Indian Custard Apple Sitifal
The custard apple is an excellent source of Vitamin C-half of a medium sized fruit provides the body with the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C.
A tropical fruit tree, custard apple or Seetaphal is native to the West Indies and South America. The tree was once thought to be native to India from its mention in ancient literature, paintings and sculptures.
It is possible that custard apple was introduced to India in early times. Scientifically known as Annona squamosa, seetaphal is a member of the Annonaceae plant family. In Latin, Annona means `fruit of the year' and it is relished by the natives of tropical countries.
The plant is a semi-evergreen straggling shrub or small tree reaching 6 m in height. The flowers are produced in mature branches in clusters of 3-4, with 6 petals, which are yellow-green and drooping. Fruits develop on mature branches and are usually round or slightly pine cone-like, 6-10 cm in diameter, with scaly, lobed skin. The flesh is white or creamy white with a sugary taste and a delicate flavour.
Seeds are shining black in colour and can be easily separated from the pulp. The fruit is commonly used as a dessert. As it tastes like custard, it gets its name `Custard apple'.
Seetaphal is a prolific bearer and will produce fruits all through the year in large numbers. The tree is usually propagated by seeds and by grafting. In India, custard apple has been found to spread from the seeds, aided by animals and humans alike. Since the seeds are slightly poisonous, they are not consumed.
Grafted plants start bearing fruits within a year. The first set of fruits produced in one season is big and the last ones in that season are small. The tree flowers from March to July sometimes even up to September; the second flush appears both on old and young branches alike.
A medium-sized tree bears 1, 000-1, 500 flowers in a season, but only 2 per cent develop into fruits and the rest wilt for lack of pollination. Fruits should be plucked before they are fully ripe and stored for ripening.
Custard apple is low in calories. Hundred gm of the fruit contains 1. 6gm of proteins, 23. 5gm carbohydrates, and 0. 4gm fat. The pulp contains minerals like phosphorus, iron, calcium and vitamins like riboflavin, niacin and ascorbic acid. The pulp has 20 per cent sugars and 0. 3 per cent acids. Glucose is reported to be the main sugar followed by fructose and sucrose.
Custard apple is popular with most people in India, although, some may not relish it because of its peculiar aroma. When in abundance, the slightly raw fruit is baked or roasted and eaten. As a dessert, the pulp may be mixed with milk to make custard.
Several products such as jelly, jam, sherbet, syrup, tarts and fermented drinks are prepared from custard apple. As a tonic, the fruit is reported to enrich blood and improve muscular strength.
It is considered good for digestion and is prescribed in vomiting, diarrhoea, dysentery and vertigo. The unripe, dried and powdered fruit is used as an insecticide, particularly for lice.
Fresh Indian custardapple very much in demand in European countries season; sep
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