Opinions differ regarding the value of the canistel. By some it is considered a delicious fruit; others find it too sweet and its musky flavor unpleasant. It is popular among residents of the Florida Keys and in Cuba. In the opinion of the author it is certainly not so good as the green sapote, the star-apple, or the abiu.
The tree, which reaches 15 to 25 feet in height, is commonly slender in habit, but sometimes broad and stiffly erect. It is of handsome appearance and for this reason is often planted in dooryards. The leaves are oblong-obovate to oblanceolate in outline, 4 to 8 inches long, glabrous, and bright green in color. The small flowers are produced upon the young wood in clusters of two to five. The fruit is round to ovoid in form, frequently pointed at the apex, orange-yellow and 2 to 4 inches long. The skin is membranous and the bright orange flesh soft and mealy in texture, resembling in appearance the yolk of a hard-boiled egg. The flavor is rich and so sweet as almost to be cloying, and is somewhat musky in character. The seeds, usually two or three in number (although the ovary is five-celled), are oval, about an inch long, hard, dark brown, and shining, except on the pale brown ventral surface.
So far as is known, the canistel is not cultivated commercially in any country, but it is grown as a garden tree in Cuba and southern Florida. The Cuban name canistel is presumably from the Maya kaniste; in Florida the names ti-es and egg-fruit are generally used. Botanically the species is often listed as Lucuma rivicola var. angustifolia, Miq.
The fruit, which in Florida matures from December to March, is eaten fresh. It is taken from the tree when mature and laid in the house to complete its ripening. Within three or four days it is soft and ready for eating.
The tree is fully as hardy as the sapodilla, and of similar cultural requirements. It grows in south Florida on the Keys and as far north as Palm Beach on the east coast and Punta Gorda on the west coast. P. W. Reasoner wrote in 1887: "Previous to the 'freeze' a specimen had been growing in Tampa for many years, which, after many discouragements by frost, finally produced fruit a few years ago." So far as known, the tree has never grown to fruiting size in California. In regard to soil it does not seem to be particular; it grows well on the heavy clay lands of Cuba and upon some of the poorest and most shallow soils of southern Florida. It shares with the sapodilla the ability to grow in apparently very unfavorable situations on the Florida Keys.
Propagation is usually by seed, but budding will doubtless prove successful. The husks should be removed from the seeds before they are planted. Though not a rapid grower, the tree comes into bearing when three to five years old.
While some trees produce fruit abundantly, others are poor bearers. As usual, there is much variation also in the size and quality of the fruits borne by different seedlings.