Atemoya is a crossbreed between two fruits. It is a hybrid of the cherimoya (botanical name Annona cherimola) and the sugar apple (botanical name Annona squamosa). Both these fruits have their origin in the tropical regions of America. This fruit is extremely popular in Taiwan, where the people call it "pineapple sugar apple". As a result, people occasionally mistake atemoya to be a cross between the pineapple and the sugar apple.
Atemoya is an extremely succulent and even flavourful. It tastes somewhat sweet and tart, reminding one of piña colada. The flavour of atemoya is also similar to that of vanilla, which is attributed to its parent - the sugar apple.
Usually, the atemoya fruit is rounded or heart-shaped having a light green bumpy skin, which easily gets bruised. While harvesting the fruit, one should be extra cautious to ensure that the stalk remaining on the fruit after being clipped from the bough does not stick out away from the shoulders.
In order to harvest atemoya fruits at the perfect stage, it is necessary to pick them frequently. In other words, the fruits should be picked as soon as the creamy lines appear in the region of their areoles displaying the widening space between them.
The atemoya tree bears close resemblance to that of the cherimoya. This is a rapidly growing tree that may attain a height of anything between 25 feet and 30 feet (7.5 meters and 9.0 meters). This tree usually has a short trunk and its branches are normally drooping, with the lowest branch almost touching the ground.
The leaves of atemoya trees are deciduous, appear alternately on the branches, elliptical shaped, rubber-like and have fewer hairs compared to the cherimoya leaves. Each leaf is about 6 inches (15 cm) long.
The flowers appear on elongated stalks and are triangular shaped having a yellow hue. Each flower measures about 2 3/8 inches (6 cm) in length and 1 1/2 to 2 inches (4 cm to 5 cm) wide. The flowers give way to fruits that are heart or conical shaped, usually measuring 4 inches (10 cm) in length and up to 3 3/4 inches (9.5 cm) across.
The fruits are reasonably heavy with some fruits weighing up to 5 lbs (2.25 kg). The color of the fruits varies from pea-green to light bluish-green and between the areoles they are somewhat yellowish.
The rind of the atemoya fruits is roughly 1/ 8 inches (3 mm) broad and it is made up of fused areoles, which are further conspicuous as well as angular compared to those of sugar apple. The tips of the fruits are somewhat upturned or rounded. The rind is otherwise supple, firm and indehiscent. The flesh or pulp of the fruit is aromatic, with a fine texture and snowy-white color.
The flesh is nearly solid, not prominently divided into segments and has very less seeds compared to the sugar apple. The pulp is sweet and partially acidic and its flavour bears resemblance to that of cherimoya. The seeds have a cylindrical shape, measuring about 3/4 inch in length and 5/16 inch in width. They have a deep brown color almost appearing as black. The seeds are hard, but smooth to touch.
The fruits of atemoya are available commercially throughout the period between August and September. They can be purchased from any supermarket chains or any other place where tropical fruits are sold.
While buying the atemoya fruits you should ensure that they do not have any bruises or any other flaws. At the same time, you should always opt for the fruits that are somewhat soft when touched.
If an atemoya fruit is slightly soft, it is an indication of the fact that the fruit is partially ripened. Purchasing such fruits is always preferable as you can store them at normal room temperature at home for a prolonged period. However, this is not possible when you purchase fully ripened fruits.
In addition to having a sweet and appealing flavour, the atemoya fruit may prove to be a valuable addition to your everyday diet. The primary reason for this is that atemoya fruits contain fewer amounts of fats, while they do not have any cholesterol.
The atemoya fruit offers several health benefits, such as lowering high blood pressure, aiding in weight loss programs, and augmenting the energy levels in the body. Normally, people consume the ripened atemoya fruit fresh. Occasionally, people also add the pulp of this fruit to desserts and ice creams.
This fruit is loaded with vitamin C, which is a natural and potent antioxidant. As most of us are aware, consuming fruits containing rich amounts of vitamin C helps our body to augment resistance against various infectious agents. At the same time, this vitamin helps to forage detrimental, inflammation causing free radicals and eliminating them.
