named for the
texture of its flesh
Annona reticulata is a
sub-tropical deciduous tree belonging to the Annonaceae
family. Believed to be a native of the West
Indies, it was carried in early times through
Central America to southern Mexico. It has long
been cultivated and naturalized as far south as
Peru and Brazil, and is commonly grown in the
Bahamas and occasionally in Bermuda and southern
Florida. Introduced into tropical Africa in the
early 17th century, the custard apple is now
grown in South Africa as a dooryard fruit tree.
The tree has also become fairly common on the
east coast of Malaya, and more or less throughout
southeast Asia and the Philippines.
The custard apple tree is erect,
with a rounded or spreading crown and trunk 10 to
14 inches thick. Height ranges from 15 to 35
feet. The ill-smelling leaves are deciduous,
alternate, oblong or narrow-lanceolate, 4 to 8
inches long, 3/4 to 2 inches wide, with
conspicuous veins. The flowers, which grow in
drooping clusters, are fragrant, slender, with 3
outer fleshy, narrow petals 3/4 to 1-1/4 inches
long. The flowers never fully open.
takes 20 to 25 weeks for the fruit to mature. The
compound fruit of the custard apple is 3-1/4 to 6-1/2 inches in diameter. The
thin, tough skin is yellow or brownish when ripe.
The sweet white flesh has a creamy texture
similar to that of custard, hence its name. The
black 1/2-inch-long seeds are slightly poisonous.
The tree is naturally a fairly heavy
bearer. With adequate care, a mature tree will
produce 75 to 100 pounds of fruits per year.
Custard apple has the advantage of cropping in
late winter and spring when other members of the
genus are not in season. In Central America,
Mexico and the West Indies, the fruit is
appreciated by all. When fully ripe it is soft to
the touch and the stem and attached core can be
easily pulled out. The flesh may be scooped from
the skin and eaten as is or served with light
cream and a sprinkling of sugar. Often it is
pressed through a sieve and added to milk shakes,
custards or ice cream.
Custard apple is high in calorie content (100
calories per 3.5-ounce serving) but also very
nutritious, providing significant amounts of
vitamins C, A and B6, copper, potassium, calcium,
and dietary fiber.
Custard apple is said to have many medicinal
benefits. Ripe fruit promotes digestion and is
used as a cure for vomiting, diarrhea, dysentery
and vertigo. The unripe fruit is dried and
powdered and is used as a cure for treating lice.
The leaves of the tree are supposed to be good
for treating cancer and tumors, while the bark
can relieve toothaches and gum pain.
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