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Jamaican Custard Apple

A few days after I arrived home, Michael knocked on my backdoor. A reddish fruit sat cushioned on the palm of his outstretched hand. I had not idea what it was and I was hoping he hadn’t noticed the slight look of ambivalence on my face.

The skin was smooth, almost velvety to the touch but it had a few marks that made me wonder if a little fruit fly had built a home in it.

Custard Apple
Custard Apple

It’s a custard apple, my cousin said when she dropped by later and I felt silly about my initial ambivalence. Still, I searched my memory trying to recall if I’d ever seen or eaten one before.

The skin gave way easily as I pressed it and a fragrant and familiar scent greeted me when I broke the fruit open. The pulp looked exactly like the fruit we call sweetsop, with the same granular, custardy consistency (probably how it got its name) and just as sugar-sweet. Like the sweetsop, it had small sacs covering black seeds.

So what’s the custard apple? The custard apple (annona reticulata) is from the same family as the fruit we call sweetsop in Jamaica. In fact, when I searched for custard apple, I found several sites that described the sweetsop instead.

Custard Apple or Sweetsop?

I was confused and curious. Did I have the right fruit? I emailed a copy of the photo to my aunt. She confirmed that it was the custard apple. I also asked a friend from Trinidad. Many of the fruits we have in Jamaica are found in other parts of the Caribbean but usually called by different names.

Jamaican Custard Apple
Sweetsop (photo from

I thought Leesha was describing the custard apple until she printed a photo from the Internet and showed it to me. It was the sweetsop (annona squamosa), which is also called sugar apple. I added Jamaica to my search parameters and found one photo that looked like the fruit we call custard apple but she didn’t recognize it. Neither did my friend, Delma, who’s from Grenada.

The custard apple is known by many names including Jamaica apple, netted custard apple, bullock’s heart and bull’s heart (some think it’s shaped like a heart). A native of the Caribbean, it is found in Central and South America, Africa and Asia.

It is full of vitamins, iron, fiber, protein, magnesium, potassium, and other minerals.

Like the naseberry I wrote about in last week’s FoodieTuesday, the custard apple is in season now. So if you’re headed to Jamaica, see if you can find it and give it a try. I think you’ll like it.

Custard Apple Sorbet

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  1. 3 cups custard-apple pulp
  2. 1 cup (8 oz.) plain yogurt
  3. 1 tablespoon honey
  4. 1 tablespoon lime juice
  1. Puree pulp in processor or blender. Add other ingredients. Freeze in ice-cream freezer. Makes about 1 quart.
Adapted from
Adapted from

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