The fruit of the soursop tree has a spiny outer skin with a soft, heavily seed-laden pulped interior. This small evergreen tree produces the largest fruit in the Annonaceae family and is often a lopsided heart shape. The white segments of the soursop fruit are primarily seedless, although a few seeds are present. The seeds and bark are toxic and contain poisonous alkaloids such as anonaine, muricine, and hydrocyanic acids.
A low-branching, bushy tree Annona muricata is known as soursop in English. The soursop tree, which can grow from 25 to 30 feet tall, produces an oval-shaped fruit with tender yellow-green skin and white, juicy flesh often made into drinks, sherbet, preserves, and sweets.
How to Grow Soursop Trees
- The soursop tree can reach a height of 30 feet and is soil tolerant, although it flourishes in well-drained, sandy soil with a pH of 5-6.5.
- A tropical specimen, this low branching, and the bushy tree does not tolerate cold or strong sustained winds. It will, however, grow at sea level and up to elevations of 3,000 feet in tropical climes.
- A rapid grower, the trees produce their first crop three to five years from seeding. Seeds stay viable for up to six months but better success is met by planting within 30 days of harvest and seeds will germinate within 15-30 days.
- Propagation is usually through seeds; however, fibreless varieties can be grafted. Seeds should be washed before planting.
- Transplant 12-inch-high seedlings into the yard in the spring, spacing them at least 12 feet apart.
- Dig holes large enough to contain the root ball of each plant.
- Cover the base of the plant with soil, then add 3 inches of mulch to keep it moist.
- Water soursop plants often enough to keep the soil moist, but not wet, during hot weather.
- When the weather turns cool in the winter, reduce water intake. Soursop plants tolerate drought well but can develop pest problems if kept too wet.
- Treat soursop plants with 10-10-10 fertilizer.
- When harvesting soursop, the fruit will change from dark green to a lighter yellowish green tone. The spines of the fruit will soften and the fruit will swell.
- Soursop fruit will take between four to five days to ripen once picked.
Harvest the fruit while it is still firm and yellow-green in colour. Do not allow the fruit to soften on the tree. Instead, store firm fruit in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days until it becomes soft to the touch.