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SuperFruit Alert: What is Canistel?

SuperFruit Alert: What is Canistel?

One of the best parts of South Florida living is access to exotic fruits from lychee to atemoya to sapote to rambutan. Given its tropical climate, South Florida, and in particular the agriculturally rich region of Homestead is home to some of the largest growers and exporters of exotic and tropical fruits in the entire United States.

My favorite fruit discovery since living in Miami has been the canistel. The first time I tried canistel was at the Hippocrates Wellness Center in West Palm Beach. The exotic fruit was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise strict raw vegan diet that was the core of their 3 week wellness program. After that first bite which delighted my senses, I've never looked back. 

Canistel (scientific name: pouteria campechiana), colloquially named eggfruit or cupcake fruit, is native to Central America and Northern South America. 

Similar to mango, canistel grows on trees and is light green when young, turning a warm yellow / orange color when ripe. When it gives easily to finger pressure, it's ready to be consumed. When ready to eat, its skin peels easily to reveal a texture and flavor that is a combination of hard-boiled egg yolk, egg custard, baked sweet potato, and ripe persimmon. It is mostly dry and creamy and will not drip sticky saccharine liquid like a ripe mango or pineapple. 

My favorite way to consume it is as follows:

1) Put it in the refrigerator when ripe

2) When it's nice and cool, take it out of the refrigerator and cut it in half lengthwise with the skin intact, avoiding the few large stoney seeds in the middle

3) Scrape the meat with a spoon, letting it melt in my mouth like a sweet yolky custard.

One eggfruit could easily last me a couple of days given how dense it is, and it can easily fill me up for breakfast. It lends perfectly to protein shakes, milkshakes, or is delicious frozen or added to ice cream. 

 

Nutrition

100g of Canistel flesh contains just ~140 calories, 1.7g protein, 0.1g of fat, 37g carbohydrates, 37mg phosphorus, 58mg Vitamin C. Canistel is high in carotene, niacin, iron, calcium, potassium.

 

Health Benefits

While no studies have directly been performed on the health benefits of Canistel, we can surmise that its nutrient content makes it not only tasty but also a superfruit that can provide many health benefits when consumed in moderation.

Potassium is great for heart health, helping to regulate blood pressure and offset the effects of otherwise high sodium diets. Niacin has been suggested to lower the risk of diabetes, and iron can lower risk of anemia. Vitamin C is a great immunity booster, and Canistel can be a good source of dietary fiber which aids digestion. 

While some have gone as far as to tout anti-cancer benefits, these claims are unproven. Canistel is a good source of antioxidants, Vitamins A, B, C, and carotene, which some studies to have shown to have cancer-fighting abilities. 

 

Growing Canistel

Canistel grows on trees and in Florida can grow to 20-25 ft tall. It is capable of growing past 50 ft tall in perfect conditions. If you're interested in growing Canistel in your backyard Florida garden, IFAS at the University of Florida is a great resource. 

 

Where To Find Canistel

If you live in South Florida, your best bet on finding canistel are the Fruit & Spice markets in Homestead, or even Fruit & Spice Park itself. When in season around April or May, they are quite abundant. I have sadly never seen them at city markets like Trader Joe's or Whole Foods however, unlike other more popular tropicals like rambutan or mango or gooseberries. On occasion, I have ordered a box from the good folks at Miami Fruit who ship around the country. 

 

The next time you visit South Florida, I hope you'll explore your fruit palette and try exotic nutrient-dense fruits like canistel! 

 (Image courtesy of: Globo Rural)

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