Foods Indigenous to the Western Hemisphere

Sugar Apple

Annona Squamosa

Bullock’s heart, custard apple, anon, sweet sop, scaly custard apple

By Scott Sheu

            The Annona species (which includes the custard apple and cherimoya) can be confusing as many of their fruits share similar names and appearances.  However, the Annona Squamosa is the most widely grown variety. In Brazil, it is referred to as fruta do conde do mato which translates to “fruit of the woodland Count” (Davidson).

Geographical Description

            The sugar apple tree is native to the tropics of South America and the West Indies, and is also cultivated in Mexico, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and southern Florida.  Even in places where the sugar apple is not actively cultivated, like Jamaica and Puerto Rico, it can still be found growing in the wild (Morton).

            Annona Squamosa has also been spread throughout tropical regions of the world.  It is believed that the Spanish and Portuguese first brought it to Asia, where it is popular in countries such as the Philippines and China, though it’s biggest fan is India, where the fruit can be found throughout.

Biological Description

            The sugar apple tree or shrub is small, growing up to around 20 feet tall.  It has a short trunk and a broad, reaching branches.  The pale, dull green leaves are 2-6 inches long and 3/4-2 inches wide (Morton).  The tree produces fragrant, individualized flowers that have long, drooping stems.  They are light yellow green and have 3 large outer petals and smaller inner petals.

            The heart-shaped fruits grow in thick, woody stalks.  It is made up of pale green-colored scales that cover the segmented flesh.  The flesh is extremely fragrant, creamy yellow-white, and very juicy.  The flesh segments have a long, dark seed about ½ inches long.

Culinary Usage

            The sweet-smelling sugar apple has a soft, custard-like texture and is usually consumed fresh by simply peeling away the skin and spitting out the seeds.  However, it is also popular in shakes and drinks in many countries.  It is also frequently pureed for wine, sherbets, ice creams, and other deserts.

Other Uses

            The Annona Squamosa bark and roots are very astringent and used as a tonic to treat diarrhea and dysentery.  Likewise, a decoction of the leaves is used in South America to treat general colds.  In the Yucatan, the sugar apple is used to treat fevers and chills, while Amazonians use it for a variety ways, including in cough syrups (Kunow; Duke & Vasquez).  On a lighter note, the leaves are placed under children’s pillows in Colombia to induce sleep (Duke & Vasquez).



"Annona Squamosa." Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. Web. 13 May 2010. <>.

Castleman, Michael, and Michael Castleman. The New Healing Herbs: the Classic Guide to Nature's Best Medicines Featuring the Top 100 Time-tested Herbs. Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale, 2001. Print.

Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Duke, Jim. "Tico Ethnobotanical Dictionary." GRIN National Genetic Resources Program. Web. 13 May 2010. <>.

Duke, James A., and Rodolfo Vásquez. Amazonian Ethnobotanical Dictionary. Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC, 1994. Print.

Kunow, Marianna Appel. Maya Medicine: Traditional Healing in Yucatan. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 2003. Google Books. Web.

Morton, Julia. “Sugar Apple.” Fruits of Warm Climates. Miami: Florida Flair Books, 1987. Web. <>.

Smith, Andrew F. The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.