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.

Canistel (Egg Fruit) Farming in Kenya

The canistel tree grows up to 10 meters high and produces orange-yellow fruit, also called yellow sapote, up to 7 cm long, which are edible raw. The flesh is sweet, with a texture often compared to that of a hard-boiled egg yolk, hence its colloquial name “eggfruit”. The fruit may contain one to six large, brown seeds.

The ripe fruit can be made into jam, marmalade, pancakes, and flour1. The ripe flesh is blended with milk and other ingredients to make a shake, and pureed, it is sometimes added to custards or used in making ice cream. It is also used in a milkshake known as “eggfruit nog”.

Origin and History of Canistel (Egg Fruit)

The exact origin of Canistel is believed to be the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Over time, it has spread to other parts of Central America and beyond, including parts of the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and Africa. The fruit is particularly valued for its rich flavor, custard-like texture, and nutritional content.

Canistel gets its common name, “Egg Fruit,” from the texture of its flesh, which has been likened to the yolk of a hard-boiled egg. The fruit has a distinctive yellow or orange color when ripe and a sweet, aromatic flavor that varies in intensity depending on the cultivar.

The introduction of Canistel to other tropical regions outside its native habitat has allowed for its cultivation in diverse climates, where it has adapted well to suitable growing conditions. Its adaptability to tropical and subtropical climates makes it a potential for for cultivation in most parts of Kenya.

In regions where it has been successfully introduced, Canistel has become a valuable fruit not only for its taste but also for its nutritional benefits. Rich in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, the fruit contributes to a healthy diet and has the potential to be a valuable crop for local economies.

Canistel (Egg Fruit) Tree Characteristics

Canistel (Egg Fruit) Tree Characteristics
Canistel (Egg Fruit) Tree

The canistel is a monopodial tree that stands tall, between 8 and 30 m from the ground. The trunk is slender in physique with diameter up to 1 m, furrowed bark, and like any other member of Sapotaceae family, the trunk contains rubbery white latex. It has a spreading crown, with velvet brown young branches, alternate evergreen leaves, leaves are ranged from oblong lanceolate to obviate with blunt apex.

Flowers are bisexual, fragrant, solitary or in small clusters, 5to 6 lobed, cream colored, and with silky hairs.

Canistel (Egg Fruit) Fruit Characteristics

The fruit is variable in shape with uneven bulged, from round to egg shaped, nearly round, oval,

Canistel (Egg Fruit) Fruit Characteristics

ovoid or spindle shaped. Length varies from 7 to 12.5 cm, and width from 5 to 7.5 cm. Young fruit has green skin, leathery textured peel, and contains latex. The flesh of young fruit is hard to gummy with a bitter and sour taste.

Ripen or matured fruit has yellowish to yellow colored skin, soften texture peel, and the aril of matured fruit is soft with few fine fibers and creamy, with a sweet taste.

Freestone seeds range in size from 5 to 7.5 cm long. Fruit pulp thickness makes up 77.11% of total fruit weight.

Seeds and peel made approximately 16.5% and 6.39% of total fruit weight. It has the highest moisture recorded for seeds, containing 50.17% of moisture. Meanwhile pulp and peel composed 46.1% and 48.8% of moisture, respectively.

Adaptability to Kenyan Climate

Canistel, scientifically known as Pouteria campechiana, is well-suited to tropical and subtropical climates. Kenya’s diverse climate, characterized by different agro-ecological zones, provides suitable conditions for cultivating Canistel. The fruit thrives in warm temperatures with minimal exposure to frost. Regions with well-distributed rainfall and proper drainage are ideal for successful Canistel farming.

Ecological Requirements

Canistel, or Egg Fruit (Pouteria campechiana), has specific climatic requirements for successful cultivation. Understanding and providing the right conditions are crucial for the plant’s growth, flowering, and fruiting. Here are detailed climatic requirements for Canistel farming:

Temperature:

Canistel thrives in warm tropical and subtropical climates. It is sensitive to frost, and exposure to low temperatures can damage the plant. The ideal temperature range for Canistel cultivation is between 20 to 30 degrees Celsius (68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit). Extreme temperature fluctuations, especially sudden drops, should be avoided.

