The soursop fruit has an inner cream-coloured fragrant juicy edible flesh. The tree is commonly known as “Ekitaffeli” in Luganda, but has other names. It is not a common plant, and those that grow it only do so at a subsistence level yet there is a ready market at both local and international level, writes Beatrice Nakibuuka.
Soursop grows from the seeds, and usually flourishes in tropical climates where the environment is warm or in a warm and humid greenhouse. Soursop can be propagated both by seed and grafting, says Albert Kunihira, a propagator at Greening Uganda. The seeds should be washed before planting and the soil kept moist.
When seeds are planted within 30 days from harvesting, there is a 90 per cent germination rate in a period of 30 days. If you do not have the seeds, the price of the seedlings depends on their size. According to Kunihira, they may range from Shs 2,000 to Shs 15,000.
“You do not need a lot of ploughing, but slashing and digging holes with enough spacing is vital. The spacing is usually 3X3 metres and depth and width of holes at 2X2 feet. Therefore, you will have about 450 plants per acre,” Kunihira says. Alternatively, you can make cuttings from a soursop plant that is about two years old as a method of propagating the plant, according to Ben Misagga, a tree farmer.
Cut straight twigs of about 10 inches at a place where the tree is dormant. Place the cuttings into well-prepared and fertilised soil and keep watering the plant to enable growth of roots. In about eight weeks, the cuttings will have rooted. “The plants are best fed with organic fertilisers. While they grow, you need to constantly weed to avoid competition between the plants and weeds,” says Misagga.
“Soursop can be intercropped with legumes like beans, ground nuts and soy beans.” Soursop is not affected by as many pests or diseases, according to Kunihira, but there are some few pests that affect the leaves. For these, he recommends for any pesticides. Also the fruit flies usually affect the plant especially in the flowering stage, but these can be controlled using a fly trap.
Also small ants sometimes affect the plant at the fruiting stage. If the type of soil, climate and fertilisers are sufficient, a soursop tree should start producing flowers and then fruits within three years. Your trees will keep producing fruits; so, ensure you maintain them properly by fertilising for better production.
The fruits are ready to pick once they lose the spines or turn from dark to a yellowish green. You should also feel the soursop fruit as it will be ready to consume once it is no longer hard. If you picked the fruit when it was not yet tender, it should be ready for consumption within five days.
Although there may be chances for exportation, soursop is a relatively rare fruit in Uganda. This makes its prices a little hyped compared to other fruits on the market.
The local market is also hungry for the fruit and is sold through retail as an individual fruit. In Nakasero and other local markets, the soursop fruit costs between Shs 3,000 and 15,000. Misagga says the pulp of soursop is also used to make fruit nectar, smoothies, fruit juice drinks, as well as candies and ice cream flavourings.
He adds that one can find a ready market anywhere in Uganda because of the plant’s medicinal values.
Soursop fruit, also known as graviola, custard apple, or Brazilian paw paw, is one of the most recommended fruits in cancer care worldwide.
According to Jamiru Mpiima, a dietician at Victoria Wellness clinic, all the parts of the soursop tree are medicinal, and has recently gained attention and popularity due to its natural cancer cell killing properties in both the fruit and leaves. The fruit has anti-inflammatory properties and is rich in a class of highly potent chemotherapeutic compounds.
Once the cancer is detected while it is at stage one (early), taking the fruit as boiled leaves daily may help cure breast, liver and prostate cancers. The anti-cancer properties in the fruit target cancerous and other malignant cells for destruction while leaving healthy cells intact.
Soursop fruit is an immune booster with a number of phytonutrients and antioxidants that are highly effective at destroying cancer cells and warding off chronic disease and boasting immunity. It is rich in calcium, vitamins B and C, magnesium, phosphorus and iron.
Vitamin C and the antioxidants contained therein have an anti-aging property, kill free radicals and ensure your immune system is at optimum health so it can effectively perform its functions such as warding off diseases. The nutrients found in soursop leaves are believed to stabilise blood sugar levels; some people use it as a natural diabetes remedy.
The concoction is taken once daily. “Since the fruit has been found to lower blood pressure, people on blood pressure medication should consult their doctor as their dosage may need to be adjusted,” Mpiima advises.