By: Martin L. Price
Published: 1996-10-19


Though I (MLP) enjoy many fruits, there are few that I consider a fully adequate dessert. The atemoya is one of those few. Most evenings this past month my wife and I have cut in half one fist-sized fruit, well chilled in the refrigerator, and enjoyed what we call “atemoya on the half shell” for dessert. We eat it with a grapefruit spoon right out of the thin rind.

Atemoya is a 1908 man-made cross between two members of the annona family, cherimoya (Annona cherimola) and sugar apple (A. squamosa). Soursop and custard apple are other annonas. The name comes from an old Mexican name for sugar apple “ate” and the “moya” from cherimoya.

 

The snow-white flesh is much firmer than a sugar apple and the seeds less numerous. The tree bears over a period of perhaps a month. Knowing when to pick it can be difficult. The ideal time to pick it is a few minutes before it falls to the ground! Since that is seldom possible, we usually look under the tree twice a day and pick them from the ground. This process would not be suitable for commercial growers, but works fine in the back yard. Green fruit ripens in a few days if picked close to maturity. If picked too soon, the fruit will not ripen.

Florida homeowners plant grafted trees. For the purpose of introducing atemoya into a new region, there is a good chance that many if not most seedling trees will produce good-tasting fruit, and will probably bear in about three years. You can then graft the best few in future generations.

A fruit of the hot, humid tropics, atemoya will withstand modest freezes (reflecting the cherimoya, a high-altitude annona, in its ancestry)