Have you ever seen a pale green or somewhat blue-green fruit that looks like a giant raspberry? If you have then most likely you have seen a sugar apple fruit, otherwise known as sweetsop, or custard apple. This heart-shaped fruit is covered in segmented knobs that look almost like scales both on the inside and the outside, giving it a raspberry-like appearance. The fruit has a creamy white or light yellow flesh that has a pleasant aroma, and flavor that is very similar to custard.
Sugar Apple Tree
But what is a sugar apple tree, and where did it come from? The Sugar Apple tree, scientifically named Annona squamosa, is a widely grown species that belongs to the Annonaceae family and is indigenous to the West Indies and tropical Americas.
The deciduous sugar apple trees range from 10 to 20 feet in height with an open, spreading, and upright growth habit. Their branches are long and slender, and the leaves are thin, dull to pale-green in color, hairy when young but smooth once they mature. The pendulous flowers of the Sugar Apple tree typically emerge in mid-to-late spring. The fruits are in season 3 to 4 months after flowering.
Sugar apples are usually eaten out of hand by detaching the fleshy segments from the peel and spitting the seeds out. It can also be pressed through a sieve and used as an ingredient in making ice cream.
How to Grow a Sugar Apple Tree?
Sugar Apple Trees can be propagated using the traditional method of seed propagation. However, using this method has certain disadvantages including high genetic variability, low germination rate, late start of harvest, and excessive tree heights.
The best way to grow a Sugar Apple tree is propagating via grafting method. This ensures that the trees have the same genetic identity of a high quality parent, a higher production rate, and grow into manageable healthy trees with better quality fruits.
Care for a Sugar Apple Tree
Sugar Apple trees are mainly grown in areas with warm climates that have temperatures ranging from 23-34°C, or 73-93°F. They prefer a relatively higher humidity during flowering and fruiting seasons. Wind protection may also be needed to enhance the trees’ growth and lower the drying effect of winds. Additional considerations are listed below to properly care for a Sugar Apple tree.
- Sugar Apple trees thrive in well-draining soil including sand and limestone. On the other hand, trees planted in muck soil are most likely to grow more vigorously but may produce less fruits due to high nitrogen content. Keep in mind though that Sugar Apple trees are highly intolerant of flooded soil or standing water.
- Although tolerant of drought conditions, fruit production and Sugar Apple fruit size may be reduced. Continuous drought may cause stress to the tree and result in defoliation. The tree should be watered every 2-4 weeks to encourage vegetative growth or every 3-5 days during flowering and fruiting seasons.
- The application of complete fertilizer is highly recommended during the initial years of growth. Once the tree has matured, you can then start using a 3:10:10 fertilizer to spur flowering, fruit setting, and speed time to harvest.