Diospyros digyna, the Black Sapote, is a species of persimmon that is native to eastern Mexico and Central America south to Colombia. Other names include Chocolate Pudding Fruit, Chocolate Persimmon.
Mature trees can grow to over 25 m in height and are evergreen. It is frost sensitive but can tolerate light frosts. The leaves are elliptic-oblong, tapered at both ends, dark green, glossy and 10 – 30 cm long. Some trees bear only male flowers. Others have both male and female flowers, though some of these are self-incompatible. Fruiting takes about 3 – 4 years from seed and the trees are heavy bearers.
Whole and opened ripe fruits
Black Sapote fruit are tomato-like and measure 5 – 10 cm (2.0 – 3.9 in) in diameter, with an inedible skin that turns from olive to a deep yellow-green when ripe and a pulp which is white and inedible when unripe but assumes a flavor, color and texture often likened to chocolate pudding when ripe. Fruits usually contain seeds, up to a maximum of 12. The texture has been likened to that of a papaya.
Unripe fruits are astringent, caustic, bitter, and an irritant. They have been used as fish poison in the Philippines and in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.
Propagation is usually from seed, which can retain viability for several months and require around 30 days for germination. Some trees are seedless, however, and can be propagated by air-layering or shield-budding.
Black Sapote trees are normally found below 600 meters, but are not particular about soil, and can tolerate light frosts. They are sensitive to drought, requiring irrigation in dry areas, but are quite tolerant of flooding. The tree grows fairly slowly for the first 3 – 4 years, perhaps just 1 foot/year for the first couple of years. Later however it grows much more rapidly. Trees should be spaced 10-12m apart.