How to grow canistel tree?

What Is Canistel – A Guide To Growing Eggfruit Trees At Home

One of the most interesting aspects of planting and growing fruit in the home garden is the wide array of available options. While it is true that many common fruits are offered commercially and are easily found at grocery stores, accessibility to rare and hard to find fruits is an exciting endeavor. As orchards expand, fresh fruit harvests offer growers a wide array of choices, as well as a diverse landscape. This is especially true in the case of some tender tropical plants, such as with canistel fruit trees.

What is Canistel?

Canistel (Pouteria campechiana), commonly known as eggfruit, is a tropical fruit tree. Though the size and shape of this fruit can vary greatly from one tree to another, the most favorable trees produce large, sweet yellow fruits with an oval shape. Having been most commonly compared to the texture of a hard-boiled egg (hence the common name), the roundish fruits are popular for their use in dairy recipes and other baked treats.

How to Grow Eggfruit

Canistel tree care is relatively straightforward for those wishing to grow this fruit. Thriving in tropical climates, eggfruit trees are widely adaptable to a variety of soils, including those which are sandy. Growers without a frost-free climate are also able to grow canistel. Due to its fast-growing nature, eggfruit trees are ideal candidates for container culture. Growing eggfruit in this manner means protecting trees from frost and cool temperatures. Potted plants should be moved indoors when temperatures are predicted to dip below 40 F. (4 C.).

Depending upon where you live, it may be difficult to find canistel trees at local plant nurseries and garden centers. If choosing to order plants online, always make certain to order only from reputable sources as to ensure high quality and disease-free fruit saplings.

To plant, select a well-draining location that receives direct sunlight. Well-draining soil is essential, as these trees can be prone to root rot. Dig a hole or choose a container that is at least twice as wide and twice as deep as the rootball of the tree. Gently place the tree into the hole and cover with soil. Water thoroughly.

Depending upon the age of the planted sapling, trees should begin to bear fruit within one to two years.



The Canistel is a large, evergreen tree native to Central America. It usually grows to around 8 m in height, but occasionally grows larger in favorable conditions. Leaves are commonly oblanceolate at 10-30cm in length and alternately cluster around branch tips. The tree has an open-growing canopy, light brown mature bark, and abundant latex. The fruit shape and size is variable. Green, immature fruits ripen to a golden-yellow or orange-yellow. The fruit varies from firm and fibrous towards the exterior, to a cooked egg yolk texture towards the center. The flavor is sweet and mild, often described as a cooked sweet potato.

Harvesting and Seed Production

Mature fruits should be allowed to ripen fully before consumption to reduce the quanity of latex. Yellow fruits will ripen on the tree, but they are commonly picked when fully yellow and allowed to soften off the tree (3-10 days after harvest). Fruits should be clipped off trees to avoid damaging the fruit. The seeds should be planted soon after harvest, and may not germinate for several months (3-5 months average). Seeds should remain in well-drained, damp composted soil throughout the germination period.

Pests and Diseases

The trees are often very healthy and are not usually attacked by pests. Scale insects are the most common pest, with rust and fruit spot occasionally damaging fruit .

Morton, J. 1987. Canistel. p. 402–405. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL.

ARTfarm on St. Croix, USVI

Four whole eggfruits, golden yellow like heart-shaped school buses, ready to be made into smoothies, pies, salad garnishes and more! Eggfruit range in size from apple to grapefruit. These are grapefruit sized.

Eggfruit is a versatile Caribbean fruit that can be eaten raw or cooked, sweet or savory in many recipes. It grows on an attractive mid-sized tree in the Sapote family, with dark green foliage. Eggfruit is known by many other names, including canistel and yellow sapote, and the latin name of the tree is Pouteria campechiana (Morton, J. 1987. Canistel. p. 402–405. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL.).

The thin, delicate skin of the fruit contains latex sap, so generally the peel is discarded. The flesh of the eggfruit is high in niacin, carotene (provitamin A), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), calcium and phosphorous. Three to four large, smooth, dark seeds are enclosed in the flesh of the eggfruit.

The texture and color of the eggfruit’s flesh is oddly similar to the yolk of a hard boiled egg. It is dry, not juicy, despite the 60% water content of the eggfruit. The flavor is rich as, but much sweeter than, an egg yolk. The taste is not dissimilar to a baked sweet potato, but more delicate.

Eggfruit can be eaten out of hand, baked, puréed, crumbled over a salad, added to dressings, enjoyed sweetened, or salted with vinegar.

