Hand Pollinating My Custard Apple (Aka. Sugar Apple, Cherimoya)

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Cherimoya female flower
A custard apple female flower. Note the pedals are not wide open at the pulp .

I’ve heard custard apple, often times, being called interchangeably as sugar apple, cherimoya, sweetsop, soursop; however if you research you’ll see there are slight differences between them. My custard apple tree is the New Zealand custard apple variety, a little smaller fruits, and the meat is pure white with sweeter taste and a slightly chewy texture (which I like). It is a flavorful tropical fruit that may sound/look strange to some people, but let me ensure you it tastes fantastic! like an intricate blend of banana, pineapple and vanilla. As exotic as they are, custard apples are quite expensive and may not even be available in most markets. Here in Southern California, the Mexican cherimoyas (IMO, an inferior variety in terms of taste) are sold in some Asian grocery stores during season for $6/lb.  I have not seen this New Zealand/Australian type available in local Asian markets, if they were I guess they would probably go for $7-8/lb.  I’m a simple person, this is enough to make me happy about growing my own tree.

hand pollinate cherimoya flower
Hand pollinate custard apple flowers using a small brush or Q-tip.

I got my grafted tree last year, already 5ft tall (yeah, I cheated, but I wanted some fruit trees for our new home NOW). It shed most its leaves during the Winter, I fertilized and pinched the rest of left-over yellow leaves to encourage new growths; then in Spring it flushed out brand new leaves and, to my pleasant surprise, full of flowers. All through the month of June, I have consistently pollinated the flowers every 2-3 days. So far, I’ve seen about 15 baby fruitlets formed, most are pea-size with the largest one the size of my thumb.  Yay !!!  There are still plenty of flowers on the tree, and I will continue the hand pollination addiction, hoping a few more would take.  However, when the fruits get a little bigger, I may consider thinning them if the natural process doesn’t shed the bad fruits on its own; my tree is still relatively young I don’t want to overstress it with a heavy production.

A video on the progress and result of my tree, as of early July

This picture is one baby custard apple fruitlet, aren’t they cute?!

sugar apple baby fruit
Custard apple baby fruit

This picture was taken of my fruits from last year

Here is a helpful video on how to hand pollinate custard apple flowers, and how to differentiate male versus female flowers.

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