IFAS Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Service
One of my favorite times of the year is when the annona fruits
are in season. Particularly good are the atemoyas, which are hybrids between
the cherimoya Annona cherimola and sugar apple A. squamosa.
This fruit is also important as a commercial fruit in southern Florida,
but it makes an excellent dooryard fruit throughout many areas that are
not subjected to severe freezes.
Atemoyas are small-to-medium-size trees growing to about twenty-five
to thirty feet at maturity with about the same spread. Flowers are produced
along with new growth in the spring following a winter dormancy period,
and the fruit usually begin maturing in late August through the end of October.
Atemoyas look very similar in some cases to sugar apples, except
they have a smoother skin and the individual segments aren't quite as
obvious. Most atemoyas have fewer seeds, too, than sugar apples, which
makes them a lot easier to eat as a fresh fruit.
One parent of the atemoya, the cherimoya, is considered one of the
finest fruits in the world, but it is only happy at elevations above three
thousand feet, and does very poorly when grown at sea level. However,
when it is hybridized with sugar apple, a lowland fruit of good quality,
the resulting hybrid, called the atemoya, is excellent; in some people's
opinion, it is almost as good as a cherimoya, although I think cherimoyas
still are better.
The flesh in atemoyas in white, but not as soft and custardlike
as its parent sugar apple. This firmer flesh makes the atemoya much better
as a shipping fruit, and this has resulted in its commercial planting in
many areas around the world. The atemoya fruits vary in size from about
three to seven inches and generally are oval or sometimes almost round.
Fruits have a light green skin which does not change color appreciably at
maturity; only the fruit gets soft.
Fruits can be eaten fresh or used for many types of desserts such
as milkshakes and ice cream. Since it is a hybrid, it is not reproduced
by seed, and all commercial production is by grafting.
There are many varieties available, but 'Geffner' is probably the
most widely planted. Also excellent in quality are 'Page', 'Priestly',
and 'African Pride', which is also known as 'Kaller', 'Stermer', and 'Mammoth'.
Trees prefer well-drained, fertile soils for best growth and production,
and should be fertilized three to four times a year with a complete fertilizer.
Mature trees are fairly cold-hardy, and will take temperatures down to
27°F. before they sustain serious damage. Young trees, though, will
be injured by temperatures below 30°F.
Even though atemoyas have some salt tolerance, do not plant them
in extremely exposed coastal areas where strong salt winds might burn
foliage. Trees generally lose their leaves in the late fall or early winter
for a period of about two months before leafing out in the early spring.
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