From the Manual of Tropical and Subtropical Fruits
by Wilson Popenoe
Annona muritica L.
the preparation of sherbets and other refreshing drinks, the soursop is
unrivaled. Those who have visited Habana and there sipped the
delectable champola de guandbana will agree with Cubans that it is one
of the finest beverages in the world. Soursop sherbet is equal to that
prepared from the best of the temperate zone fruits, if not superior to
all other ices.
Plate VIII. Upper, the cherimoya at its best; lower, the soursop and other fruits.
tree is more strictly tropical in its requirements than the cherimoya
or the sugar-apple. It withstands very little frost, and succeeds best
in the tropical lowlands. Though widely disseminated, it is nowhere
grown on an extensive scale. This is due, most probably, to the scanty
productiveness which characterizes the species in general. There is an
opportunity here for an excellent piece of work; by obtaining a
productive variety and propagating it by budding, or by increasing the
productiveness of the species through improved cultural methods, the
soursop could be made profitable and of considerable commercial
importance. In the large cities of tropical America there is a good
demand for the fruits at all times of the year, a demand which is not
adequately met at present.
The soursop is a small tree, usually
slender in habit and rarely more than 20 feet high. The leaves are
obovate to elliptic in form, commonly 3 to 6 inches long, acute,
leathery in texture, glossy above and glabrous beneath. The flowers are
large, the three exterior petals ovate-acute, valvate, and fleshy, the
interior ones smaller and thinner, rounded, with the edges overlapping.
The fruit is the largest of the annonas;
specimens 5 pounds in weight are not uncommon and much larger ones have
been reported. It is ovoid, heart-shaped, or oblong-conical in form,
deep green in color, with numerous short fleshy spines on the surface.
The skin has a rank, bitter flavor. The flesh is white, somewhat
cottony in texture, juicy, and highly aromatic. Numerous brown seeds,
much like those of the cherimoya, are embedded in it. The flavor
suggests that of the pineapple and the mango.
DeCandolle says that the soursop "is wild in the West Indies; at least
its existence has been proved in the islands of Cuba, Santo Domingo,
Jamaica, and several of the smaller islands."Safford states that it is
of tropical American origin. The historian Gonzalo Hernandez de Oviedo,
in his "Natural History of the Indies," written in 1526, describes the
soursop at some length, and he mentions having seen it growing
abundantly in the West Indies as well as on the mainland of South
America. At the present day it is perhaps more popular in Cuba than in
any other part of the tropics. In Mexico it occurs in many places, and
the fruit is often seen in the markets. It is also grown in the
tropical portions of South America.
H. F. Macmillan says that it
thrives in Ceylon up to elevations of 2000 feet. It is cultivated in
India, in Cochin-China, and in many parts of Polynesia. Vaughan
MacCaughey states that it is the commonest species of Annona in the
markets of Honolulu. Paul Hubert notes that it is cultivated in Reunion
and on the west coast of Africa.
It will be observed that its
distribution is limited to tropical regions. In the United States it
can only be grown in southern Florida, where with slight protection it
succeeds at Miami and even as far north as Palm Beach. Exceptionally
cold winters, however, may kill the trees to the ground. In California
it is not successful.
The name soursop is of West Indian origin,
and is the one commonly used in English-speaking countries. In Mexico
the fruit is known as zapote agrio, and more commonly as guanabana
(sometimes abbreviated to guanaba), which is the name most extensively
used in Spanish-speaking countries. Guanabana is considered to have
come originally from the island of Santo Domingo. In the French
colonies the common name is corossol or cachiman epineux. Yule and
Burnell say : "Grainger identifies the soursop with the suirsack of the
Dutch. But in this, at least as regards use in the East Indies, there
is some mistake. The latter term, in old Dutch writers on the East,
seems always to apply to the common jackfruit, the 'sourjack,' in fact,
as distinguished from the superior kinds, especially the champada of
the Malay Archipelago." In Mexican publications the soursop is
sometimes confused with the soncoya (A. purpurea), though it actually differs widely from the latter both in foliage and fruit.
soursop is more tolerant of moisture than the sugar-apple, and can be
grown in moist tropical regions with greater success. Temperatures
below the freezing point are likely to injure it, although mature trees
may withstand 29° or 30° above zero without serious harm.
soil best suited to this species is probably a loose, fairly rich, deep
loam. It has done well, however, on shallow sandy soils in south
Florida. F. S. Earle has found in Cuba that liberal applications of
fertilizer will increase greatly the amount of fruit produced. The
formula used is the same as that recommended for the sugar-apple.
Little attention has yet been given to the cultural requirements of the
The soursop, grown from seed, comes into bearing when
three to five years old. The season of ripening in Mexico and the West
Indies is June to September; in Florida it is about the same.
trees rarely bear more than a dozen good fruits in a season. .
Oftentimes there are produced numerous small, malformed, abortive
fruits which are of no value. These are due to insufficient
pollination, only a few of the carpels developing normally, the
remainder being unable to do so because they are not pollinated. The
same phenomenon often occurs in the cherimoya, and, less commonly, in
the sugar-apple and bullock's-heart.
Seedling trees differ in
the amount of fruit they yield. Only the most productive should be
selected for propagation. It may be possible still further to increase
their productiveness by attention to pollination, and it has been shown
that proper manuring is a great aid. Since the fruits are commonly of
large size, it cannot be expected that so small a tree will produce
many; still, the average seedling does not bear more than a small
proportion of the crop it could safely carry to maturity, and the
object of future investigations should be to obtain varieties which
will be more productive.
In various parts of the world the tree
is attacked by several scale insects, and the fruits by some of the
fruit-flies, notably the Mediterranean fruit-fly.
the soursop is usually effected in the tropics by seed. Choice
varieties which originate as chance seedlings, however, can only be
perpetuated by some vegetative means.
P. J. Wester has found
that the species can be budded in the same manner as the cherimoya. He
recommends as stock-plants the bullock's-heart and the pond-apple, both
described below. Seeds are germinated in the same manner as those of
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