From the book
Fruits of Warm Climates
by Julia F. Morton
Harvesting and Yield
Both in tree and in fruit, the custard apple, Annona reticulata
L., is generally rated as the mediocre or "ugly duckling" species among
the prominent members of this genus. Its descriptive English name has
been widely misapplied to other species and to the hybrid ATEMOYA, and
it is sometimes erroneously termed "sugar apple", "sweetsop" and, by
Spanish-speaking people, "anon" or "rinon", in India, "ramphal", all
properly applied only to Annona
It has, itself, acquired relatively few appropriate regional names.
Most commonly employed as an alternate name in English-speaking areas
is bullock's-heart or bull's-heart; in French, coeur de boeuf;
Portuguese, coracao de boi; in Spanish, often merely
alluding to its form and external blush. The skin color is reflected in
the Bolivian name, chirimoya roia, the Salvadoran anona rosada, and the
Guatemalan anona roja or anona colorada. In the latter country it is
also known as anona de seso. Araticum ape or araticum do mato are
additional names in Brazil. Some people refer to it as Jamaica apple,
or as netted custard apple, which is translated as anona de redecilla
in Honduras and Nicaragua. Cachiman, cachiman coeur de boeuf and
corossol sauvage may be heard in the French-influenced West Indies.
the Netherlands Antilles it is kasjoema. This name and boeah nona are
used in Surinam. In Cuba, it is mamon or chirimoya. Some Central
Americans give it the name anona, or anonillo; Colombians, anon pelon.
To the Carib Indians the fruit was known as alacalyoua; to the Aztecs,
quaultzapotl, and to the Maya, tsulimay, tsulilpox, tsulipox, pox, oop,
or op. It is generally called in the Philippines sarikaya; in India
ramphal, nona or luvuni, in Malaya, nona kapri, or lonang; in Thailand,
noi nong"; in Cambodia, mo bat or mean bat; in Laos, khan tua lot; in
South Vietnam, binh bat; North Vietnam, qua na.
Fig. 23: Bahamian custard apples (Annona
reticulata) show typical variability in form and roughness
custard apple tree is not especially attractive. It is erect, with a
rounded or spreading crown and trunk 10 to 14 in (25-35 cm) thick.
Height ranges from 15 to 35 ft (4.5-10 m). The ill-smelling leaves are
deciduous, alternate, oblong or narrow-lanceolate, 4 to 8 in (10-20 cm)
long, 3/4 to 2 in (2 5 cm) wide, with conspicuous veins. Flowers, in
drooping clusters, are fragrant, slender, with 3 outer fleshy, narrow
petals 3/4 to 1 1/4 in (2 3 cm) long; light-green externally and
pale-yellow with a dark-red or purple spot on the inside at the base.
The flowers never fully open.
The compound fruit, 3 l/4 to 6 1/2
in (8-16 cm) in diameter, may be symmetrically heart-shaped, lopsided,
or irregular; or nearly round, or oblate, with a deep or shallow
depression at the base. The skin, thin but tough, may be yellow or
brownish when ripe, with a pink, reddish or brownish-red blush, and
faintly, moderately, or distinctly reticulated. There is a thick,
cream-white layer of custardlike, somewhat granular, flesh beneath the
skin surrounding the concolorous moderately juicy segments, in many of
which there is a single, hard, dark-brown or black, glossy seed,
oblong, smooth, less than 1/2 in (1.25 cm) long. Actual seed counts
have been 55, 60 and 76. A pointed, fibrous, central core, attached to
the thick stem, extends more than halfway through the fruit. The flavor
is sweet and agreeable though without the distinct character of the
cherimoya, sugar apple, or atemoya.
custard apple is believed to be a native of the West Indies but 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. It is commonly grown in the Bahamas and occasionally in Bermuda
and southern Florida.
Apparently it was introduced into tropical
Africa early in the 17th century and it is grown in South Africa as a
dooryard fruit tree. In India the tree is cultivated, especially around
Calcutta, and runs wild in many areas. It has become fairly common on
the east coast of Malaya, and more or less throughout southeast Asia
and the Philippines though nowhere particularly esteemed. Eighty years
ago it was reported as thoroughly naturalized in Guam. In Hawaii it is
not well known.
named cultivars are reported but there is considerable variation in the
quality of fruit from different trees. The yellow-skinned types seem
superior to the brownish, and, when well filled out, have thicker and
juicier flesh. Seeds of a purple-skinned, purple-fleshed form, from
Mexico, were planted in Florida and the tree has produced fruit of
custard apple tree needs a tropical climate but with cooler winters
than those of the west coast of Malaya. It flourishes in the coastal
lowlands of Ecuador; is rare above 5,000 ft (1,500 m). In Guatemala, it
is nearly always found below 4,000 ft (1,220 m). In India, it does well
from the plains up to an elevation of 4,000 ft (1,220 m); in Ceylon, it
cannot be grown above 3,000 ft (915 m). Around Luzon in the
Philippines, it is common below 2,600 ft (800 m). It is too tender for
California and trees introduced into Palestine succumbed to the cold.
