Real Food Encyclopedia | Canistel
The canistel (Pouteria campechiana) is sometimes called eggfruit, but that name says more about its texture and color than its flavor. The deep yellow flesh is dense, smooth, and slightly dry, similar to a cooked egg yolk. Like its cousins the mamey sapote and the sapodilla, the canistel has a flavor that’s often compared to pumpkin pie or roasted sweet potato. The large yellow fruits are a staple in Central America and the Caribbean, and can also be grown in tropical areas of the U.S. like Florida and Hawai’i.
Fun facts about canistel:
- Latex, used for making natural rubber, can be extracted from the canistel tree’s bark.
- While the seeds aren’t eaten, they can be processed and used as a traditional treatment for stomach ulcers.
What to look for when buying canistel
Canistel is uncommon in grocery stores outside of areas where it is grown because ripe fruits are very delicate. You’ll have your best luck finding canistel at fruit stands and farmers’ markets. Different varieties of the fruit have many shapes: some are short and spherical, while others are long and thin. Ripe fruits will be evenly soft to the touch and have deep yellow-colored skin. Avoid fruits that have lots of bruises and breaks in the skin. Unripe fruits are sometimes sold because they are more durable, and these will ripen perfectly well at room temperature, a process that can take anywhere from three to 10 days.
Sustainability of canistel
Few pests and diseases attack canistel, so pesticides are not a concern. Many growers do use synthetic fertilizers on their trees for better growth and more fruit, though this isn’t always the case as many fruits are grown informally as secondary crops on farms. If you have concerns about chemical usage, talk to the vendor when you buy the fruit.
Canistels are generally in season from the fall through the spring, though they are sometimes available in the summer months.
Canistel originated in Central America, and spread widely throughout South American and the Caribbean before the arrival of Spanish colonists. Spanish colonists were responsible for spreading the fruit to the Philippines, where it has remained popular. It is also grown on a limited scale in Australia.
Because it needs a truly tropical climate to thrive, canistel is only grown in a few areas of the U.S. like Florida and Hawai’i. In these areas, it is relatively common at fruit stands and farmers’ markets during the winter and spring.
Canistel is delicious eaten fresh when it is very ripe. First, slice the fruit in half along the seeds like an avocado — many fruits will have a single seed, but some contain more. After scooping out the seeds, the soft flesh can be scooped out of the skin in chunks with a spoon.
If purchased when still slightly firm, canistels will need to be ripened at room temperature before you eat or store them. Ripe fruit can be stored in the refrigerator for several days.
Because of its soft texture and mellow flavor, canistel goes well in baked goods like quick breads. Because of its similarity to cooked pumpkin, it can also be cooked into custards and pie. The soft ripe fruit is also frequently added to batidos, or milkshakes, across Latin America, and can be made into a very smooth-textured ice cream.
Chunks of ripe fresh canistel can be frozen for several months.
Canistel is a good source of Vitamin A and niacin, which are essential nutrients. It is also a source of calcium and Vitamin C.
Top photo by suchalinee/Adobe Stock.