Custard apple fruit is an eatable, tropical, naturally sweet in taste. Its botanical name is Annona reticulata L. in family Annonaceae. It is known with different names in different countries, also termed as “sweetsop’’ or as “sugar apple”. In some English areas it is also known as “Bull’s heart” due to its structural appearance. Indians know this fruit as “ram phall”. In Pakistan this minor fruit is also known with a unique name “Sharifa Fruit”.
It is native to West Indies, but in the early times it was carried from Central America to Southern Mexico. The most favorable
environmental condition for this fruit is in the East coast Malaya. In India, trees are cultivated around the Kolkata. For the cultivation of this fruit plant require 25oC to 28oC with minimum elevation of 800 m (2600 ft) from see level under ample humidity for its better growth and fruit development. The suitable cultural media for the plant growth is politic limestone and it does best in production.
Custard apple tree is not too much alluring because it has spreading type crown and shrub like plant with height of 15 to 35 ft., the fruit of this plant is known as “Ugly Duckling”. Custard apple fruits have different shapes like oval shape, symmetrical heart shaped, lopsided or irregular and can be weight up to 450 g. But the most alluring thing in this fruit and fruit plant is stunning favors for human body. Leaves, fruit and seed of fruit is valuable for different industries and human body.
The conventional process of propagation is through seed, but it can also be propagated by inarching, budding and grafting. There are not common cultivars of this fruit, but it can be classified according to their yellowish and brownish skin colors. The tree is fast growing in nature so, responded positive to the cultural practices i.e. mulching, organic fertilizers, frequent irrigation etc. The fruiting of plant starts after two years, plant hold fruit two to three months for ripening process. The insect which commonly attack on fruit is chalcid fly and the common disease which is observed is dry charcoal rot, this disease is fungal therefore during the storage of fruit, it is treated with antifungal powders i.e. Bavistin. The average shelf life of fruit is about 5 days but can be extended up to 9 days by treating it with some chemicals. Production average of this fruit plant is 34-45 kg per year.
Seed of this plant is also important due to mild toxic nature and containing of 30% oil. Seed is 1.25 cm long and 1 fruit contained average 64 seeds. It is used in the soap, paint pesticide, weedicide and pharmaceutical industries and in Bio-gas production due to trapped fatty acids rich in methyl-ester. Seed is also effective in the treatment of leukemia, liver cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer and cervical cancer.
Custard apple leaves are also treasured, because the leaves are packed with fibers which are responsible for the balance of sugar level, with a high concentration of potassium and magnesium it also relaxes the muscles of heart and keep it healthy. The juice of leaves is also helpful in healing wounds.
The fruit is a storehouse of vitamin A, B and B6 with different minerals i.e. potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, copper and dietary fibers. The first impact on the human body is by dietary fibers present in the fruit cause low leveling of cholesterol which result in weight loss. It is also useful for gaining the weight, by using it with honey. The elevated level of iron present in the fruit also helpful in sanative anemia. Custard apple contains vitamin C which is healthful for eyesight. This fruit is also beneficial for the skin rejuvenation and hair growth, in the fruit and leaves, there were forty-nine volatile components identified, major volatile components are α-pinene, β-pinene and germacrene D. The smooth flesh of the fruit is used in ice cream, can also added in the fruit salads. Overall, custard apple is health beneficial fruit and 1g of fruit have 100 calories.
But unfortunately, despite these beneficial aspects and availability of favorable conditions there is no commercial production of custard apple in Pakistan, production is only limited to Sindh. PARC (Pakistan Agriculture Research Council) is occupied for the maintenance of existing germplasm of custard apple in current research programs. Pakistan’s agricultural institutes must develop their own local varieties which are adoptable to this environment. Pakistan has developed those exotic varieties of different fruits which were not known earlier in our area. It is expected that there may be new germplasm imported from abroad for further research and these plants should also be introduce in the fields of growers for the supplementary source of income.
This article is collectively authored by Jawad Hassan1, Dr. Rashad Mukhtar Balal1, M. Ali Khakwani2 (1Department of Horticulture, College of Agriculture, University of Sargodha) (2Department of Horticulture 2BZU, Multan)