Soursop

Soursop is a tropical fruit, originating from the tropical regions of the Americas, mainly the Caribbean and Central America. Also known by the names graviola, guanábana, Brazilian paw paw, and guyabano, the fruit is now grown and cultivated across the globe in temperate regions.

Soursop grows on the evergreen tree Annona muricata, in the same family as the cherimoya. The tree prefers temperate, humid climates—it can die if the temperature gets close to freezing. Mexico is the world’s main producer, followed by Peru, Guatemala, Haiti, Ecuador, and Brazil.

The exterior of the fruit is dark green and with spiny bumps. The oval- or heart-shaped pieces can grow up to a foot long and weigh up to 15 pounds. The exterior can be peeled away, similar to a banana.

The interior flesh, however, is more similar in appearance to the cherimoya. The name soursop is a reference to the tangy, acidic bite of the fruit’s flesh, which is what differentiates it from the cherimoya, which is more cloying.  The shiny black seeds are not edible.

There are several different varieties, and a study group in Puerto Rico identified 14 different varieties in a tiny area between Aibonito and Coamo! In Central American countries, they tend to be divided into ‘sour’ and ‘sweet’ categories.

The sour variety is quite acidic and is mostly used in drinks. The sweet variety is more popular, thanks to its lower acidity. 

Soursop is often eaten fresh, but can also be blended into juices or smoothies. In Asia, the fruit is also cooked—boiled in water and sugar to make a sweet, in Indonesia, or used in a popular dessert called Ais Kacang, in Malaysia.

Soursop has loads of medicinal uses in traditional medicine. The juice is used as a diuretic, unripe fruits have been used to cure dysentery, and the flesh has been used topically to remove chiggers and heal skin problems.

Soursop is difficult to find in the United States, except for in the southernmost states, such as Florida and California. You can look for it in Latino markets; otherwise, you are likely to only find frozen pulp or juice.

When shopping for a soursop, look for one with yellow-green skin. If the skin is dark green, the soursop will not be ripe for a week or more yet. A ripe soursop will feel slightly mushy to the touch.

How do you eat soursop?

When eating soursop, the skin and seeds should be discarded. To prepare soursop to eat, cut the rind off with a sharp knife, as you would a watermelon, or make a cut on one side and peel the skin off like a banana. Then, cut the fruit into edible-sized pieces, removing the seeds.

Soursop is often used to make juice, or mixed with a dairy or vegetable milk to make a smoothie or milkshake. It is also great for use in a custard or ice cream. In Indonesia, it is cooked down to be added to soups and other warm, savory foods.

What does soursop taste like?

Soursop tastes like a combination of tart berries and pineapple but with a tangy, citrus flavor behind it. This distinctive sour note contrasts with the creamy texture, which is reminiscent of sweeter fruits and desserts, like banana or custard.

When is soursop in season?

Soursop flowers and fruits year-round, although each different zone has a peak harvest period. In many areas, March through June is the best time to find and eat it. 

Health benefits

Soursop is good for you. Below are some of the health benefits that you may get by eating this fruit on a regular basis. 

  1. Soursop has loads of antioxidants. It is rich in antioxidants, which have a proven ability to reduce the harmful effects of free radicals, which damage cells and can lead to cancer.
  2. Soursop may help to fight cancer. Studies working with an extract from the fruit have shown it to be effective in reducing tumors and killing cancer cells. The fruit may have an effect on fighting the spread of cancer.
  3. Soursop can be beneficial for blood sugar. The fruit helps to regulate blood sugar levels, keeping them nice and low as a result of intaking the fruit. This is particularly helpful for those who suffer from diabetes.
  4. Soursop has antibacterial properties. It may help kill off harmful bacteria in your system. Studies have shown it can be especially effective on oral diseases such as gingivitis, tooth decay, and yeast infections.
  5. Soursop may help to reduce inflammation. It does have some properties, including antioxidants that can reduce inflammation.

5 x Soursop facts

1) In the United States, the name soursop is considered so unappetizing that scientists in the 1950s proposed changing it to make it more appealing.

2) In South America, a wasp, Bephratelloides maculicollis, lays its larvae in the seeds and they emerge as wasps from the fully-grown ripe fruit. This leaves the fruit full of holes and highly perishable.

3) In a medical textbook from British Guiana, soursop is touted as a cure for drunkenness in this rather entertaining passage that instructs the read to break up the leaves in water, then “squeeze a couple of limes therein, get a drunken man and rub his head well with the leaves and water and give him a little of the water to drink and he gets as sober as a judge in no time.”

4) The fruit was discovered in South America by Spanish explorers, who later sailed with it around Africa and introduced it to the East.

5) Some studies have shown the stems and the leaves of the soursop tree to be highly effective at killing cancer cells, some even claiming it to be 10,000 times stronger than Adriamycin, a chemotherapy drug.

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