Soursop, Annona muricata, is a broadleaf evergreen tree native to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and northern South America, where it is known as guanabana. It is now grown in Southeast Asia and New Guinea. The name, “soursop” comes from the Dutch zuur zak, meaning sour sack.
It is related to the cherimoya and looks somewhat similar to it, having a thin green skin with lots of conical nibs and some prickles, white colored flesh and lots of undigestable seeds. The fruits are heart-shaped and 6 – 9 inches in size. The flesh is in little pockets with fibrous membranes around them. It is usually juiced or cut into pieces with the seeds remaining, and made into aguas frescas, or fresh fruit drinks.
I first had guanabana in Mexico, and it was love at first bite. It was a very hot day in late winter, and the guanabana was served in a large-bowled glass with lots of ice, and both a straw and a spoon. The fruit had been gently crushed, seeds remaining, and mixed with sugar and water. The flavor is indescribable, in the same way that cherimoya is indescribable. It is delicate and perhaps slightly reminiscent of pineapple and strawberry, and, when eaten plain, has a sweet-sour-citrus acidity to it. I always hope that it will be in season when I’m in Mexico. Soursop is also made into ice cream, frozen fruit bars, sorbets and puree.
In the countries where it is grown, it is used as an herbal folk medicine. The roots and leaves are used to make poultices to treat skin disorders, rashes, infections and ringworm. It is mad into a tea to treat asthma and respiratory illnesses, to encourage milk production for lactating women, as a worm medicine, and for nervousness. The bark is used to treat diarrhea. The tea is also used to treat cancer though there is no scientific evidence that it is effective as such.