Rainfall:

Canistel requires well-distributed rainfall for optimal growth, but it can also tolerate short dry periods. Excessive rainfall or waterlogging should be avoided, as it can lead to root rot and other diseases. In regions with a distinct dry season, supplemental irrigation may be necessary, especially during flowering and fruiting stages.

Humidity:

Canistel prefers high humidity levels, which are typical in tropical climates. However, the plant can adapt to moderate humidity levels, provided other conditions are favorable.

Sunlight:

Canistel is a sun-loving plant and thrives in full sunlight. It should be planted in locations where it receives direct sunlight for a significant portion of the day. Adequate sunlight promotes vigorous growth and enhances fruit production.

Wind:

While Canistel can tolerate moderate winds, excessive wind can damage the delicate branches and leaves. Planting windbreaks or providing some form of protection during windy seasons is advisable.

Altitude:

Canistel is generally suited to low to mid-altitude regions, and it may not perform well at very high altitudes. Altitude preferences may vary slightly depending on the specific cultivar.

Soil:

Well-draining soils are essential for Canistel cultivation. The plant prefers sandy loam or loamy soils but can adapt to a range of soil types. Soil pH should be slightly acidic to neutral for optimal nutrient uptake.

Microclimate:

Canistel can benefit from the creation of a microclimate, especially in areas with less favorable conditions. This can be achieved through the use of mulch, windbreaks, or other methods to modify the immediate environment around the plants.

unripe Canistel (Egg Fruit) Farming

Here are some of the best-growing regions for Canistel in Kenya:

  1. Coastal Region:
    • The coastal areas of Kenya, including regions like Mombasa and Malindi, have warm tropical climates that are well-suited for Canistel cultivation.
    • The consistent temperatures and relatively high humidity in these areas create favorable conditions for the plant’s growth.
  2. Eastern Region:
    • Parts of the Eastern region, such as Kitui and Machakos, with their warm and semi-arid climates, can support Canistel cultivation.
    • Adequate irrigation may be necessary during dry periods to ensure optimal growth.
  3. Lower Rift Valley:
    • Areas in the lower Rift Valley, including places like Naivasha and Nakuru, with warm temperatures and suitable soil conditions, are conducive to Canistel farming.
    • The regions with well-distributed rainfall and proper drainage are particularly favorable.
  4. Southeastern Region:
    • Counties in the southeastern part of Kenya, such as Makueni and Kajiado, may offer suitable conditions for Canistel cultivation.
    • These areas typically experience warm temperatures and may require irrigation during dry spells.
  5. Western Region:
    • Some parts of the Western region, such as Kakamega and Bungoma, may support Canistel cultivation, given their tropical climates.
    • Well-draining soils and proper care for the plants are essential in these areas.
  6. Nyanza Region:
    • Certain areas in the Nyanza region, like Kisumu, with favorable temperatures, may be suitable for Canistel cultivation.
    • Adequate water management and soil preparation are important considerations.

It’s important to note that local variations in climate and soil conditions can impact the success of Canistel cultivation. Additionally, microclimates within specific regions may offer opportunities for farmers to experiment with Canistel farming.

Before starting a Canistel orchard, farmers should conduct thorough soil tests, assess water availability, and consider other factors such as altitude.

Propagation

Seeds

The canistel and its relatives have been propa­gated chiefly from seed. Seeds characteristically lose their viability rapidly and should not be stored for more than a few days. Fresh seeds should be cleaned and dried slightly in the shade and kept in slightly moistened perlite or moss at 15° C, if possible.

Some people scratch the seed coat with a file to facilitate the absorption of water, but under normal conditions this is not necessary if the seed is fresh. Seeds should be dis­ infected with a fungicide used for seed treatment. The medium for seed germination should be well drained but without a tendency to dry out, and it should be well aerated. The medium can contain peat moss, composted organic material, vermiculite or perlite, and crushed charcoal as well as sand and soil. The medium should be fumigated or sterilized by steam heat before seeds are sown.

