Custard apples are delectable fruits that are quite easy to grow in South Africa. The tropical and sub-tropical conditions are ideal for fruiting, while hotter, drier conditions yield the best flowers. These trees are aptly named, as the fruit tastes exactly like they sound – creamy, vanilla-infused apples with real custard richness.
They are deciduous trees, so they shed their leaves every year. This is a tree that is constantly changing, always presenting a different, but equally lovely face. Include a few in your garden for a really pretty option that has irresistible fruits.
Nutrients and Benefits
In general, custard apples are high in dietary fibre, vitamin C and the B vitamins (including vitamins B-2, -3, -5, -6 and -9). They also have calcium, iron, magnesium, protein, potassium and phosphorous.
These fruits are high in antioxidants, which means that they help to prevent and fight cancers, and prevent slow damage to cells that is caused by free radicals. They can also boost your mood, may be good for your eyesight, prevent high blood pressure, contribute to a healthy heart, and aid in your digestion.
How to Enjoy Them
The flesh of custard apples is delicious, but the skin and seeds are not edible. Simply cut the fruit in half, take the seeds out and discard them, and scoop the flesh out with a spoon. Or, you can spit the seeds out as you enjoy the fruit.
The flesh can be added to ice-cream, juices, smoothies or yoghurt for a delicious dessert. Or, pulp it and use it in custard to add a unique twist to your creamy pudding. It goes particularly well with vanilla, but fresh lime also enhances its sweet creaminess. Because its flavour has nuances of banana and pineapple; it is refreshing and has a distinct tropical twist.
Grow Your Own Custard Apples
Custard apple trees are beautiful additions to your garden. They need a sunny spot with good airflow and soil that drains well. They don’t do well in areas where the water accumulates in the soil around them. When left unpruned, they can reach a height of between 3 and 6 metres. With some mulch and an average amount of water, they can thrive beautifully and produce an ample yield of tasty fruit.
There are several different custard apple varieties. They all share a sweet and creamy flavour, heady vanilla aroma, and a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals. But, each is unique.
Green Custard Apples
This is the most common variety. The green variety has a slightly tarter flavour than the red and purple fruits, and is more like pineapple. It has a more intense flavour, making it a favourite for many.
Red Custard Apples
This is particularly pretty and sweeter than the purple and green varieties. It is softer than the well-known soursop.
Purple Custard Apples
This is the mildest of the three varieties and is native to the Caribbean and Central America.
Position – Custard Apple trees prefer a warm, frost-free and wind-free part of the garden. are easy to grow in full sun. They will do extremely well in temperatures between 15-25° Celsius. Give each tree about 4 to 5 metres of space around it.
Soil Type –Custard Apple Trees grows best in sandy loam soils. A mixture of compost, potting soil and riversand will do very well.
Size – This tree grows to a height of between 2 and 6 metres.
Watering – The soil should be kept moist (but not soggy) once the tree has been transplanted. They are susceptible to root rot. An established tree needs watering weekly if there’s been no rain.
Mulch – Mulch well to keep the soil from drying out too quickly. Use organic material like grass cuttings or straw.
Fertilising – Fertilize after the fruit has set with an organic fertilizer.
Pruning – Winter is the best time to prune the branches of the custard apple tree however, only a light pruning is needed.
Container Growing – Custard Apple trees can be grown in large containers if the pot has good drainage. Your soil mixture sould be river sand (25%), compost (25%) and potting soil (50%)
Harvesting – The custard apple is a climacteric fruit and harvested at the maturity state when the fruit starts to change colour from green to its varietal colour shade.