Santol (Sandoricum koetjape Merr.) are an edible tropical fruit from the family Meliaceae. Not a common fruit in Australia, the santol is a native to former Indochina and Malaysia. Santol also goes by the name cotton fruit due to the texture of the fruit and is known for its rich, sweet, tart, and creamy taste. Santol is commonly found and consumed in the Philippines and Thailand. Santol is mostly eaten fresh – in a similar fashion to a loquat or a lychee where you suck on the thick flesh covering the seed to get the flavour. Santol grows well in the northern parts of Western Australia and Northern Territory.
The leaves of santol change to either red or yellow as it gets old, which determines plant variety. Most selections have come from plants with yellow senescent leaves as these are usually sweet, whereas the red type produces more sour fruit.
If you manage to source one of these it will probably be a seedling, so try to ensure it’s one from the yellow senescent leaf form to increase the chances of it being sweet.
If you have ever wondered how to grow santol trees in Australia then look no further. Santol trees are a simple fruit tree to grow, but there are still a few tricks to successfully growing cotton fruit in Western Australia. Get these right and you will be laughing.
When to plant a santol tree:
The best time to plant lime trees is in spring. Although in Perth you can plant most of the year in spring, summer and autumn. You just want to avoid the chance of frost in winter.
How to prune a santol tree in Australia:
Pruning a santol tree has many benefits, such as improving air flow, strengthening limbs, and reducing risk of disease. During the first 2-3 years, plants should be pruned to form a well-spaced scaffold of 3-4 main branches with the goal of producing a low and spreading canopy. When your santol tree is mature the point of the pruning is more about size containment and removal of dead, diseased or crossing branches.
How often to water santol trees:
Adequate water is essential when plants are young and during flowering and fruit development.
When watering Santol trees make sure to lightly soak the soil and then do not water again until the top 2 inches are dry. Depending on light conditions, location and foliage watering weekly is usually enough with the exception of the hottest parts of summer. Be sure to not over water.
How big does a santol tree grow:
With the right growing conditions a santol tree can grow over 30 m high so it is important to have plenty of space when planting santol. In a cultivated setting will typically grow between 10-15 m.
How to grow a santol tree in the backyard:
If you haven’t been able to find a santol seedling but have been able to find the fruit locally. Growing a santol tree from seed in the backyard is really quiet simple. Santol are a fast growing tree in general. One method is to grow them from seeds.
- If you have an over-ripe fruit remove the seeds and clear away the fleshy outer coating of the seeds.
- By putting your seeds in a glass of water seeds should stay on the bottom. Seeds floating in it means you will have a low germination rate.
- Using some seed raising mix in a pot (you only need around 5-10 cm of soil to sprout your seedlings) – push your seeds into the mix width side into the soil.
- Cover the top of the seeds with 1 cm of soil and firm down before watering in well before placing in a sunny location.
- Seeds should start to sprout in approximately 14 days.
- From here you can re-pot the seedlings into individual pots.
When to fertilise santol tree:
I recommend using a complete fertiliser with trace elements should be applied twice annually, commensurate with tree size.
When to harvest santol fruit:
Santol trees bear fruit within 5-7 years if sexually propagated and in a much shorter time if asexually propagated. They flower between February to March and the fruits can typically be harvested by June to October. Fully ripe fruits are yellow to golden brown. They should be allowed to fully ripen on the tree.
How to eat santol fruit:
It’s important not to eat the actual seed of the santol fruit. You simply suck the outer flesh of the fruit like you would a lychee fruit or loquat fruit. Typically Santol are eaten fresh although it is also common for them to be used in jams and chutneys.
Santol fruit benefits:
Santol fruits are a great source of iron, which is a mineral that can help move oxygen in the blood and fibre, which can help regulate digestion. The fruits also contain calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin C.
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