Canistel Egg Fruit Seedlings At Farmers Trend Nursery 0790509684
Canistel Egg Fruit Seedlings At Farmers Trend Nursery 0790509684

The seeds are planted in flats in furrows or rows a few centimeters apart, depending on the species and the size of the seeds. Soil sufficient to cover them is added, and they are watered, preferably with unchlorinated water. Highly chlorinated water may reduce germination. The flats should be kept in partial shade and watered as needed to prevent drying out of the seeds.

Temperatures should be moderate (23°-26° C), and high humidity is initially desirable. Careful attention pays off in uniform germina­ tion and healthy seedlings. Germination begins about 2 weeks after sowing and continues up to 5 weeks. Young seedlings of all of these species are vigorous. Initial growth is related to the size of the seed. The large seeds of the canistel produce fast-growing seedlings. Germinating seedlings should be examined for fungus diseases.

When the seedlings are ready for transplant­ ing, which depends on size and crowding, they are carefully transferred to plastic bags or other containers of a sterile soil mix. Roots of the small seedlings should never be allowed to dry out. For field planting, bags or containers holding approximately 8 1 (2 gal) of soil are preferred, because they support plants large enough to do well without special care. It is difficult to transplant the canistel and its relatives when they are small and when the soil has been removed from the roots. Therefore, it is suggested that trees remain in their containers until the day of transferring to the field.

Planting

When feasible, the planting site should be level to gently sloped, or terraced, and free of large obstructions such as boulders and stumps. In permanent plantings of fruit trees, careful atten­tion should be given to good soil aeration and drainage.

Heavy clay soils subject to flooding during the rainy season should be avoided. Preferably, the soil should be light and deep, even low in natural fertility if it is well drained. A high water table is a disadvantage in orchards, even if high planting on beds is possible.

The soil should be cleared of trees and other vegetation before planting. In warm tropical areas, deep plowing and disking should be avoided, because such deep tillage exposes the organic matter to oxidation, with subsequent loss of nutrients.

Some removal of stones and roots and some leveling is necessary. Planting patterns should be rectangular or square. Triangular pat­ terns allow for more trees but complicate main­ tenance and irrigation.

On hillsides, contour planting or moderate terracing should be done if economical. Spacing depends on soil type. Trees in deep soils with a high percentage of organic matter need more space, because they grow taller under these conditions. The opposite is true in shallow, low-fertility soils.

Recommended spacing for the canistel (egg fruit) is 5 by 5 m to 7 by 7 m.

If irrigation is available, planting can be done at any time of the year; otherwise, it is better to wait until the start of the rainy season. Planting at this time insures sufficient soil moisture and the best conditions for growth.

The grower should have irrigation water at his disposal, be­ cause moderate dry spells occur even during the peak rainy season, damaging the young trees.

Transplanting should be done carefully to pro­ tect the young trees against root damage.

Prun­ing is unnecessary if the roots are undisturbed.

Holes for the trees can be dug by hand or by machine and should be much wider and some­ what deeper than the container, that’s around 2x2x2ft. At planting, it is advisable to use compost or a good grade of or­ganic, friable soil around the trees to insure the best root environment. Also, a handful of the 6-6-6 fertilizer mixture used for nursery plants (25 to 30 percent organic) should be mixed thoroughly with the soil at the bottom of the hole.

The most delicate part of transplanting is re­ moving the plastic bag or other container from the tree. During this operation it is easy to dis­ lodge the soil and to damage the roots. The plas­ tic bag should be cut near the base and the sides and carefully removed as the root ball is gently placed into the hole and the hole filled. Plastic bags disintegrate slowly in the soil and should not be left in the holes. The tree is placed in the hole so that when transplanting is complete, the root crown (or portion at ground level) remains at the same level as in the container. As the soil mixture is placed around the root ball, it should be tamped firmly to eliminate air pockets and then watered (10 to 20 L).

After the tree is set, the remaining soil is used to construct a water-retaining basin about 1 m in diameter and up to 10 cm in height. Again, 10 to 20 1 of water are applied. Irrigation water is sup­ plied once or twice a week, as needed. Trees should never be allowed to wilt. Drip (trickle) irrigation is particularly beneficial to start young trees.

