Roving reporter Nicola interviewed Laid-back Sapodilla Tree from its fertile garden in Couva on the island of Trinidad & Tobago.

Although I’m also known as Chico, Chikoo, or Chicle, I like to be called Sapodilla.  

When you meet me you quickly realize that I'm a pretty laid back Caribbean tree. Living in the sun, chillin’ with the breeze. Hangin’ out in the company of what’s around me.

Growing brick by brick

I was a little baby twenty years ago when a family came here and started to care for me. Since then I’ve grown tall and wide thanks to the father of the house.

Instead of trimming me, what he likes to do is tie these bricks onto my branches. They help me to grow outwards, bigger and better, wider and more distinctive every day. Ensuring I don’t grow too tall and hit any power lines.

People laugh when they see me ‘cause it looks like I’m growing bricks. But I feel I’m the coolest tree in the garden. Besides, I don't want to be trimmed or cut down. I’d rather be decorated with the bricks than going through the pain of being hacked apart. Because I love the way I look. I have wonderfully dark green luscious leaves that can fit in the palm of your hand. And although my branches are growing out all over the place, I’m stronger than you think. I can bear a multitude of fruits at the same time. It’s my favorite thing to do.

Nature’s candy

If you look closely across my whole body, you’ll see little brown baby chikoo fruits just hangin’ for the pickin’. What can I say? Gotta lot of love. So I give fruit all year round.

But don’t be deceived when you cut open my fruit by how it looks.  At first glance it might seem that appealing.  On the outside, a dusty brown coating. Inside, the flesh is a tan or dark beige with black seeds in the centre. But wait till you taste it. My fruit is the closest thing to candy. It's one of the sweetest natural sugars you’ll ever taste. And packed with vitamins as well. Just add a couple pieces of my chikoo to your dessert. They’ll blow your mind.

Laid-back Sapodilla Tree speaks


Buddy, bats and the birds

Right now the yellow-breasted Kiskadees are chilling out between my leaves and in the trees around me, partaking of whatever fruits that they can find. They're building their nests, you know. Dancing, playing around.

I've got this new buddy who’s hangin’ out with me these days. A passion fruit tree. We get along. Lately, it decided to grow all over me. Literally up my trunk, into my branches, all over the top of my canopy. I get the impression we’re gonna be buddies for life.

When the passion fruit tree was young its fruits started out green, different from the purple passion fruits you might be used to, and are now slowly turning yellow. Little by little they start shrivelling up. Eventually, when the fruits are ready, my buddy drops them down to the ground. So many bats and birds are busy eating our food. They sense when the fruit is ripe and ready to drop.

Sometimes in the middle of the night when the bats are flying around, they drop some fruit by mistake. So when the birds show up in the morning, there’s a spread waiting for them. A few weeks ago, a group of baby Kiskadee siblings were fighting over one of my fallen fruits. Such a big fight over just such a little fruit.  

Laid-back Sapodilla Tree was Interpreted by

Sanjith Chandran, mechatronics engineer, who survived the scarcity of lockdown at home alone in Couva by growing his own vegetables and harvesting fruits from the trees. He says, “Every day I would wake up and the first thing I’d do is go out in the garden with my coffee and inspect the Sapodilla tree. I’d converse with it, hug it, and check that the fruit was growing ok. If I found any fruits scattered on the floor, I’d gather them up and put them on a plate for the birds to enjoy together. And if the fruits were big enough, I’d pick some and distribute them to the neighbours in our village.”

Sanjith speaks to Sapodilla Tree

Thank you for being part of our family. Life is that simple.

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Sanjith Chandran was invited by Nicola Gale after they met in Ontario when Sanjith was doing a start-up pitch for his engineering invention. A wheelchair that could turn into a bed.

Cover photo edited. Original by Sanjith Chandran.