Eggfruit is wonderful in smoothies. It makes a yellow egg-custard flavored milkshake when blended with ice, milk, a dash of vanilla or nutmeg, and a small amount of sweetener. Mrs. Powell at the La Reine Farmer’s Market on St. Croix makes a wonderful eggfruit drink.

I use eggfruit as a substitute for canned pumpkin in pies, adding a bit of liquid if needed to approximate the texture of puréed pumpkin. The mashed eggfruit flesh thickens and enriches mixtures, so use your imagination! A squeeze of lime juice also heightens the flavor. See my recipe for eggfruit pie below.

Eggfruit is fragile once it is ripe, so it’s not a fruit you’ll readily find in places outside of the Caribbean and southern Florida. Keep it in the fridge after it ripens, and enjoy this rare treat!

Eggfruit Pie

1 1/2 cups mashed eggfruit pulp
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup local honey (or to taste – or use maple syrup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Dash of vanilla
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 beaten eggs
2 cups evaporated milk, coconut milk, or light cream
Chopped nuts or shredded coconut for topping – optional
Pie crust of your choosing – you can use small tart crusts too!

Reserving toppings, mix all ingredients in a blender.
Pour into a pre-baked crust(s).
Sprinkle nuts, or shredded coconut, or both, on top if desired.
Any leftover filling can be poured into a buttered oven-safe casserole or dish and will make a yummy little custard.

Bake in a medium oven, for 1 hour or until the edges have set, at 250º F.

We made this with molasses once – it was a bit too heavy for most of the family’s liking, but with adjustment that might be a good alternative sweetener for this recipe too!

For more recipes, check out! If all this seems overwhelming, make reservations: Chef Dave Kendrick of Kendrick’s Restaurant in Christiansted stopped by the farm today to pick up some greens and took a couple of eggfruit with him. He’s planning a special dish with eggfruit in it, so stop by and see what he’s come up with! For reservations at Kendrick’s call (340)773-9199.

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Canistels can have a variety of shapes.

Canistel, also called Egg Fruit, Yellow Sapote


This species comes from southern Mexico and Central America and is now grown in other tropical regions including South East Asia and parts of Africa.


It grows well in sub-tropical and tropical climates with full sun at up to 1500m above sea level. It is not frost tolerant. Best fruiting is obtained with minimal dry periods.

Plant Description:

Canistel is a tall evergreen tree that grows to 10-15m high in its native habitat but is usually smaller in cultivation, particularly if grafted. It has simple deep green leaves clustered at the ends of branches.


Sapotaceae Family. Its taxonomy has been modified many times. Edible relatives include abiu, mamey sapote, sapodilla and star apple.


It is not demanding of soils provided they are well-drained.


This can be done with seeds which, like many tropical species, are recalcitrant and do not withstand prolonged storage. Seedlings can be used as rootstocks for grafting superior varieties.


Several have been recognised, eg Ross, Bruce and Trompo.

Flowering and Pollination:

The axillary flowers are hermaphrodite. They are self-fertile, with pollination by insects. In sub-tropical climates, flowering is usually in summer with harvest in winter.


Regular watering is most important throughout the year when the plant is young. For mature plants, particular attention should be given from flowering to cropping. Like citrus, trees need regular fertiliser applications including trace elements, adjusted for tree size.

Wind Tolerance:

Good survival in severe storms.


Little pruning is required apart from removing overlapping or dead branches or to limit tree size for easier harvesting and spraying.

The Fruit:

The fruit is morphologically a berry, ovoid to spindle-shaped, often with a pointed apex, and can weigh 50-600g. The thin smooth skin is light green when immature, changing to bright orange with maturity. The flesh is also yellow-orange, relatively dry, sweet and creamy with 1-5 brown seeds.

Fruit Production and Harvesting:

Grafted trees may take 2-4 years to begin flowering and fruiting. With good management, yield can be 40-80kg of fruit/tree. Fruit should be picked with stem attached when fully coloured, and thereafter allowed to ripen for a week when they will become slightly soft to the touch.

Fruit Uses:

It is eaten fresh and contains 35-40% carbohydrates with reasonable levels of calcium and Vitamins A and C. It is also commonly used in desserts and baked goods.

Pests and Diseases:

These are generally not a problem, but can include scales and mealy bugs, rust, root rot and anthracnose.

Some people judge canistel to be too dry for their palate, but for the majority they are a top-tasting fruit, particularly when used as a flavour enhancer in prepared foods. Excellent drinks can be made by blending the fruits with milk plus a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla – a fruit eggnog.

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