Whole Atymoya Fruit Annona

The Custard Apple family (Annonaceae) is a large family of tropical and subtropical shrubs, trees and vines. Two genera, Annona and Asimina, are significant producers of edible fruit. These large, soft, thin skinned and often faceted or warted fruits are difficult to ship so are consumed mostly where they grow. The Cherimoya, however, is grown in California and commonly available in U.S. markets - often at high prices. Even where I shop they're often well over US $3 / pound so I shudder to think what they might cost in the yuppie emporiums.

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General & History

Fruit producing members of the Annonaceae family all originated in the Americas. The tropical species were quickly distributed all over the tropical world by explorers and traders in the 16th century because the seeds are large, reasonably long lived and the fruit is highly desirable.

The seeds, bark and leaves are toxic but have a number of medicinal uses and are used as natural insecticides.


Not every Annonaceae that bares edible fruit is listed here, but these are the ones commercially exploited over a wide area. There are others used locally in Central and South America.

Atymoya   -   [Annona cherimola x squamosa]
Whole Atymoya

The Atymoya, a deliberate cross between a Cherimoya and a Sweetsop, is considered one of the best eating Annonas. It is currently grown mostly in Florida where it was developed but has been found suitable to coastal areas of Southern California so may become more common here. Photo (by a-giâu), distributed under the GNU Free Document License v1.2 or later.

Cherimoya   -   [Annona cherimola]
Whole and Cut Cherimoya

Believed to have originated in the valleys of northwestern South America, the cherimoya has been grown in California since 1871. The heart shaped fruit generally weigh between 6 ounces and 1 pound but can get up to 5 pounds. The photo specimen was 3-1/4 inches across and weighed 1/2 pound. The skin is thin and may be covered with fingerprint like indentations as in the photo (most common), or may have protrubances like the Atymoya pictured here. The flesh is white, creamy, fragrant and with just a touch of tartness. It's best just eaten out of the skin with a spoon, dealing with the many seeds as you encounter them. The seeds are quite toxic but so hard they cause no harm if accidentally swallowed.

Buying: Buy fruit that is firm, unblemished and heavy for it's size. Set it on a counter out of the sunlight and let it ripen until it has some give like an almost ripe avocado. Give it one more day after that and then store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days if you aren't going to eat it right then and there. If left out to get overripe it will begin to ferment.

Custard Apple   -   [Annona reticulata]
Custard Apple, Inside and Outside

Thought to have originated in the West Indies, the custard apple was transported all around the world by traders in the 16th century. Requiring a moist tropical climate it can not be grown in California and is a bit marginal even in Florida. Custard apple fruit is pleasant tasting but considered inferior to the Cherimoya and Sweetsop. In India it is eaten only by the lower classes but is not class sensitive in the rest of the world. It is often pressed through a sieve and added to ice cream and milk shakes or blended with other fruit such as bananas. Photo California Department of Food and Agriculture, copyright expired.

Llama   -   [Annona diversifolia alt A. macroprophyllata]
Llama Fruit on Tree

This tree is native to the west coast of Central America, but a few are grown in Florida. The fruit, which can be nearly 6 inches diameter and weight up to 2 pounds, is slightly elongated and studded with shallow triangular protrubences. The rind may be pale green to pink or purple and covered with a velvety light gray bloom. The fruit is variable from juicy to rather dry with slightly tart flesh which will be white in green fruit to rose in pink or purple fruit. Yield is uncertain so it's unlikely to become commercially exploited to any great degree.   Photo by I LikE plants! distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v2.0 Generic.

Pawpaw   -   [Prairie Banana, Kentucky Banana, Ozark Banana; Asimina triloba]
Pawpaws on Tree

A temperate zone tree native to the Southeast USA. The thin skinned fruit, yellow to brownish when ripe, is smooth and shaped roughly like a plump mango, 3 to 6 inches long and weighing up to a pound. The flesh is creamy and ranges in flavor between banana and mango depending on cultivar. Paw Paw is not yet a commercial crop but is being developed as one with some success - uncertain pollination is a problem. Growers sometimes resort to hanging rotting chicken necks in the orchards to attract the blow flies and carrion beetles this plant depends on for pollination. Shipping is another problem so the fruits are often pulped and the pulp frozen for shipment. Note: In Australia the name "Pawpaw" is used for mangos. Photo U.S. Department of Agriculture - public domain

Pond Apple   -   [Alligator apple, Monkey apple; Annona glabra]
Pond Apples on Tree

Pond Apple is native to the West Indies and grows wild all over the Caribbean area and prolifically in the Florida Everglades. Unfortunately it isn't considered as good eating as other Annonas and the yellow flesh is said to be narcotic. The smooth skinned oblong fruits, between 3 and 6 inches long, are eaten fresh locally and made into jam and wine but this fruit is not exploited commercially. Pond apple is often used for root stock on which to grow other species because the roots are extremely tolerant of flooding. Pond apple root stock imported for grafting has escaped and become perhaps the worst invasive pest plant in northern Australia. Meanwhile they're trying to restore pond apple habitat in Florida. Photo by CiXeL at en.wikipedia distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported attribution required.

Soursop   -   [Guanabana (Spanish); Graviola (Brazil); Annona muricata]
Whole and Cut Soursop

Native to the West Indies, soursop is now the most grown Annona throughout the tropics. The fruits are relatively large, up to 12 inches long and 6 inches in diameter, thin skinned and covered with tiny spines which rub off easily. The larger photo specimen was 6 inches long, 3-3/4 inches diameter and weighed 6-3/4 ounces.

Most soursop is processed into ice cream, sherbets and beverages. The flesh is a trace fibrous and there are a lot of seeds, but the flavor is intensely floral and quite enjoyable. It has been described as like Strawberry and Pineapple with notes of Citrus and Coconut or Banana. The fruit has a sweet-sour balance similar to Tamarind.   Details and Cooking

Sweetsop   -   [Sugar Apple, Anon; Annona squamosa]
Whole and Cut Sugar Apple

The Sugar Apple is the most widely grown Annona species. It's origin is uncertain but possibly around the Caribbean basin. It was carried worldwide by traders in the 16th century. Requiring a wet tropical or near tropical environment. sweetsop is not grown in California due to cold winters but a few are grown in Florida. The fruit is generally just broken apart into segments and the creamy flesh stripped from the seeds in the mouth. The seeds are quite toxic but are so hard they will cause no harm if accidentally swallowed. The photo specimen, from an Asian market in Los Angeles and mislabeled custard apple, was previously frozen.

Marolo   -   [Araticum do cerrado; Annona crassiflora]
Marolo Fruit on Tree

This fruit grows wild in the tropical savanna of Brazil and Paraguay and is eaten by native peoples. While not yet cultivated, it is receiving increased interest from the food industry for inclusion, in the form of flour, in snack bars. It is sweet and high in vitamin C, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fiber. Photo by Etore.Santos distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported attribution required.

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