The custard apple tree (Annona reticulata), also known as bullock's heart or bull's heart, is native to the West Indies. It grows in tropical areas throughout the world, such as India and Malaya. Many people consider custard apples inferior to other apples. However, custard apples flourish in the late winter and spring when other apples are not in season. A mature custard apple tree produces 75 to 100 lbs. of custard apples annually.
Custard apple trees range from 15 to 35 feet in height. Their trunks measure from 10 to 14 inches in diameter. Custard apple tree leaves measure 4 to 8 inches long and 3/4 to 2 inches wide. Custard apples measure approximately 3 to 6-1/2 inches in diameter and have tough skins, which range in color from yellow or brownish to red.
Custard apple trees flourish in tropical environments. However, mature trees can survive temperatures as cold as 27 degrees F. Custard apple trees grow best in a humid atmosphere and are not as drought-tolerant as other apple-tree species. They prefer low-lying, moist soil that can be improved with mulch and fertilizer.
The chalcid fly represents the most serious pest threat to custard apple trees. Fruit bats can also cause damage. Custard apples can be protected with nets while they grow. Diplodia annonae, a type of fungus, can also harm custard apple trees.
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. The flesh has a creamy appearance and is sweet. One-hundred grams of custard apple contain approximately 80 to 101 calories.
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.
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