If you are looking for the North American “Custard Apple”, see “Pawpaw.”
The tree tolerates a bit of frost, but not much. Young trees die at 29 F (-2 C), mature trees at 25 F (-4 C.) They do need, though, some coolish temperatures in order to fruit well. The tree won’t grow well in container gardening.
The Custard Apple is oval-shaped, almost a bit heart-shaped. It will be up to 4 inches (10 cm) wide, and 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm) long. It can weigh anywhere from 5 to 18 oz (140 to 510 g.) Occasionally, some Custard Apples have weighed in at 5 pounds (2 1/4 kg.)
The Custard Apple hasa rough, leathery skin, which overlaps on itself in scales and ripens to a pale green or creamy yellow. Choose ones that have grooves that are a light pink shade.
The flesh inside is segmented, and in each segment there is a single, large, hard shiny black seed about the size of a bean. Discard the seeds when eating. The pulp in the segments can be creamy-white, pinkish or reddish, depending on the cultivar. It is juicy and sweet, and soft when the fruit is ripe.
The Custard Apple is picked when it is firm, and let to ripen at room temperature until it yields to gentle pressure. If it is left on the tree too long, it will crack or split and needs to be cut from its stem, rather than yanked off.
The taste is somewhere between banana, papaya, and pineapple. Others compare the taste to a very sweet pear.
Custard Apples are grown commercially in Australia, California, Chile, Florida, Israel and Madeira.
There are actually several different but similar and closely related varieties of fruit that go by the name of Custard Apple:
|English Name||Scientific name|
|Sweet sop||Annona squamosa|
|Sour sop||Annona muricata|
|Bullock’s heart||Annona reticulata|
Custard Apples are best served chilled.
Let the Custard Apple ripen at room temperature, then refrigerate for a day or two, but any more than that will damage the fruit.
The pulp freezes well.
Custard Apples are native to the New World Tropics, particularly northern South America — Columbia, Ecuador, Peru. It was cultivated by natives in the Andes and were first planted in California in 1871.
Custard Apples are also called “Ata” in Bengali.
The scientific names for the various varieties include Annona cherimola, Annona diversifolia, Annona reticulata, Annona scleroderma and Annona squamosa.
White Sapote is sometimes also called “Custard Apple”, but it is unrelated.