – from custard apple to “soursop – my brush with fame and fortune”.  All strange to this expat arriving from New York but not at all strange to the locals.

Like most places, summer is the season for fruit.  In much of the US it means peaches and plums, cherries and nectarines.   Here?   Mangoes, avocadoes, delicious mamey is now at fruit stands and yesterday I found this one:  sapodilla.


For some reason, when asking details on a new fruit, I am always conversing with someone who speaks mostly Spanish.  And since I speak almost zero Spanish, I did get the name:  Sapodilla.  And she said, I believe, that it is like a kiwi.

She helped me pick two – you want them soft to the touch – charged me $1bzd each for them.  Not bad.

The sapodilla are front and center.  Roundish, with a grayish-brownish, dusty thin skin.  Skin you don’t want to eat.  Mameys – more football like and with very rough skin – sit towards the back near the mangoes.


That don’t want to eat the skin part?  It’s where the similarity with the kiwi ends.

Let’s get to the fact.  The sapodilla or zapote tree is a long living evergreen that probably originated in Belize or the Yucatan.   The bark of the tree produced a sap called chicle.

The industry of tapping chicle and those who did it – the chicleros – is a integral part of Belize’s history.   Here’s a super interesting article about how the sap was harvested and processed and then shipped to the US to be made into chewing gum.

In the early 1960s, gum companies switched to a synthetic material and chicle was no longer desired.

Here’s a statue that now stands in Benque Belize.  A tribute to the chicleros.



But I am here to eat the fruit!

Home – one was sliced open.  And beautiful. blushing peach and salmon…fragrant.  Almost perfume-y.


I removed the extremely hard glossy seeds…


My first thought was pear…but that was the texture.  A very slight grit like a pear.  I can only describe the flavor as fresh, tropical and dessert-like.  Delicious.

Grab a few when you pass the local fruit stand…I am sure they won’t be around for very long.

IMG_2409SIMILAR to its cousin the mamey but not quite.  (Pronounced:  mah-may)  Grab one of these FOR SURE.  And always have the fruit stand proprietor help you pick it out.  This is no time to get cocky!

In my book?  Mamey is best refrigerated and rather than being a bit juicy, it is thick and sweet, custardy and smooth.  A dessert fruit for sure.


While you are at it, try all the fruit you’ve never heard of.  Summer is your chance!

Some at beautiful…look at these cashew fruit!


And many are absolutely delicious.




  • Dennis

    Try the Sapodilla with a small squeeze of lime, a dollop of yogurt (sweetened to your taste), and freshly grated nutmeg.