The soursop is a broadleaf flowering evergreen tree native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and northern South America. Today, it is also grown in some areas of Southeast Asia. It is in the same genus as the cherimoya and the same family as the pawpaw. In most Spanish speaking countries it is commonly known as Guanábana. In the Philippines, it is known as guyabano.
The soursop is adapted to areas of high humidity and relatively warm winters, temperatures below 5 °C will cause damage to leaves and small branches, and temperatures below 3 °C can be fatal.
Comparisons of its flavour range from strawberry and pineapple mixed together to sour citrus flavour notes contrasting with an underlying creamy roundness of flavour reminiscent of coconut or banana. The fruit is somewhat difficult to eat, as the white interior pulp is studded with many large seeds, and pockets of soft flesh are bounded by fibrous membranes. The soursop is therefore usually juiced rather than eaten directly.
The plant is grown as a commercial crop for its 20-30 cm long prickly green fruit, which can have a mass of up to 2.5 kg.
Away from its native area, there is some limited production as far north as southern Florida within USDA Zone 10; however these are mostly garden plantings for local consumption. It is also grown in parts of southeastern Asia. The soursop will reportedly fruit as a container specimen, even in temperate climates if protected from cool temperatures.
The flesh of the fruit consists of an edible white pulp and a core of indigestible black seeds. The species is the only member of the genus Annona that is suitable for processing and preservation. The sweet pulp is used to make juice as well as candies, sorbets, and ice cream flavorings.
In Indonesia, soursop is called Sirsak which is derived from the Dutch zuur zak meaning sour sack. Dodol sirsak, a sweetmeat, is made by boiling soursop pulp in water and adding sugar until the mixture hardens. Soursop is also common ingredient for making fresh fruit juices that are sold at most of street food vendors.
In Mexico it is a common fruit often used for dessert as the only ingredient, or as an agua fresca beverage. Ice cream and fruit bars made of soursop are also very popular. The seeds are normally left in the preparation, and removed while consuming.
In Malaysia it is known in Malay as 'Durian Belanda' and in East Malaysia specifically the Dusun race in Sabah it is locally known as 'lampun'. Popularly it is eaten raw when it ripen. Usually the fruits are taken from the tree when they mature and left to ripen in a dark corner whereby it will be eaten when it is fully ripe i.e. it is soft when you pressed the fruit. It has a white flower with a very pleasing scent especially in the morning.
Nutritionally, the fruit is high in carbohydrates, particularly fructose. The fruit also contains significant amounts of vitamin C, vitamin B1, and vitamin B2. The fruit, seeds, and leaves have a number of herbal medicinal uses among indigenous peoples of regions where the plant is common.
In the Caribbean it is believed that laying the leaves of the soursop on a bed below a sleeping person with a fever will break the fever by the next morning. Also, boiling the leaves and drinking may help induce sleep.
The tea, fruit, and juice are used medicinally to treat illness ranging from stomach ailments to worms.
In Vietnam, this fruit is called mãng cầu Xiêm in the South, or quả Na in the North and is used to make juice, or eaten as is.
On its own, eaten as a fruit or drank as a juice, Soursop is refreshing. It has a unique taste and impossible to describe. Having tried it, one would never forget it. Not 'stinky' like Durian as some may choose to define Durian, it certainly is in a class of its own.