Soursop is a member of the family Annonaceae or Custard-apple family of the genus Annona L. commonly known as Annona and contains the species Annona muricata L. or soursop. The plant is native to the West Indies and northern regions of South America and can be found today throughout the tropical climates of the world. A Puerto Rican professor renamed the plant guanabana in 1951, adding to its nomenclature. It is a landscape decorative tree in southeastern Florida and the Florida Keys. In tropical America soursop is a commercial export. The tree is used as a decorative landscape in Florida and a cash crop in other parts of the world. It is a versatile food that can be used as an ingredient in many recipes; however, the seeds are toxic and must be removed. Soursop is rich in nutrients and has been used as a medicinal herb to treat many maladies.
The soursop tree grows to a height of twenty-five to thirty feet with low branches that produce malodorous leaves that are compound with leaflets growing from a main stem and can mature to eight inches with glossy, smooth dark green on the upper surface and a lighter shade of green on the under surface. Single flowers bloom from the trunk, branches, or twigs with petals of yellow-green and an inner set of yellow petals. The fruit can be oval, heart-shaped, or irregularly shaped growing from four to twelve inches in length with a diameter as wide as six inches. It has a leathery, bitter inedible outer skin that is dark green in color and turns a yellow-green when mature. The flesh is snow white with a fibrous texture and juicy segments with a flavor similar to pineapple. The fruit contains from twelve to 200 seeds that are oval and can be one-half to three -quarters of an inch; they are smooth, hard, and black.
Health Benefits of Soursop
Soursop is rich in vitamin C, and contains thiamine, folate, vitamin A, and niacin. Iron, potassium, and magnesium are also present in the fruit, along with fiber and protein. The antioxidants in the vitamin C make soursop a healing herb.
There are many benefits to adding soursop to the diet. Its antioxidant and beta-carotene content helps prevent ocular diseases, reducing the risk of developing macular degeneration and inhibiting the growth of tumors. The leaves have anti-inflammatory properties, making them useful in dealing with root canal infections. The leaves also have been effective in the treatment of cancer.
Soursop also contains copper, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid. It has been used effectively in the treatment of diabetes by balancing the blood sugar levels. It aids digestion, decreases the development of stomach ulcers, and reduces the effects of irritable bowel disease and Crohn’s disease. It is an excellent pain reliever and is useful in relieving the pain caused by arthritis. Soursop promotes liver health by balancing the level of bilirubin in the liver, thus reversing jaundice.
How to Grow Soursop
Growing soursop is no different than growing any tropical tree. It is very sensitive to cold and likes acid, sandy soil that is well-draining. The plant does well in full sunlight but must be shielded from wind. It is usually grown from seed and will begin to produce fruit within three years of germination, though it does not produce a high yield. Once the seedlings reach the height of one foot, thin to approximately twelve to fifteen feet apart. Mulching will prevent dehydration and it is advised to fertilize new trees every quarter for the first year.
How to Eat Soursop
Soursop is used in many recipes and can be eaten fresh. It is made into drinks, as an ingredient in fruit cups, and as a creamy juice. It is an ingredient in alcoholic beverages and is made into custard. Soursop can be cooked and used as a side dish, much like vegetables, and can be boiled, roasted, or fried. It is important to remove the seeds before eating the fruit.