In southem Florida the leaves are shed at the first onset of cold
weather and the tree is dormant all winter. Fully grown, it has
survived temperatures of 27º to 28ºF (-2.78º
2.22ºC) without serious harm. This species is less
drought-tolerant than the sugar apple and prefers a more humid
custard apple does best in low-lying, deep, rich soil with ample
moisture and good drainage. It grows to full size on oolitic limestone
in southern Florida and runs wild in light sand and various other types
of soil in the New and Old World tropics but is doubtless less
productive in the less desirable sites.
is the usual means of propagation. Nevertheless, the tree can be
multiplied by inarching, or by budding or grafting onto its own
seedlings or onto soursop, sugar apple or pond apple rootstocks.
Experiments in Mexico, utilizing cherimoya, llama, soursop, custard
sp. Af. lutescens
and Rollinia jimenezii
Schlecht. as rootstocks showed best results when custard apple scions
were side-grafted onto self-rootstock, soursop, or A. sp. Af. lutescens.
Custard apple seedlings are frequently used as rootstocks for the
soursop, sugar apple and atemoya.
tree is fast-growing and responds well to mulching, organic fertilizers
and to frequent irrigation if there is dry weather during the growing
period. The form of the tree may be improved by judicious pruning.
Harvesting and Yield
custard apple has the advantage of cropping in late winter and spring
when the preferred members of the genus are not in season. It is picked
when it has lost all green color and ripens without splitting so that
it is readily sold in local markets. If picked green, it will not color
well and will be of inferior quality. The tree is naturally a fairly
heavy bearer. With adequate care, a mature tree will produce 75 to 100
lbs (34-45 kg) of fruits per year. The short twigs are shed after they
have borne flowers and fruits.
Pests and Diseases
custard apple is heavily attacked by the chalcid fly. Many if not all
of the fruits on a tree may be mummified before maturity. In India, the
ripening fruits must be covered with bags or nets to avoid damage from
A dry charcoal rot was observed on the fruits in
Assam in 1947. In 1957 and 1958 it made its appearance at Saharanpur.
The causal fungus was identified as Diplodia annonae.
The infection begins at the stem end of the fruit and gradually spreads
until it covers the entire fruit.
India, the fruit is eaten only by the lower classes, out-of-hand. 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. I have made a delicious sauce for cake and
puddings by blending the seeded flesh with mashed banana and a little
Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion*
*Minimum and maximum levels of constituents from analyses made in
Central America, Philippines and elsewhere.
seeds are so hard that they may be swallowed whole with no ill effects
but the kernels are very toxic. The seeds, leaves and young fruits are
insecticidal. The leaf juice kills lice. The bark contains 0.12%
anonaine. Injection of an extract from the bark caused paralysis in a
rear limb of an experimental toad. Sap from cut branches is acrid and
irritant and can severely injure the eyes. The root bark has yielded 3
alkaloids: anonaine, liriodenine and reticuline (muricinine).
leaves have been employed in tanning and they yield a blue or black
dye. A fiber derived from the young twigs is superior to the bark fiber
from Annona squamosa. Custard apple wood is yellow, rather soft,
fibrous but durable, moderately close-grained, with a specific gravity
of 0.650. It has been used to make yokes for oxen.
Uses: The leaf decoction is given as a vermifuge. Crushed leaves or a
paste of the flesh may be poulticed on boils, abscesses and ulcers. The
unripe fruit is rich in tannin; is dried, pulverized and employed
against diarrhea and dysentery.
The bark is very astringent
and the decoction is taken as a tonic and also as a remedy for diarrhea
and dysentery. In severe cases, the leaves, bark and green fruits are
all boiled together for 5 minutes in a liter of water to make an
exceedingly potent decoction. Fragments of the root bark are packed
around the gums to relieve toothache. The root decoction is taken as a
Last updated: 12/29/114 by ch