(Annona cherimola × squamosa)
Atemoya fruit appearance:
- The fruit is heart-shaped or rounded and ranges in size from 8 in to 12 in length. Increased fruit size and number of fruit is obtained by hand pollination or planting another atemoya nearby.
- The thin skin/rind is pale-green and tends to yellow a bit as it ripens. The flesh is snow white with many hard black seeds. The black seeds are inedible/toxic.
- The outer surface of the fruit usually has many stubby like projections called areoles.
- As a side, this is somewhat interesting to me because the word areolas is the medical name for the pigmented area around the human nipple.
- Therefore, whoever originally described these bumps apparently imagined the fruit covered in nipples.
- On that note, I have noticed that some fruit have larger areoles than others and that the fruit tend to flatten out as they get older… I digress.
Atemoya fruit taste:
- The atemoya fruit can be difficult to describe. When pressed, many simply say it tastes like nothing else.
- The texture is solid but melting and juicy, similar to custard or flan but more juicy than creamy.
- There is a subtle background grittiness that is almost identical to a typical pear. Overall the taste is tropical but difficult to pin down. It is very sweet with a suggestion of Piña colada or vanilla. Some have reported that it is a little tart or acid, which I haven’t personally noticed.
- Overall, the atemoya tastes rather similar to a cherimoya in flavor; the major difference between the two plants being the atemoya tree’s espalier-like growth habit.
- Update 9/19/15: A fellow contributing reader has added that Atemoya tastes like “the perfect version of ‘Mango Float’ that hangs on the tree.” That is a great description. Thanks Requintto!
My father in law often talked about how wonderful it was to eat atemoya fruit in the Philippines… sometimes lamenting that he hasn’t had any to eat since he left the Philippines decades ago. Therefore, I thought I would try to being the fruit to him in my backyard garden. The video below is of me asking him and his wife to describe the taste of the atemoya fruit as he devours it.
Atemoya fruit season:
- I have read that in Florida, the atemoya ripens in the fall. However, for me (in San Diego California) the season for fruit is rather different. In my experience, there are 2 major fruit picking seasons. One is June to August and the other big season for picking fruit is from January to April.
- The tree starts to fruit when around 4 years old.
When is atemoya fruit ripe to pick:
- This is important because if picked too soon, the atemoya fruit will not ripen.
- However, there are several signs to help you determine if the atemoya fruit is ready to pick. The most reliable sign that I have noticed is that the skin of the fruit turns from green to lighter green-yellow. In addition, the bumps on the skin of the atemoya fruit (the areoles) tend to flatten out when the fruit is ready to pick. I have also noticed that the stem attachment to the fruit begins to separate at the edges at optimal picking time. The fruit is often hard at this point but may feel a tad bit softer than the greener fruit nearby. If you see these changes you should be in good shape to pick the fruit.
- If you allow the fruit to hang on the tree a bit longer, it will often continue to become softer to the touch. If you wait too long, the fruit will start to become black and spoil on the tree… or drop off the tree and then rot. Sometimes the fruit will drop off the tree and be perfectly ready, but this is a gamble.
- The pesky squirrels will also find the softer fruit more appealing and therefore you might find yourself competing with these raiders for the ripe and ready atemoya’s hanging on the tree. Finally, I have noticed that sometimes the seeds will start to germinate within the atemoya fruit that is picked later on. At this stage, the black part of the seeds can sometimes mingle within the juicy flesh. Considering the seeds are poisonous, this black seed stained flesh may not be the best thing to eat.
- Anyhow, if you pick or buy the atemoya fruit when it is hard, you have to let it ripen before you eat it. Allow the atemoya fruit to ripen in a dark area at room temp for a few days until it feels lightly soft to touch. Ripening and softness is similar to an avocado.
- The tree naturally grows as an espalier, which makes it a great addition to narrow planting spaces.
- In my experience it is a medium to fast-growing tree, and is said to be able to reach 30+ feet in height. However, it is easily trained with pruning in the dormant season. The wood is brittle so pruning also helps the tree to support the heavy fruit.
- The branches droop somewhat and the lowest branches often touch the ground.
- Young plants need staking.
- The leaves are green with a prominent light green central vein.
- The atemoya is semi deciduous; losing some of its leaves in late winter/early spring.
