Annonaceae – The Cherimoya Family

Annona cherimola, cherimoya

Cherimoya is considered by many to be one of the best flavored fruits in the world, with a flavor combining elements of mango and banana. Some people also detect elements of coconut, pineapple and strawberries in atemoya. It is from the Andes bioregion and grows best in the tropical highlands. Florida is too hot for it to perform well, but some people have gotten it to make a few fruits here. Atemoya, the cross between cherimoya and sugar apple, provides a cherimoya-like fruit but fruits much better in Florida than pure cherimoya.



Annona squamosa, Sugar-Apple

Sugar apple, Annona squamosa

Sugar-apple fruits are segmented, shaped almost like a hand grenade. They have a creamy white flesh surrounding numerous black seeds. The flavor of sugar-apple is variable from tree to tree, but the best have a melting sweet flavor.

Sugar-apple is a small tree that easily fits in tight spaces.

The seeds of sugar-apple have some potent toxins, so be sure to avoid eating them.

Sugar-apple is widely grown, all around the world, and has accumulated a tremendous number of local names in various tropical countries.


Here’s Melanie Perez from the excellent food-growing blog Our Tropical Soil with an introduction to  sugar-apple:




Annona cherimola x Annona squamosa – Atemoya

Atemoya. This fruit is a cross between cheromya, Annona cherimola, and sugar-apple, Annona squamosa

Atemoya is a hybrid of two other fruits: cherimoya and sugar-apple. Cherimoya is an outstanding fruit that’s native to the mountainous areas of South American. Those highland tropical areas that cherimoya calls home have been called the land of eternal spring, with lower temperature and humidity lower than in the lowland tropics. Consequently, cherimoya can have problems with Florida’s steamy summers. Sugar-apple, on the other hand, is native to the tropical lowlands of South America, so it thrives in our sauna weather. The cross between the two, atemoya, combines the outstanding fruit quality of cherimoya with sugar-apple’s love for Florida’s weather.

The explosion of flavors of a good atemoya is hard to convey adequately in words, but the closest I can liken to is a combination of pineapple, mango, coconut and banana. It’s quite spectacular.

(In case you’re wondering about the name, “ata” is an old name for sugar apple in a Native American language of this tree’s home range. So the combination of “ata” and “cherimoya” is an “ata-moya,” with the spelling slightly changed.)

Atemoya trees grow to a height of 20 feet, but with pruning can be kept to eight to ten feet tall.

Atemoya can take a little frost, so it grows well in all of South Florida, and warmer areas of Central Florida. It’s also an outstanding greenhouse fruit tree, even for a cool greenhouse that gets to near-freezing temperatures in winter, or even slightly below freezing.


Annona muricata, soursop, guanabana

Soursop or guanabana, Annona muricata

Guanabana, or soursop, is a large fruit in the annona group. It is especially popular for juicing. Guanabana juice is a popular drink in many Latin American countries. The flavor has elements of pineapple, and also reminds me a bit of apple juice. Some varieties of guanabana have a fibrous texture, which are best used for juice, while other types are fiberless and are better suited to eating out of hand. Soursop is very cold sensitive. It grows and fruits only in the warmest parts of South Florida.



Other fruits in the Annonaceae:

-Annona reticulata, custard apple
-Annona diversifolia, ilama
-Annona glabra, pond apple
-Asimina triloba (et al.), pawpaw
-Rollinia deliciosa, biriba
-Rollinia mucosa