LET’S TALK ABOUT THE CUSTARD APPLE. THE PARADOX OF ORIGIN AND PRODUCTION
Cherimoya ( Annona cherimolla ) is a fruit known to all, but not consumed by so many. However, Spain is currently the world’s leading producer of this very sweet and curious fruit. If you want to know more about its cultivation and why we have become its biggest producers, just click on it when you read more that you have below. You still want to buy them! (when the clear moment comes).
HAVE YOU TRIED THE CUSTARD APPLE?
It seems like a silly question, although there are people who are not used to buying it and even less to eating it in Spain. It is curious but many times it goes unnoticed among the selection of fruits of habitual consumption. And it is even more curious when you learn that Spain leads the world production of this fruit overwhelmingly. Sources cite that around 80% of world production comes from Spain, although this figure has been around for a while and this percentage is currently decreasing. You may think that it is a typically Spanish fruit because how could such a production be conceived if it were not from here? Well, its origin is South American and from the Andean areaalthough the adaptation to the Mediterranean climate has been unbeatable. So, if it is not so common in Spain, and its origin is not here … why is this production leadership due? Very easy. It is a combination of national consumption, European demand, its limited endurance in post-harvest and subtropical climatic needs. This makes Spain an ideal place for its cultivation.within the European environment to produce quality ripe fruit and with a relatively short time from harvest to consumer. The next world producer is Chile, but the cherimoya that comes from there ripens outside the tree (they are harvested very green) so that they last long enough to reach European markets in good condition. This results in a much less sweet and lower quality fruit. Production in Spain is concentrated in Malaga and Granada due to their climatic conditions. The Canary Islands is also an ideal place for its cultivation.
CURIOSITIES OF THE CUSTARD APPLE
- If you have not tried custard apple, you should know that it is a very sweet fruit with a slight acid touch but almost imperceptible due to its sugar content (close to 20%). It also contains a high protein value if we compare it with other fruits. It also contains a high content of phosphorus and calcium . When they are ripe, the pulp is very creamy and they are usually eaten fresh.
- When you see a custard apple, you are not seeing just one fruit. You are looking at a cluster. The fruitlessness of the custard apple is something similar to a pineapple of small fruits, which are welded together forming the whole that you know as custard apple.
- Pollination is somewhat complicated since the flowers present dicogamy, that is, each flower enters the male or female phase at different times of the day, so natural self-pollination becomes complicated.
CLIMATIC POSSIBILITIES OF CHERIMOYA PLANTATION IN SPAIN
From the tropical latitudes to which it belongs by origin, currently the ideal climate is humid subtropical . It is sensitive to low temperatures, although its deciduous behavior in cold periods makes it somewhat tolerant in times of “rest”. The cold in the periods of flowering and fruit set ruin the production. Above 30ºC irregularities occur in growth and fruit set. It also needs relatively constant humidity around 70%, so the southern coastal areas are the most suitable.
It has a very good adaptation to different types of soil, even those of not very good quality. It is not the most limiting factor of the crop. Taking this into account, say that you prefer loamy soils with drainage and rich in organic matter . What we have to watch a bit is to avoid waterlogging and the pH, which must be neutral since alkalinity produces chlorosis with relative ease that we must correct in case it occurs.
The water supply is high. It is very demanding due to the high evapotranspiration of the crop. Blanket irrigation is the traditional method, although it is being replaced by localized micro-sprinkler irrigation that provides a more constant supply and reduces the chances of waterlogging.
CUSTARD APPLE POST-HARVEST IS SOMEWHAT DELICATE
If there are fruits that are delicate , these are custard apples. Others such as strawberries, or fruits of the forest such as raspberries or blueberries are packed between cotton wool because any blow destroys the fine skin of the fruit. The case of the custard apple is exactly the same. Also, due to its weight, a fall or blow is fatal. Even friction between fruits is also harmful so that is why we see it so much with white protective plastic foam nets, fruit by fruit.
PRUNING THE CUSTARD APPLE
A 3 or 4 branch vase formation pruning is carried out. Fruiting pruning is done by eliminating suckers and above all to limit branches in height and leave the tree with a low bearing of 2-2.5 m to allow manual handling without complications both in pollination and harvesting.
POLLINATION OF THE CUSTARD APPLE. THE MOST IMPORTANT
This is perhaps the most laborious point of the crop to get a good yield. When we say performance we mean business performance. It is possible that if you have the opportunity to have a custard apple in the garden, you will not need to pollinate it manually to get good fruits for your own consumption by family and friends. There are people who get the custard apple to self-pollinate but it is always advisable to do it manually to avoid deformation of the fruit due to insufficient pollination. Hand pollination can provide up to 5 times more fruit than naturally.
To achieve manual pollination we have to collect the pollen from the male flower early in the afternoon and keep the pollen cold until the next morning when we will pollinate the flowers that will present their female phase with that pollen. We leave you a video that perfectly illustrates the manual pollination of the custard apple through the La Palma Agrarian Channel .
Flowering is usually in late spring and early summer depending on climates and varieties, so that will be the time to pollinate. Once this task is done, the fruit will develop until its full maturity, which will be during the fall.