The name sounds intriguing — is it a fruit or a dessert? It is a fruit but is usually sweet enough to be eaten as table fruit. Round, greenish from the inside, it is tubercled and on ripening the outer skin of the fruit softens and breaks open on little pressure to reveal a soft, creamy white, sweet yet slightly tangy, pulpy substance that is scooped out to eat.
Known as sharifa in Urdu, it is native to the West Indies from where it reached southern Mexico though Central America and spread to other parts of the world including India and Pakistan.
Custard apple has a number of health benefits due to the nutrients it contains. It has adequate protein, carbohydrates, and vitamin A and C. Vitamin A in the fruit is beneficial for the skin and hair; it is good for the eyes too. Custard apple is a storehouse of vitamin C, which is an anti-oxidant and helps to combat many diseases and develop body resistance by enhancing the immune system as well as to help neutralise free-radicals. It is abundant in potassium, magnesium and contains vitamin A, calcium, copper, fibre and phosphorous. It has a high calorific value, and is able to provide sustained energy. Due to its high iron content, it is good for those suffering from anaemia. Magnesium helps maintain the water balance in the body. It helps arthritic patients by removing acids from joints. It has zero cholesterol level and is low in saturated fat.
While obese people should avoid it, the fruit is an ideal snack and / or dessert for those who wish to put on some weight. A calorie-laden fruit, the sugars present in it increase the metabolic rate, thus, stimulating appetite levels. The better your appetite is, the better your food intake will be, which, in turn, can help you gain weight.
This delicious fruit is very effective for treating indigestion. It flushes out toxins from the intestine. It also prevents stomach-related diseases like heartburn, ulcer, gastritis and acidity. One medium-sized custard apple contains six grams of dietary fibre, amounting to almost 90pc of the recommended amount. Fibre adds bulk to stools, relieving constipation.
It’s a good source of B complex vitamins, which control the GABA neuron chemical levels in the brain. This helps to bring down stress, tension, irritability and depression levels. It may also protects from Parkinson’s disease.
Regular consumption of the fruit delays ageing and keeps the skin youthful by thickening and stimulating the collagen to reduce wrinkles and fine lines. It increases the deposition of collagen and slows its breakdown, improving the elasticity of the skin. It also improves hydration in and around the cells, and helps the regeneration of skin cells thus delaying the signs of ageing.
Its seeds and leaf contain toxic alkaloids, and therefore, should not be consumed. Do not chew its seeds as this releases toxins. If a whole seed is consumed accidentally, it would not pose any threat as it passes through the gastro-intestinal tract undigested.
A custard apple decoction can also be used to relieve dysentery, cold and fever.
The juice of an unripe custard apple is useful for treating insect bites.
A paste made of custard apple leaves applied to a wound helps healing and is known to even destroy worm infestation around the wounds.
Add a custard apple leaves decoction to your bathwater to alleviate rheumatic pains. Crushed leaves of the custard apple plant can be sniffed to prevent fainting spells and dizziness while a few drops of the decoction in the nose can bring an unconscious person back to consciousness.
One has to be careful while buying custard apples. Look for fresh, light yellow, compact, completely mature fruits with intact thick stem. Completely matured fruits continue to ripen at home at room temperature. If you want to buy ripe fruits, look for those with a soft, sweet and musky aroma that can be appreciated from a distance.
Unripe fruits can be stored at home in a fruit basket where they continue to ripen and stay well for another four to five days. It cannot be stored in the refrigerator for a long period. However, juiced or pureed, the fruit may be kept inside the freezer for several weeks.
Custard apple ice ream
And now try this yummy custard apple ice cream. A friend passed on the recipe.
1 cup custard apple pulp
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup condensed milk
1/4 tsp vanila / mix fruit essence (optional)
Whip the cream till soft peaks forms. Add in the pulp, condensed milk and essence and mix well. Transfer in bowl with a lid. Close the lid and freeze. Keep mixing it using a fork after every 30-40 minutes (twice or thrice). Let it set. Enjoy !
If you don’t like chunks of custard apple in the ice cream you can blend it.
All ingredients can be simply mixed in a blender and frozen. It will yield the same taste but the texture will be heavy.
Nuts can be added.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, March 20th, 2016