Santol, cotton fruit tree (Sandoricum koetjape)

Sandoricum koetjape (santol or cottonfruit) is a tropical fruit that originated in Southeast Asia (the former Indochina). It is sometimes called wild mangosteen. Santol grows wild in the tropical regions of India.

Santol is fast-growing tree that may reach 150 feet in height in its original habitat. It makes a good shade tree. The santol is a very productive tree.

Red and yellow santol

There are two varieties of santol fruit, previously considered two different species, the yellow variety (sweet) and the red (sour). The difference is in the color that the older leaves turn before falling. The red appears to be more common and the reddish leaves mixed with the green ones add to the distinction and attractiveness of the tree.

The leaves of the yellow variety turn yellow when old and the fruits are often sweet. In the red variety, the underside of the leaves turn red when old, the fruit has a thicker rind, less pulp, and is often sour.

Fruit looks like a peach

The fruits are often the size, shape and slightly fuzzy texture of peaches, with a reddish tinge. Both types have a skin that may be a thin peel to a thicker rind, according to the variety. It is often edible and in some cultivars may contain a milky juice.

How to eat the fruit?

The fruit is usually consumed raw without peeling. It is the size of an apple/peach.

Inside the santol fruit there is a white juicy tissue approximately 3 to 5 brown seeds. You have to discard the seeds (spit out or other method). Swallowing the seeds has been implicated in cases of intestinal obstruction.

The central pulp near the seeds may be sweet or sour and contains inedible brown seeds.

Santol’s other name - cotton fruit — comes from its fluffy white edible portion surrounding the seed. Its texture is spongy and, like a mangosteen.

The outer flesh is unexpectedly savory, earthy and astringent with some likening the flavor to basil or oregano. Few deny that the outer, grassy tasting flesh is not nearly as succulent as the cottony portion of a santol. The rind is quite sour, compelling some to dry it, grind, or pickle it for use as a souring agent.

In some varieties the outer rind is thicker and is the main edible portion, with a mild peachy taste combined with some taste and the pulpy texture of apples. In others the outer rind is thinner and harder and the inner whitish pulp around the seeds is eaten. This may be rather sour in many cultivars, which has reduced the general acceptance of the tree. Most improved varieties have increased thickness of the edible outer rind, which can be eaten with a spoon leaving just the outer skin, and should increase the acceptance of the santol worldwide.


The fruit ripens in Florida in August and September. The Caribbean fruit fly (Anastrepha suspensa) causes freckle-like blemishes on the surface of the fruit but cannot penetrate the rind.

Where to buy the tree?

The fruit tree is available in 3-gallon sizes at Pine Island Nursery, south of Miami:


Sandoricum koetjape - Wikipedia
Santol. Morton, J. 1987. Santol. p. 199–201. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL.
All About Santol - The Earth of India

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