Custard apple is a delicious, pleasantly fragrant fruit in the Annona family. The fruit is popular for its sweet and slightly tangy, creamy textured flesh. It is also known as bullock's heart in the English speaking countries.
Botanically, custard is a multiple fruit wherein the fruit is developed from merger of several individual flowers (ovaries) into a large fruit mass.
Scientific name: Annona reticulata.
The custard apple plant is a large shrub belonging to the annonacae family. It is native to the tropical rain forests of Central America and naturalized in many parts of the world, spreading along the tropical stretches from South America to Africa and Asia.
|Sugar apple fruit-Annona squamosa.|
Custard apple is globular, round to heart-shaped fruit with polygonal indentations on its surface. Many cultivars exist, and depending upon the cultivar type there can be green, brown, yellow, maroon fruits.
Custard apple features tough, outer skin. Inside, individual arils consist of cream-white sheath enveloping single, glossy, deep-brown color seeds. The flesh just underneath its surface has granular texture. Skin and seeds are inedible and discarded. Its flavor described as reminiscence of mangosteen, sweet and pleasantly tangy, melts inside the mouth.
Custard apple is smaller in size than cherimoya (A.cherimola), Pond apple (A.glabra) and soursop (A. muricata) but a bit larger than sugar apple (A. squamosa). Oftentimes, Sugar apple termed interchangeably to custard apple.
Custard apple has relatively more calories than cherimoya. 100 g of the fruit carres 101 calories against 56 calories of cherimoya. Major portion of this calories comes from simple carbohydrates. It however, contain no saturated fats or cholesterol.
As in other Annona famiy fruits, custards too contain several poly-phenolic antioxidants. Among them, the most prominent is Annonaceous acetogenins. Acetogenin compounds such as asimicin, bullatacinare...etc are powerful cytotoxins and have been found to have anti-cancer, anti-malarial and de-worming properties.
Custards compose of more vitamin-C (19.2 mg/100 g) than that of in cherimoya. Sugar apples, however, carry the highest (36.3 mg/100 g) amount of this vitamin among all the annona fruits. Vitamin C is a powerful natural antioxidant. Consumption of fruits rich in vitamin C helps the human body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free-radicals from the body.
Custard apple is moderate source of B-complex vitamins, especially vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine, 17% per 100 g)). Pyridoxine helps keep up GABA neuro chemical in the brain. High GABA levels in the blood helps calm down nervous irritability, tension, and headache ailments.
Custards contains minerals such as calcium, copper, magnesium, iron (9% of RDI per 100 g) and manganese. Addtionally, they compose more potassium (382 mg per 100 g) than cherimoya (287 mg per 100 g).
Fresh Annonaceae genus fruits can be readily available in the US all round the seasons. Custard apples arrive in the markets from July to November in the Southern and Central states. While buying, look for fresh, light yellow, compact, completely mature fruits with intact thick stem. Completely matured fruits continue to ripe at home at room temperature. If you want to buy ripe fruits, look for those featuring soft, sweet and musky aroma that can be appreciated from a distance. Avoid very soft, mushy, broken, crack or split skin fruits as they may carry risk.
At home, store unripe fruits in a fruit basket where they continue to ripe and stay well for another 4-5 days. Ripe fruits, however, should be used early. Custards, like other annona fruits, cannot be stored inside the refrigerator for a long period as they sustain chilling injury. However, juiced or pureed, the fruit may be kept inside the freezer for several weeks.
Simply wash the fruits to remove surface dirt. Mop them dry using a soft towel. Fresh ripe fruits can be eaten on their own without any additions and seasoning. Gently pull apart the fruit to expose cream white arils inside. You can use spoon to scoop edible flesh. Spit out seeds as they are inedible.
Here are some serving tips:
|Custard apple fruit slices.
Photo courtesy: bobman
The fruit is better enjoyed out of hand on its own, without any additions or seasonings.
Pulp pureed and mixed with other fruits in salads or can be used on ice-cream toppings.
Custard apple milk-shake is refreshing drink in India.
Tart flavored guanabana or soursop can be mixed with honey, sugar, milk, lemon, and ice; and serve chilled as sorbet or with other fruit cocktails and milkshakes.
Custard apple seeds and leaf parts contains toxic alkaloids, and therfore, should not consumed. Do not chew seeds inside the mouth as this releases toxins. If a whole seed consumed accidentally, it would not pose any threat as it passes through the gastro-inestinal tract undigested.
Some reports are suggestive of that regular feeding of soursop and other annona family fruits in experimental rats may lead to brain lesions consistent with atypical Parkinson's disease. (Medical disclaimer.)
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Research articles on nutrition.
1. United States Department of Agriculture- National Nutrient Data base.
2. Custard apples-Department oof Agriculture and fisheries-Queensland Government.