Soursop

The soursop is a large fruit of a relatively small, fast-growing tree that can reach up to 10 metres tall. The fruit, which is about 12 to 24 centimetres in length and weighs about 400 to 800 grams, is picked from the tree before it is fully ripe or it will be badly bruised if allowed to ripen and fall. The fruits are in season almost all year round.

Origin & History

The soursop travelled around the world both ways from its tropical American homeland to reach new tropical destinations. Common Malay names for the fruit are durian belanda and durian Makah (Dutch and Meccan durian), suggesting their journey from the West, but there is also the name nangka Menila (Manila jackfruit), indicating its arrival from the East. Its form does suggest a similarity to the durian, and its flesh bears some resemblance to the pulpy flesh of jackfruit. But the soursop is related to neither. The soursop’s Indonesian name, sirsak, is derived from the Dutch zuur zak meaning sour sack. The English word sop perhaps has been given to signify something that soaks up liquid.

Soursop belongs to the family Annonaceae which has several fruit, four of which were swiftly introduced to other parts of the tropics by the Spaniards and Portuguese soon after the fruit were discovered. Amongst these, which include the custard apple and sugar apple, the soursop is the best known and has the most delectable flavour.

Uses & Properties

The fruit is mature and is ready for eating when it feels slightly soft and is light green externally. However, the raw fruit can be eaten as a vegetable. The white, pulpy flesh, which contains juice, is peppered with small, shiny, black inedible seeds, and has a pleasant, sweet-acidic taste. As it is rather fibrous, its squeezed juice makes a better choice, and has, in fact, become more popular than the fresh fruit as such. The juice makes an excellent sorbet and flavouring for ice creams.

In Indonesia, dodol sirsak, a sweetmeat, is made by boiling soursop pulp in water and adding sugar until the mixture hardens. In the Philippines, a young soursop, where the seeds are still soft, is used as a vegetable. The delicate flavour and aroma of the mature, yet firm, fruit make it an ideal ingredient for making candies.

The leaves of the soursop are used in traditional medicine to make remedies for sores and wounds, and infusions of the juice, in various combinations are used to treat skin diseases, cough and rheumatism. The seeds, which have emetic properties, can be used in the treatment of vomiting.

Nutritional Value

Soursop is a good source of vitamins B and C, as well as is high in minerals.

Sources:

  • Desmond Tate. Tropical Fruit. Singapore: Archipelago Press, 1999.
  • Ben-Erik van Wyk. Food Plants of the World – An Illustrated Guide. North America and the United Kingdom: Timber Press, Inc., 2005.
 
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