How is custard apple grown?

The custard apple, whose scientific name is Annona cherimola, is a deciduous fruit tree that, due to its size, can grow in small to medium-sized gardens. Its cultivation, although it may seem otherwise, is not difficult, although it is true that it is necessary to have a series of things so that it can grow and develop without problems.

Things that we are going to tell you in this special so that you can taste one of the most delicious tropical fruits without having to go to the supermarket.

Characteristics of the custard apple tree

Annona cherimola tree, a tropical plant

Image – Wikimedia / Aibdescalzo

Before going into the subject, let’s first see what are the characteristics of this tree so that it is easy for you to identify it. The custard apple or custard apple is a slow-growing tree native to northern Peru that can reach a height of no more than 8 meters . It has an upright bearing and a more or less parasol-shaped, highly branched crown.

Its leaves are deciduous, simple, whole, with an ovate-lanceolate shape and with a tomentose underside, they measure about 12mm. The flowers have six yellowish petals mottled with purple, they are hermaphroditic and highly aromatic.

What is the custard apple fruit like?

The fruit can weigh between 200 and 800 grams , and has a thin skin, which can be light green to dark green. You can see with the naked eye a series of blackish lines that are the ones that delimit each seed.

Its pulp is white, creamy and quite juicy, and easy to chew as it is soft. Its flavor is sweet . This is a very important part for the custard apple, since it protects the seeds, which are black or dark brown and are about one centimeter long.

Depending on the characteristics of each custard apple, different varieties are known :

  • Lisa : which is one that has a smooth shell in which it is difficult to appreciate those lines that we talked about before that separate the seeds.
  • Printed : in which these lines are rounded.
  • Umbonata : the fruit has depressions at the apex.
  • Mamilata : with »lumps» shaped like a breast.
  • Tuberculata : in which you can see lumps with pointed ends.

What are the properties of custard apple?

The fruit of this plant has interesting nutritional and medicinal properties. And it is that its fruits have a high content of vitamins , especially C, which helps to heal wounds better, A that takes care of the health of our eyes, and B that intervenes in growth and mental development.

In addition, it is recommended for weight loss because it is very low in fat and, on the contrary, has a large amount of potassium (382mg / 100g) that helps prevent fluid retention.

How do you eat custard apple?

It is very, very easy. All you have to do is cut it in half, and with a spoon, take the pulp . The seeds are not edible, since they are also very hard, so you have to remove them and store them in a glass for example, to sow them later.

How do you take care of yourself?

Leaves of Annona cherimola, or custard apple

Image – Wikimedia / Forest & Kim Starr

If you want to have one or more specimens, take into account our advice so that it grows well:

Location

Place your tree outside , preferably in full sun. However, if the weather is very hot, it will do better in semi-shade. In any case, it is important to know that cherimoya is more productive when temperatures remain between a minimum of 10ºC and a maximum of 30ºC, and when a minimum of 800mm of precipitation falls per year. Likewise, the ambient humidity must be above 70%.

In colder or warmer, or drier climates, it will be difficult for you to adapt. And it is a plant that does not like extremes too much.

Irrigation

It must be frequent , but avoiding waterlogging. Use rainwater whenever possible, as it is the most suitable for the custard apple plant. Avoid allowing the soil or substrate to remain dry for a long time, since it is better that it is always somewhat damp.

If in doubt, we recommend using a moisture meter, or inserting a thin wooden or plastic stick. In the case of opting for the latter, if you see that when you remove it, a lot of soil has adhered to it, it will mean that it is still wet.

More or less, and depending on the rainfall in each area, you have to water 2 or 3 times a week in summer . In autumn and winter it will be watered less.

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It is essential for the correct development of the tree to fertilize throughout the growing season (spring and summer) with organic fertilizers, such as guano or manure, either liquid -following the instructions specified on the container-, or in powder – casting a layer of 1-2cm around the trunk-.

Transplant

Whether you want to move it to the garden or to a larger pot, which by the way you should do every two years, you have to wait until spring arrives and the risk of frost has passed.

