Article from the Tropical Fruit News magazine of the Miami Rare Fruit Council International
by Gene Joyner

The Custard Apple

The Custard apple, Annona reticulata, is found throughout Central America and is a well appreciated medium-sized tree to about 25 feet. The leaves are 8 inches or more in length, alternate. During the winter months the tree will lose most of its foliage. The Custard apple is not considered by many people to be a fine a quality as its relatives the sugar apple, atemoya or cherimoya, but it certainly has its place in a fruit collection. This is one of the few spring ripening annonas, and the large heart shaped fruits can be 3-5 inches in diameter and weigh up to 2 pounds or more. The skin color can range from yellow to red and even purple when mature. Inside the flesh is very soft and custard-like in consistency and is generally eaten fresh or used for milk shakes or ice cream.
The heaviest fruit season in Florida is April through June, and the tree grows well over a wide variety of soils. Trees should be planted in areas that are protected from cold through, since mature trees can be injured severely below 28° F and young trees will be injured below 32° F. Trees are not highly salt-tolerant and should be protected from strong salt wind, but do well close to the ocean if they are on the lee side of a building. Custard apple trees do not like poorly drained soils and should be in moist but well- drained locations. Fertilize custard apples about 3 to 4 times a year for optimum fruiting. During the dry season, young trees should be irrigated about once a week, and all trees, regardless of size, benefit from being mulched.

Most trees are started from seed and seedlings will fruit in 2-3 years. There are named varieties of custard apple available that are propagated by grafting, and many people prefer these over seedlings.
One of the major problems with custard apple has to do with the season when it matures; there are not many other annona fruit and the annona seed borer over-winters in the custard apple. Due to this, some people have eliminated this tree from their collections so they do not help the spread of this serious annona insect pest.    

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Joyner, Gene. "The Custard Apple." Miami Rare Fruit Council International – RFCI, Tropical Fruit News, May 1994, p. 11.

Published 10 Feb. 2016 LR
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