What are Custard Apples?
Custard Apples are a sub-tropical deciduous tree belonging to the Annonaceae family. This family contains over 2000 members spread throughout the world. Of this family, it is the atemeoya, a hybrid of the Annona genus, that Australia's commercial cultivars derive from.
Custard Apple trees are large and spreading, shaded by large, green drooping leaves. The tree sets many light yellow trumpet shaped flowers that emit a pungent, sweet smell especially in the late afternoon when the male pollen sacks burst open. Of these flowers, only a small number will set fruit.
The Fruit takes between 20 and 25 weeks to reach maturity in sub-tropical climates where the days are not too warm and the nights not too cool.
There are two main varieties of Custard Apples, the Pinks Mammoth (or Hillary White) and the African Pride. Both are sweet, juicy and full of flavour. Click on the links or images to see an enlarged view.
Pinks Mammoth are large super sweet fruit which some growers hand pollinate at flowering to improve fruit shape. These trees can produce fruit weighing as much as 3kg. African Prides are a medium sized, well shaped 500g to 800g fruit that sets well on the tree.
Both fruit when mature have a fullness appearance with a smoothing out of the bumps.They also turn from dark green to a light green. Pinks Mammoth can also, when mature, show a yellowing between the fruit carpules.
A custard apple is ripe when you gently squeeze it and it gives slightly under your hand. Much the same as an avocado. You can buy custard apples ready to eat, or still hard to the touch and let it ripen over the next few days after purchase.
If you want to hasten the ripening process then simply put the fruit into a brown paper bag with a banana and leave it on the kitchen bench. The banana will accelerate the ripening of the custard apple.
Custard Apples are only eaten when soft, and only the flesh is eaten. To eat, simply cut in half and scoop out the white flesh. The Custard Apple should be moist with a pleasant sweet aroma. Once ripe, custard apples can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. Once the skin has gone purple or black, they have passed their best eating quality.
Both varieties are delicious and very nutritious, perfect for eating every day. Try giving some mashed custard apple to toddlers or a custard apple smoothie to the kids. A fresh and healthy alternative they will want time and time again.
See our recipes section for other great ides.
Commercial fruit growers can obtain further information from the Queensland Department of Primary Industries.