The atemoya fruits also contain excellent amounts of sugars, which provide our body with requisite energy. At the same time, these fruits are a wonderful source of various vitamins, essential minerals and dietary fiber, which are needed by our body to carry out the different functions effectively as well as promote the health of the different organs and systems.
Consumption of this fruit is also effective in keeping the blood pressure in check. The atemoya fruit contains vitamin B6, which is vital for the proper functioning of the brain, antibody synthesis and also red blood cell (erythrocyte) production.
Aside from offering a number of health benefits, the atemoya also has several culinary uses. Ideally, the atemoya should be eaten chilled, as this makes the fruit extremely delicious. This fruit does not require any seasoning. You may just cut the fruit into halves or four pieces and eat the flesh after scooping it out with a spoon.
You may also add atemoya pulp cubes or slices to salads, fruit cups or a variety of dessert preparations. Many people also blend the pulp of atemoya with lime juice, orange juice and cream and keep it in a refrigerator for consuming later in the form of ice creams.
Compared to the sugar apple, the atemoya is somewhat more enduring. Nevertheless, this fruit tree is confined to the tropical regions or the lowlands close to the tropics. It is said that this tree grows best in New South Wales when grown close to the coasts, where the humidity and rainfall are high, while the winters are warm. However, rains during the ripening of the fruits may harm the fruits, causing them to split on the trees.
The atemoya trees possess the aptitude to thrive on a variety of soil types ranging from sandy loam to red basalt or even heavy clay. However, their growth is best when they are cultivated in deep, fertile loam having a medium texture and excellent organic content. In addition, the soil should ideally contain reasonable amounts of moisture. These trees require a good drainage system, as water clogging can even kill the trees.
Atemoyas for the purpose of rootstocks are usually raised from seeds that germinate within roughly four weeks when sown in seedbeds. Young seedlings are subsequently moved to nursery rows and when they are about a year old, they are transplanted in rows with 18 inches (45 cm) intervals. The rows are 3 feet (90 cm) apart to provide the plant enough space for proper growth.
If you want to top work the older trees, it should only be done by bark-grafting or cleft-grafting. After the trees have shed their leaves, scion (graft) wood is collected from specific cultivars. In India as well as in Florida, the atemoya is generally grafted onto sugar apple or custard apple trees. In Israel, cherimoya is often used in the form of a rootstock.
Chemical analysis of the atemoya fruit has confirmed that it contains elevated amounts of vitamin C, vitamin B6 and the essential mineral potassium. At the same time, this hybrid fruit also encloses small amounts of folate, niacin, vitamin B1 and vitamin B2.
While the atemoya fruit is delicious and offers a number of health benefits, its seeds contain toxic substances. Hence, it is important to remove the seeds and then consume the fruit. In case the seeds are crushed or damaged, their toxin content may even spread to the flesh or pulp. As a result, it is advisable that you avoid eating fruits with damaged seeds.
Harvesting of atemoya fruits is done manually by clipping them from the branches. While clipping the fruits, care needs to be taken to ensure that the stalk remaining on the fruit does not extend further than its shoulders. In order to harvest the fruits at the perfect stage, it is necessary to undertake picking frequently.
Ideally, the fruits should be picked when they show creamy lines in the region of their areoles, meaning that the spaces between the areoles are widening. If the fruits are picked earlier than the perfect time, they will not ripen further, but their color will become dark and shrink.
Mealy bugs form colonies on atemoya fruits and, hence, it becomes essential to clean those using brushes. Alternatively, the fruits may be cleaned with compressed air prior to marketing them. It is worth noting that atemoya fruits should never be wrapped as doing so will only hasten their ripening.
On the other hand, they should be packed in boxes and padded between the layers. As the shape of these fruits is irregular, they need to be fitted carefully together with the base of every fruit. In addition, they should be packed against the boxes' walls and the apex, which is more delicate, would be kept innermost in the boxes.