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Soursop (Annona muricata)

The Soursop tree is substantial, growing to 9 m.  It grows easily in the more tropical parts of Australia but it will not tolerate frost, so do not plant one unless you live in a frost-free area and have a large enough area in your yard to allow the tree room to grow. Under favourable conditions, it should begin to set fruit in 3 or 4 years. The fruit is 10-30 cm long, green and heart-shaped or egg-shaped. The outside skin of the Soursop fruit has what look like nasty spines, but these are harmless. Peel away the skin and you find the flesh inside, off-white with just a hint of yellow.

Soursop is very versatile, but it does come with some caveats. You can eat the fruit of a Soursop, make a tea from the leaves and crush the leaves and seeds to get rid of lice.

Soursop fruit is similar to a custard apple in taste and is extremely nutritious, filled with carbohydrates, especially fructose and Vitamins C, B1 and B2.  Some describe the flavour as a cross between pineapple, strawberry, banana and custard. Soursop is sweet and has a rather subtle taste that nearly everyone will enjoy - refreshing but not overpowering. Make sure you remove the seeds when eating the flesh as they are quite toxic.

To make a tea, simply steep the leaves in hot water in the same way as you would with any other tea; gauging your own strength by the amount of leaves and the time you leave it in the water. Use fresh or dried leaves. It is best to test both for preference. Soursop has a big reputation as a healing plant - for everything from inflammation to migraines, insomnia, coughs, indigestion right through to cancer.

The seeds are toxic and can be crushed and added to coconut oil to make an effective pesticide against head lice. Be aware though that the seeds have a high irritant content and should not be allowed anywhere near your eyes.

You can enjoy Soursop fresh or squeeze the juice out of them. You can use Soursop in any recipe that prescribes Custard Apple. More simply, its pulp will bring a bit of extra pizazz to many dessert dishes or fruit salad. It makes a rather excellent icy pole by simply freezing the pulp into your desired shape and freezing doesn't change the flavour. Dried Soursop pulp also stores rather well and of course you can dry the leaves for tea or use as a medicine.

Image: noppharat/Shutterstock

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