If you’re lucky enough to have a chikoo/sapota tree in your garden, the witching hour is at hand!
I see chikoos in the market almost all the year round, and wonder how they do it. Our trees stick to a strict schedule – they flower just before the rains, fruit shortly thereafter, and take several months to mature. January is the earliest we can expect to eat any. But they’re sweeter than any I’ve ever bought, and well worth the wait!
Here I share a tip that I learnt from Rajendra and Raju on how to pick chikoos at exactly the right time. Pick them too soon and they won’t ripen. Or if they do, they won’t be very sweet. Leave them too long, and the parakeets (or monkeys, or whoever claims them in your neck of the woods) will get them.
So, what you do is to very lightly scratch the skin with your fingernail. If you see a green streak underneath, leave it for another week or more. If it shows yellow, it’s ready to pick. Put them in a bag in a warm place and in a week or ten days, you’ll have the most delectable, juicy chikoos!
Of course you can’t do this if you have a large orchard. Or if your trees are huge. We only have about ten trees, of which about four are beginning to get a bit beyond my reach. Right now, I check each one before picking – 70 last month, 150 yesterday! I suppose in a few years we’ll have to do a test sample of the lower ones and use a fruit plucking net to harvest the rest. Good thing chikoos are slow growing, there are advantages to small trees.
Our mango trees are now towering over us. And, by the way, are just beginning to flower – rather late this year.
We have hopes that one litchi tree, an avocado, a phalsa and a cacao will start fruiting this year – not to pressurise them with high expectations or anything. But watch this space!
Fun fact: The chikoo tree, Manilkara zapota, exudes a white sap called chicle, which is used to make chewing gum. Remember Chiclets? That’s them!