How to plant custard apple?

If you want to know how to plant a custard apple tree, here’s how to do it:

  • Flowerpot : first of all you have to look for one that has holes in its base and that is about 5-10 centimeters wider and higher than the one you already have. Then fill it with a little mulch or urban garden substrate, taking into account the height of the old pot, since the plant should not be too high or too low. Then, extract your custard apple and insert it in the new pot, and then finish filling it. Thus, then, you will only have to water.
  • In the garden : if you are going to plant it in the garden or orchard, you have to find a sunny area for it. In addition, it is important that the land is fertile and has good drainage. If these conditions are met, make a hole large enough for the custard apple to fit well. The ideal is to make it 1 x 1 meter, since this way the roots will have more facilities to root when finding soil that has been removed. Fill it with soil or substrate, and then introduce the plant in it. In the event that it is very low or very high, do not hesitate to add or remove dirt. Then finish filling, and make a tree grate . So the only thing missing is watering.

But before doing anything, you must bear in mind that you should not remove the custard apple from the “old” pot if it has not rooted before, since otherwise the ground bread, or also called root ball, would crumble and the plant would have many trouble getting through the transplant. So, check if roots are coming out of the drainage holes, because if that is the case, then you can transplant it without problems.

Pruning

It can be pruned in autumn or spring , removing dry, weak or diseased branches and those that have grown excessively, and those that are necessary are trimmed to give it a weeping bearing. Pacifiers are also removed.

Harvest

Cherimoya is a tropical plant

Image – Wikimedia / Jan Helebrant

Its fruits will be ready for collection when they have acquired a somewhat lighter tone , and when when you touch them, if you do some pressure, you notice that the finger sinks a little.

Plagues and diseases

It is a fairly resistant fruit tree, but it can be affected by:

Pests

  • Fruit fly ( Ceratitis capitata ): females lay their eggs below the epidermis of the fruits. Once they hatch, their larvae eat all the pulp. They are fought by placing traps for them and with an attractive liquid.
  • Cottony mealybug ( Planococcus citri ): it is deposited on the petioles of the leaves and on the underside, from where it feeds on the sap of the plants. They are easy to see as they look like a “ball” of cotton. They can be removed by hand, or with Neem Oil .

Diseases

  • Neck rot ( Phytophthora cinnamomi ): leaves turn yellow, then brown until they fall off. The plant can die due to excessive watering or poor drainage of the substrate or soil.
    It can be prevented by using well-drained soil, and by doing preventive treatments with natural fungicides sold in nurseries, or with copper or sulfur in spring and autumn.
  • Root rot ( Armillaria mellea ): as in the previous case, the leaves turn yellow until they dry and fall.
    The prevention method is the same as that of Phytophthora.

Multiplication

You can have new specimens by sowing their seeds, but it is carried out more by grafting on a seed pattern from the same cultivar that is going to be used as a variety. Let’s see how to proceed in each case:

How to germinate custard apple?

Cherimoya seeds are black

Image – Wikimedia / Rillke

To sow custard apple seeds you must follow this step by step :

  1. The first thing you have to do is clean the seeds well with water, in spring.
  2. Then keep them in a glass of water for 24 hours.
  3. The next day, plant them in forest seedling trays or in pots with universal growing medium mixed with 50% perlite.
  4. Cover them with a little substrate so that the wind does not carry them away.
  5. Water.
  6. And finally, place the seedbed in an area where it gets direct sunlight.

They will germinate soon, in two or three weeks.

Graft

When the trunk of the plant is about 2cm thick, insert it into a spike about 50cm from the ground . To do this, you have to make a longitudinal cut through the center of the branch of the pattern, insert the branch of the new variety, and join them well with raffia rope and wax everything with sealing paste.

Rusticity

The custard apple is a tree that supports mild frosts of up to -2ºC .

So, if you are looking for a plant that is easy to grow and that also helps you maintain your line, cherimoya is an excellent option for you … and your garden or patio, since, although it is seen more as a horticultural plant, the truth is that its ornamental value is very high, don’t you think?

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