Canistel - Pouteria campechiana,
aka canistel, egg fruit, Lucuma nervosa, is native to Central
America but virtually unknown in Belize except in botanical
gardens and private fruit growing enthusiasts. It is not commercially
cultivated in Belize.
Although it is a large, open growing evergreen tree, in the
Toledo District at Dem Dats Doin, the tree attains a height
of about 12 to 18' with an equal dewdrop area. Leaves, branches
or trunk if cut, produces a white milky sap, which is an easy
way to identify the tree. Small greenish white flowers in small
clusters are produced after the heavy rains in July/August.
The fruits mature in October/November. The wood is quite brittle
and breaks easily especially when it is loaded with fruits.
The color of the ripe fruits is bright yellow/orange and may
be round or oblong depending on the variety but all have a point
at one end. Size can vary from 2 1/2 to 5" in diameter.
The flesh color is bright orange with a dry mealy to a moist
consistency. It is eaten fresh and also used for pies, shakes,
smoothies and ice cream. The color of the flesh and consistency
often remind one of a boiled egg yolk, thus giving it a local
common name - egg fruit. However, at Dem Dats Doin we promote
the canistel as a sweet potato that grows on trees. This fruit
from Central America was carried to Africa by missionaries.
It is grown and widely accepted due to its yellow sweet potato
characteristics and ease of cultivation. The canistel is very
similar to a local fruit called Monkey Cap.
The trees at Dem Dats Doin were grown from seeds obtained
from Florida and Puerto Rico in 1983 and bore fruit in 1988.
However, superior varieties are usually grafted or air layered
and usually produces fruit within two years. If the fruits are
allowed to ripen on the tree the fruit will develop cracks along
the skin. At such a time birds will peck at the fruit and cause
it to drop to the ground where the agouti, gibnut and other
rodents will finish off this unusually delicious fruit. There
are usually from one to three ovals, brown, hard-shelled glossy
seeds about an inch-and-a-half like miniature sapote (mammey)
seeds in each fruit. At Dem Dats Doin the fruits are picked
when mature and kept in cool shady area to complete its ripening
Cultivation practice - treat like citrus; seeds germinate
from 3 to 6 months; likes slightly acid well drained soil in
full sun although it can tolerate alkaline soils; salt tolerance
fair to good but should be protected from really exposed areas
close to the sea. The fruit is easily bruised and does not ship
well. At present, it is more suitable for home/garden planting
then for the export market.