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Egg fruit or canisetel is a lesser-known fruit of the American Tropics. In India, it is only known and eaten in a few localities and is seldom utilized commercially. It is an evergreen, small-sized tree of the family under which sapota is classified. The fruits, which are about the size of an apple, are yellowish to orange in colour with somewhat mealy pulp similar in appearance and texture to a cooked egg yolk enclosing often a single large seed. At maturity, the strong odour of the pulp is described as musky and is not agreeable to many people. The taste is unique, rich sweet and contains about 2,000 iu/100g carotene, a precursor of vitamin A. It is also a good source of proteins (2.5%) and or vitamin C (43 mg/100g).
   
Climate and soil  
The egg fruit comes up well in tropical and subtropical climates. Moderate rainfall, frost-free and dry climate is ideal for its cultivation. It has a wide adaptability for soil, ranging from loose sandy to heavy clays, but loams with good drainage and high organic-matter content stimulate better plant growth and yield. The trees of egg fruit sometimes grow even on shallow calcareous soils with minor nutrient deficiencies that are a problem for other fruit trees. Plants can also tolerate to some extent salinity and iron deficiency.
 
Varieties

Standard varieties are lacking in egg fruit. Trees producing ovoid, spherical and elongated fruits have been recognized. Seedling trees vary considerably in plant habit, size, shape and number of seeds and overall quality. However, in Florida and other places, a few clones worth propagating are known.

   
Propagation

The common practice is to multiply egg fruit from seeds, although the recommendation is to use either grafts or buddlings. Seeds lose viability rapidly and hence after extraction they should be cleaned, dried slightly in the shade and sown in well-drained medium comprising top soil and organic material in a 3:1 ratio. Seeds sprout in about 2 weeks and the seedlings should be transplanted to pots or polybags when they have 45 leaves. Field planting should be done after 68 months.

The most successful grafting techniques are the side-veener graft and chip or patch budding, which are practised on vigorous seedlings when the stem diameter is about 1cm. The scion should come from relatively young wood but should not be too succulent. When the graft is well-established with adequate (about 50cm) new growth, transplantation to the permanent site can be taken up.

   
Cultivation  

Planting

Egg fruit can be planted in square or rectangular pattern, the recommended spacing being 6m × 6m to 8m × 8m. 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. Other practices as detailed under avocado should be adopted.

Pruning

In the early stages of plant growth, mild pruning is necessary to provide the tree a good and strong framework, with several well-spaced branches. Ultimately, such pruning produces a well-balanced, symmetrical tree with an open canopy. Pruning in subsequent years should be limited to eliminate the malformed, dead or diseased branches.

Manuring

Exact nutrient requirements of egg fruit are not studied. However, the doses recommended for avocado can be adopted.

Aftercare

After planting, young trees must be watered and supported by stakes. To protect trees from sunburn, they should be provided with shade. Sometimes, the trunks of the young trees are whitewashed. To start with 60cm 2 basin around the plant is adequate, however, once in a while, size of the basin should be expanded with increase in the canopy size. Other aftercare operations involve regular watering during dry periods, occasional weeding, shallow digging of the basin so as not to injure the surface roots, removing of sprouts on the rootstocks (in case of grafted plants), attending to plant-protection measures and manuring.

Intercropping in young orchards can be taken up by selecting a suitable vegetable crop as it gives additional income to the growers. Moreover, an intercropping system keeps the soil cool, adds organic matter, suppresses weeds, improves soil structure and may fix nitrogen. But these crops should not be raised very close to the avocado trees lest they compete with them for nutrients.

Irrigation

Areas with plenty of well-distributed rainfall do not require irrigation. In other places, ring system of irrigation may be resorted to as it economises on water requirement and the frequency of irrigation may be scheduled depending on soil type and rainfall.

   
Harvesting & Postharvest management

To bear fruits, young seedlings may take 34 years. Egg fruits neither mature at the same time nor give good maturity. The fruits are yellow to orange even when immature but as they mature the skin texture turns from glossy to dull. They have to be harvested to ripen completely as the fruits seldom soften on the tree. Fruits should be picked either by hand or by using a pole fitted with a cloth bag for catching the fruits. The epidermis of the fruits is delicate and gets easily ruptured and hence they should be handled gently from the moment they are harvested to the time they reach the consumer. A well-maintained grown-up tree can yield 300400 fruits.

Fruits ripen in a week's time after harvesting, but ripening is delayed at lower temperatures. Ethylene application induces quick and uniform ripening. Fruits can be eaten fresh either without removing the skin or after peeling and slicing. The pulp when used in the preparation of milk shake imparts attractive colour and delicious flavour. Once ripened, egg fruits do not store well. But they can be refrigerated for a few days without affecting their quality

 
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Egg fruit
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