Custard Apple (Seethaphal/Seethapazham/Aatha Chakka/Bullock’s Heart) belongs to the Annonaceae family which is believed to be a native of the West Indies. It is now grown in many sub-tropical countries. There are over 2000 varieties in this group. But only fruits of five of these are eaten.
Annona reticulate which we call custard apple is a popular one. The same name is sometimes also applied to Annona cherimola (cherimoya), Annona squamosa (sugar apple or sweetsop), Annona senegalensis (wild custard apple) and citrus related Casimiroa edulis (white sapote).
The ripe fruit is gently opened and the sweetish white flesh which coats the several black seeds inside, is eaten. Actually, it can be used in making ice creams, milkshakes and custards. Some recipes may be found at http://abhi-recipecollection.blogspot.in/2009/02/fruits.html The seeds are not consumed.
In India, the custard apple, like guavas (see Guavas: A poor man’s superfood) is considered to be a low class fare. The medicinal and nutritive value of the fruit is not understood by most people.
Before going to the fruits, let us have a look at the medicinal aspects of the other parts of the custard apple shrub. A decoction made from the roots is considered to be a coolant which reduces fever. The bark which has astringents and tannin is used in preparing herbal medicines, particularly for controlling diarrhea and dysentery. One of the applications is to soothe gum pain and tooth aches. The leaves are supposed to have cancer cure properties.
The flesh paste or crushed leaves are considered to be effective in treating ulcers, boils and abscesses. Dried and powdered un-ripened fruit is used to eradicate lice. It is not clear how much scientific work has been done in all these areas.
Now let us have a look at the nutritional value of custard apple. The fruit has protein, minerals, fibre, but only insignificant fat. It contains Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B2 potassium and magnesium and copper. These keep the heart healthy and controls blood pressure. They are good for the eyes, the skin, and the hair. Custard apple helps digestive problems.
Make this ‘poor man’s fruit a regular part of your diet and reap the health benefits. Calorific value of custard apple and further details can be seen at
Images: Wikimedia Commons (top), photo by me (below)