Caimito is not only a delicious fruit to eat; it also contains abundant health benefits and medicinal value. The ripe fruit is usually eaten raw, as smoothie or even a milkshake. We had a Star apple tree in our front yard when I was a kid and it was the target of the other kids in the neighborhood during summer. We are always thought to eat in moderation as it can make you constipated. Years ago, I tried growing a tree here but didn’t have much luck. It’s not that easy to find these kinds of fruits in mainstream farmer’s market here. I love sweet purple Caimitos! Even though, I haven’t eaten it for years I still get the craving.
The Chrysophyllum tree, is native of the Pacific side of Guatemala, and the West Indies. It’s more or less naturalized at low and medium altitudes from southern Mexico to Panama and frequently cultivated as far south as northern Argentina and Peru. It was recorded by Ciezo de Leon as growing in Peru during his travels between 1532 and 1550. Caimito is an evergreen tree that reaches a height of 50 feet or more. The oblong-lanceolate leaves are 2 inches wide and up to 7 inches in length, dark green and smooth on the upper surface and silky golden brown on the under surface. This color combination makes the tree an unusually striking ornamental plant. The flowers are purplish-white, small and clustered in the axils of leaves. The fruit is large and rounded, 6 to 10 cm in diameter, shiny and smooth, purplish or light-green skinned, with a translucent whitish or purplish pulp surrounding flattered seeds about 1 to 1.5 cm long.
There are two species of Chrysophyllum cainito, one producing a fruit with a deep purple skin, the other a fruit with a light green skin. A single tree can produce hundreds of fruits. Star Apple gets its name from the star pattern that can be seen by slicing through the fruit horizontally. While the skin is not edible, the fruit and seeds are both edible. The fruit tastes very much like a cross between custard and an apple and can be used anywhere you would use other fruit, or enjoyed raw, fresh from the tree. Star apples must not be bitten into. The skin and rind are inedible. When opening a Star apple, one should not allow any of the bitter latex of the skin to contact the edible flesh. Caimito’s are nutritious, containing moderate amounts of calcium, phosphorus, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and are a good source of anti-oxidants. Bolivians parboil the edible portion, and also prepare it as a decoction. An emulsion of the slightly bitter seed kernels is used to make imitation milk-of almonds, also nougats and other confections.