Oct 10 - 16, 2011

The custard apple is a fruit with eatable pulp. The custard apple or Sharifa in Urdu or Sitaphal in Hindi is native to the West Indies. It is found widely on the east coast of Malaysia, Southeast Asia, Pakistan, India and Philippines and other tropical countries.

Custard apples are heart-shaped or oval-shaped and can weigh up to 450g. They have light tan or greenish quilted skin, which develops brown patches as the fruit ripens. The flesh is particularly mellow and custard like and one of the most exotic of the tropical fruits. The central core is also soft but has no flavor. The flesh contains a number of hard, black oval seeds, which are inedible and must be separated out. Custard Apples are a subtropical deciduous tree belonging to the Annonaceae family. This family contains over 2000 members spreading throughout the world.

The fruit is erect and branched, growing to a height of 5-10 meters. Fruiting starts within two to three years of planting and the fruit takes two to three months to ripen on the tree. A regular supply of water, good drainage, and soil fertility are to be ensured for the cultivation of the custard apple. It is propagated through seed and also by grafting.

Sharifa is grown on small scale in Pakistan. It is also grown in the open places and residential areas of Karachi.

Custard apple trees are large and spreading, shaded by large, green drooping leaves. The tree sets many light yellow trumpet shaped flowers that emit a pungent, sweet smell especially in the late afternoon when the male pollen sacks burst open. Of these flowers, only a small number will set fruit.

The fruit takes between 20 and 25 weeks to reach maturity in subtropical climates where the days are not too warm and the nights not too cool. There are two main varieties of custard apples: the Pinks Mammoth (or white) and the African Pride. Both are sweet, juicy, and full of flavor.

Custard apples are fragile so here are some tips when buying: Custard apples should be eaten as soon as possible after buying but can be kept in the bottom of the fridge for a day or two. Unripe fruit should be kept in a brown bag at room temperature until they are ready to eat.

Custard apples are eaten raw. Simply cut the fruit in half lengthways and scoop the flesh straight from the shell with a spoon, discarding the inedible seeds.

The creamy smooth flesh of the custard apples makes a wonderful puree for smoothies. It can be added to mashed bananas and make into ice cream. It can also be an addition to fruit salads.

Custard apple is a well balanced food having protein, fat, carbohydrates, crude fiber, ash, minerals and good source of vitamin C, magnesium and potassium. It also supplies phosphorous, iron, carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, ascorbic acid, nicotinic acid, and natural sugars. It is good antioxidant and flushes out toxic matter from the body that can prove hazardous to health.

The bark of the tree is used to treat diabetes. The juice from the leaves is also used to dress wounds, ulcers, sores, and malignant tumors. It is a sweet fruit, which is widely grown across the world. The fruit is compound in nature, measuring 3 to 6Ω inches (8-16 cm) in diameter. The shape of the fruit may be symmetrically heart-shaped, lopsided, or irregular. It may be nearly round or oblate, with a deep or shallow depression at the base. The skin or covering of custard apple is thin but tough, which is usually yellow or brownish when ripe. Beneath the thin covering, a thick, cream-white layer of custard like, granular, flesh is present, which surrounds seeds. The flavor of the fruit is sweet and agreeable. Besides, custard apple has many health and nutritional benefits. Given below is the nutrition value of the fruit.

Given below is nutritional value per 100 gm of custard apple: Thiamine (B1) - 0.05 to 0.08 mg, Vitamin A -1 mg, Riboflavin (B2) - 0.08 to 0.1 mg, Natural Sugar - 14 to 18 gm, Niacin (B3) - 0.5 to 0.8 mg, Carbohydrate - 23.71 gm , Iron - 0.7mg, Total Acidity - 0.4 mg, Energy - 76 to 96 cal (310 to 420 kJ), Protein - 1 to 4.3 gm , Zinc - 0.2 to 2.7mg, Magnesium - 32 to 88 mg, Copper - 2.4mg, Potassium - 250 to 578 mg, Sodium - 4 to 14 mg, Calcium - 17 to 22 mg,Vitamin C - 22 to 43 mg, fiber - 1 to 3.2 g, and total soluble solids (brix) - 22.3 per cent.

Custard apples are soft when ripe and can be eaten plain or with cream and sugar. They are also used in milk shakes and custards. One-hundred grams of custard apple contain approximately 80 to 101 calories.

Custard apple is a storehouse of Vitamin C, which is an antioxidant and helps in neutralizing free radicals. Vitamin A present in the fruit is good for hair, eyes and healthy skin. Custard apple contains magnesium, which plays vital role in relaxing muscles and protecting heart against diseases.

Potassium and Vitamin B6 are also present in custard apple. Copper is yet another useful ingredient of custard apple. It is a rich source of dietary fiber, which helps in digestion. As it contains low fat levels, it is good for maintaining optimum health. The paste of the flesh of the fruit can be used for local application on ulcers, abscesses, and boils. The fruit, in its unripe form, can be dried, crushed, and used for treating diarrhea and dysentery.

Custard apple serves as an expectorant, stimulant, coolant, and haemostatic and is even useful in treating anemia. The seeds of the fruit have insecticidal properties.

Custard apple tree leaves produce a blue or black dye. Custard apple wood is sometimes used to make yokes and other objects. Unripe custard apples are sometimes used medicinally to remedy diarrhea and dysentery. The tree's roots are also used to treat toothaches.

Custard apple is a sweet fruit, which is grown all over the world. The skin is thin but tough. The flavor is very sweet. It has many health and nutritional benefits. Custard apples contain antioxidants like vitamin C, which helps to fight free radicals in our body. It is also high in potassium and magnesium that protects our heart from cardiac disease as well as control our blood pressure.

Custard apples contain vitamin A, which is good for healthy skin and hair. It is also known to be great for eyesight. It also helps to cure indigestion problem. Copper in the fruit helps to cure constipation.

As they are high in magnesium, they equalize the water balance in our body, which helps in removing of acids from the joints and reduces the symptoms of rheumatism and arthritis.

This fruit contains natural sugar and hence make great nutritious snacks and even desserts. This fruit is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, thus making it a very healthy fruit.