Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Sugar Apple, Anon, or Sweetsop -Annona Squamosa

Have you ever been lucky enough to enjoy a sugar apple? They look like WW II knobby hand grenades, and burst just like them when a ripe one hits the ground in August. Firm and all green, they suddenly soften over just a couple days, becoming mushy ripe, and fall to the ground (if no two or four legged bandits have seized them). Pick a near fully ripe one (below) from the tree, before it falls and goes "splat". When is it ripe? The green color becomes light yellow near the cracks between the bumpy parts, (the purplish fruits become pink at the cracks) and the fruit suddenly softens, from firm to almost a "bag of beans" softness, and soon it cracks open, to delight ants, bugs, and us. A Ripe and an Immature Sugar AppleRipe ones will fall apart in your hand, if you bounce them on your palm. Open it, smell the sweet aroma, and savor the smooth white flesh's taste. It's a lusciously rich sugary custard. Scoop out the flesh, and let your tongue seek out the subtle hints of pineapple and even lime. Mmmm! Use your tongue to separate the fruit from the oblong black seeds, then spit out the seeds, just like watermelon seeds. Enjoy the sweet finish, as you might savor a fine Sauterne, Icewine or Muscat, lingering on your lips... There! You've had your first one. See how quickly you suck down the next one! Wipe the glorious nectar off your lips and chin. If you live in USA gardening Zone 10 or 11, buy and plant a tree-you're hooked! My fruiting trees are 4 and 5 years old, grown from spindly foot tall plants, now 5 and 7 feet, respectively.
The fruit starts from a small flower, coming directly off a branch. There's no shortage of scale and other bugs sometimes.
I pinch the bugs (ugh!) to kill them during fruiting season, to avoid pesticides in the fruit. I don't pinch the rats.
Prune the tree back a lot, after harvest time, and the branches will grow back even fuller for the next season. They are related to the atemoya, cherimoya and guanabana (soursop).

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