From the Archives
of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia, inc.
by Chris Gray
The Delightful Sugar Apple
of the lesser known but nevertheless delightful tropical fruits which
is relatively easy to grow is the Sugar Apple. It is often called
Custard Apple, and it belongs to the botanical family, Annonaceae.
species like so many other exotic fruits, originated in the tropics of
South America. They were obviously well-known to the early inhabitants
of that continent, as it is now widely scattered in places like Mexico,
West Indies, India, Spain, Israel and Australia.
delicious fruit is heart-shaped, 3 to 4 inches in diameter, skin bumpy
and green with juicy, sweet, white flesh, neatly encasing several shiny
black seeds. The fruit is classed as excellent.
The trees are
semi-deciduous, shedding a large portion of their leaves by the end of
winter. They are usually an open tree; fairly small, but often grow to
around 5 metres tall. Flowering usually occurs first in spring after
bud burst, but very few of these flowers set fruit. Sometimes a poor
set of misshapen fruit will occur, mainly due to poor pollination.
Humid weather seems to help pollination, and further flowering after
spring seem to have a better fruit set.
Being a tropical plant,
they require a fairly hot climate, such as coastal regions of northern
NSW and Queensland. In such areas the temperatures are not excessive,
and there is normally sufficient humidity during the flowering period
to ensure a good crop. Young trees must be protected from frosts but
when mature, will usually withstand light to moderate frost.
textured soils which are well-drained and will grow bananas
successfully, are quite suitable for the sugar apple. Care should be
taken that the soil is well-drained. Mounding is a good idea when soils
are of heavy clay. The amount of water applied during the growing
season will depend on the frequency and extent of the rainfall
received. When rainfall is low, the trees should be regularly and
thoroughly watered, but care must be taken to avoid excessive watering,
as it may cause the onset of root rot.
The sugar apple responds to regular application of nitrogen,
phosphorous and potassium.
they are also a member of the Annonaceae family, zinc deficiency
symptoms are frequently seen in the form of stunted shoot growth, with
small mottled leaves. Zinc deficiency can normally be corrected by
spraying the trees in spring with a mixture of 10 grams of zinc
sulphate in 10 litres of water. Sometimes a follow-up spray will be
required again the following spring.
Seedlings usually come into
flowering when three to four years old. Some are more productive than
others and there is much variation in the size and quality of fruit
produced by different trees. When there is an unusually good tree, it
should be propagated by budding on to sugar apple seedlings.
of mature trees involves cutting off any branches which crowd the
centre of the tree, and any other whip-like shoots are shortened back.
After bud burst is the best time to prune, when the sap flow has begun.
Fruit is produced on shoots which grew the previous season, as well as
those which grew two years earlier.
The best way to pick the
fruit is when it matures. That is when the spaces between the segments
fill out and become lighter in colour. The fruit should be clipped from
the tree level with the shoulder of the fruit while the fruit is still
firm, then allow it to ripen at room temperature. If the fruit is
harvested too early, it will not ripen and soften properly.
only a minor crop in our northern states, there appears to be little
reason why more of this fruit should not be grown, as this delightful
fruit should easily find a ready market.
to Sugar Apple Page