- The flowers are green elongated and easily missed on casual inspection.
- An atemoya flower demonstrates its male and female parts at different times of the day.
- As the flower opens, the female stage is revealed around 2-4pm.
- The following afternoon around 3-5pm, the flower opens more to uncover the male part of the same flower.
- Atemoya’s are sometimes misshapen and underdeveloped on one side due to inadequate pollination. Apparently self-pollination is rare and therefore, dedicated gardeners may self pollinate the flowers to increase fruiting and fruit size. However, myself, I just planted 2 atemoya next to each other and I have been getting some nice fruit without hand pollination.
- The atemoya tree is said to be able to tolerate a wide range of soil types but prefers well draining fertile soil with neutral to slightly acidic pH.
- Water-logging is fatal.
- The atemoyas shallow root system is prone to drying out and weed competition. However, heavy mulch around the tree’s root zone will help to prevent both of these issues.
- For my planting technique, please see the earlier post which you can get to by clicking on this sentence.
- I have been watering the atemoya tree with my usual drip system irrigation 2-3 x a week in the growing season (April to January).
- The plant is prone to root rot with prolonged moist conditions.
- The trees don’t seem to like the dry air of the desert where the leaves are easily damaged by dry Santa Ana winds.
- In many commercial plantings, no fertilizer is applied until after the trees are well established because the young roots are very sensitive.
- After the atemoya tree is established, some have recommended the use a 6-10-16 fertilizer formula, with half of the total years dose given in the spring.
- Personally, I have been using 15-15-15 because that is what I have on hand most of the time. I spread the fertilizer around the root zone about 4 different times per year starting in the late winter and ending in mid-summer.
- The parents of the atemoya are subtropical plants native to northwest parts of South America and traditionally grown in cool mountain altitudes at the equator.
- The plant can withstand a light frost but not much more than that. However, the plant has been reported to survive a drop in temperature to 26.5°F (-3.10°C).
- For more information about the lowest temperatures that you can expect in your area, check out my article “Climate Zones: What can I grow in my yard?”
- The main pests in California are mealybugs and scale.
- Tanglefoot on masking tape around the trunk helps keep the ants away that bring in the mealybugs and scale.
- I have also read that you shouldn’t plant this tree in old vegetable gardens, near tomatoes, eggplant or asters because atemoya are susceptible to the same soil diseases.
- Atemoyas are also susceptible to Armillaria (Oak Root Fungus) and Verticillium.
- Squirrels have also discovered the atemoya fruit. Therefore, I keep a close eye on the fruit and pick them a little early because I don’t like to share with my rodent neighbors. The Havahart squirrel trap is one good-karma control option.
- I found some additional diseases to be aware of on the hort purdue website. The following are direct quotes from the site.
- The chalcid fly that lays eggs in the seeds and makes exit holes in the fruit permitting entrance of fungi, occasionally causes mummification of the atemoya. White wax, pink wax, and brown olive scales may be found on the foliage but are shed along with the leaves.
- A condition called “littleleaf” is not a disease but zinc deficiency which can be corrected by foliar spraying.
- Atemoyas are prone to collar rot (Phytophthora sp.), the first sign being an exudation of gum near the base of the trunk and on the crown roots.
- Atemoya fruit tastes great fresh, but it tastes best when chilled.
- It is often added to desserts.
- Some make ice cream out of it.
- Note: the Atemoya fruit seeds are toxic, so don’t go putting this fruit in a blender before taking the seeds out.
- The atemoya, is a hybrid of two fruits – the sugar-apple (Annona squamosa) and the cherimoya (Annona cherimola)
- The first reported intended cross that I have found, was made in 1908 by P.J. Wester, a horticulturist at the USDA’s Subtropical Laboratory in Miami. However, I suspect natural crosses happen its native habitat.
- The name, “atemoya”, is a combination of ate, an old Mexican name for sugar-apple, and “moya” from cherimoya.
- The atemoya is also known as: pineapple sugar apple, anon, chirimorinon, achta, cuatemoya, atis, ates.
- Some people have called the atemoya an ashta tree but most references refer to the ashta tree as another name for the sugar apple… and the sugar apple is a different plant (it is one of the parents of the atemoya).