Fertilization

Because the nutrient requirements of the can­ istel and its relatives are not well known, it is difficult to specify exact fertilizer needs. Further­ more, requirements vary according to soil type. Wherever these species are grown on a large scale, a soil specialist and a horticulturist should advise the grower. A soil test needs expert interpretation to be of value. Generally, a newly planted tree needs regular applications of a 6-6-6 or 8-8-8 fertilizer.

For the first year, about 50 g applied around the tree every 2 months will give good results under any soil condition. Amounts should be increased gradually, and the frequency of application should be decreased to every 3 to 4 months. After the fourth or fifth year, as the tree begins bearing abundant fruit, the need for phosphorus de­ creases, but the requirements for nitrogen and potassium remain the same. With volcanic soils that are high in natural potassium, only nitrogen should be applied, twice a year.

Regardless of the soil, nitrogen is eventually depleted in orchards, and a fertilizer will be needed to maintain an adequate level of this element in the soil.

Fertilizer should be applied during times of rapid vegetative growth and fruit development. A good time is just before or during the rainy season, or just before the annual flowering. When fertilizer is applied, irrigation is useful if soil moisture is not adequate.

Fertilizer should be spread uniformly around the tree. The mixture need not be incorporated into the soil if rainfall is expected or if sprinkler irrigation is available. Weeds should not be per­ mitted to grow freely under and around fruit trees. Mulching with partially decomposed foli­ age or soft plant material is the best way to suppress weed growth. If this is done, an ad­ ditional amount of nitrogen should be applied.

Harvesting and Seed Production

The care taken in the harvest can determine the success of the entire operation. Fruits should be handled gently from the moment they are picked to the time they reach the consumer. Trees have to be watched regularly, because fruits of the canistel and its relatives should be completely mature before they are picked. Each species has characteristic tactile and color clues for maturity, which must be learned by experience.

Fruits of the canistel do not all mature at the same time. They are yellow to orange even when immature, and thus only subtle color and skin- texture differences occur as they mature. Fruits have to be picked to ripen completely. As they soften, the skin texture changes from glossy to dull, and the color intensifies slightly.

Fruit should be harvested by hand. If a pole is used, an attachment, such as a cloth bag for catching the fruit, should be installed at one end. Great care must be taken with the picked fruit: it should not be stored in deep containers in which the bottom fruits will be crushed and bruised. Yields for the canistel and its relatives have not been recorded in detail. Some varieties are capable of producing abundantly, up to 500 fruits or more per tree, an amount considered high enough for normal commercial purposes. Fruits ripen from 3 to 12 days after harvest.

Ripening can be delayed by cool temperatures of 15° to 18° C. Lower temperatures will injure the fruit, and they will not ripen properly. The fruits are sorted, cleaned of latex, and carefully packed for shipment. When they reach the market, they should be allowed to ripen on ventilated shelves at room temperature.

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.

Where To Purchase Seedlings for Egg Fruit (Canistel) in Kenya

While Canistel, or Egg Fruit (Pouteria campechiana), presents a promising venture for farmers in Kenya, acquiring seedlings can be a rare and sought-after opportunity. However, enthusiasts and farmers interested in cultivating this unique fruit need not worry. Farmer’s Trend Nursery has taken a proactive step to make Canistel seedlings available to those eager to embark on this agricultural journey.

Availability 

Farmer’s Trend Nursery is now offering Canistel seedlings to interested farmers. The availability of Canistel seedlings at this nursery opens up new possibilities for those looking to diversify their crops and explore the potential of this rare and highly nutritious fruit.

Pricing and Contact Information:

Canistel enthusiasts can obtain these rare seedlings at Farmer’s Trend Nursery for a reasonable price of 3000 Kenyan Shillings. This investment can be the first step toward establishing a thriving Canistel orchard.

For inquiries and to secure your Canistel seedlings, interested individuals can reach out to Farmer’s Trend Nursery through the following contact numbers:

  • Phone: +254 790509684
  • Phone: +254 724559286

Don’t miss out on this exclusive opportunity to incorporate Canistel cultivation into your agricultural endeavors. Contact Farmer’s Trend Nursery today to inquire about availability, pricing, and how you can kickstart your Canistel farming venture in Kenya.

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