Custard Apple

Custard Apple

(Annona reticulata) Under the common name of custard apple are numerous members of the Annona family. Another widely used name for A.reticulata is bullock's heart. The Annona tribe were originally from South America but they are now grown in places as diverse as South East Asia, Spain, Israel, Australia and New Zealand, and islands of the Pacific.

They're all rather similar under the skin, sweet and delicious when ripe, but in some the pulp is softer and smoother while in others it is slightly granular. All feature creamy-white pulp in neat segments, some of which enclose hard, shiny black or brown seeds. Segments radiate from the central core which is attached to the stem.

Some varieties have more seeds than others, and some have pronounced segmented skin while in others the markings are joined scales rather than segments. The color of the skin ranges from green to yellowy-green to bronze. Which is which? Not even the experts agree about their characteristics and common names, but at least we can track them down through their botanical names.

Cherimoya (A.cherimola) is smoother though the scales are still clearly marked.

Sweetsop (A.squamosa) is also known as sugar apple, scaly custard apple, custard apple of India or sharifa. Characterized by more pronounced segments which give it a lumpy, bumpy, green to light green skin.

Atemoya is a cross between A.squamosa and A.cherimola.

Purchasing and storing : Buy firm but not rock-hard fruit, and avoid those which show signs of turning black. Wrap and store at room temperature until they yield to gentle pressure. Until the fruit is soft and ripe, the flavor is unremarkable, but once ripe they are very sweet, with an elusive, subtly tropical flavor. Eat at room temperature or chilled, spooning segments from the shell. The seeds are large and smooth enough to allow separating them from the pulp within the mouth.

The sweet flesh may also be made into sherbets or ice creams, first scooping it from the shell and removing the seeds. Accentuate with a squeeze of lime or lemon juice, add sugar to taste, but do not drown the delicate flavor in cream. Makes a delicious drink, pureed in a blender with ice and milk.

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