Custard apples, also well known as ‘sharifa’ or ‘sitaphal’ in Hindi, ‘Seetha Palam’ in Telugu, ‘Sita Pazham‘ in Malayalam and Tamil, may be native to West Indies, Central America, Peru and Mexico, but it has considerable significance in Hindu mythology. It is believed that Lord Ram and Sita were plied with unusual fruits from the Dandakaranya forest by Hanuman, who, out of devotion, named the fruits after them. That is how Ramphal and Sitaphal began to be relished by the masses.
Another explanation that is as logical as it is etymological, is that the name ‘sitaphal’ originates from two Sanskrit words – ‘sheet’ (translating as cold) and ‘phal’ (fruit) – thereby connoting how the fruit is not only one available at the onset of the cold weather, but, according to Ayurvedic texts, as one known to cool the body of toxic heat.
Custard apple is a soft and mushy or pulpy fruit with a granular textured with a hard exterior. The shape of the fruit may be lopsided, irregular, spherical, heart-shaped, or round. The flesh is white in colour and has a creamy, custard-like texture. The sweet pulp coats black shiny seeds that are not consumed, because they are toxic. Custard apple with its high calories and natural sugars are great as a dessert. The fruit is also popular for its nutritional content. Custard apples are rich in antioxidants like vitamin C, which help get rid of free radicals from the body. It is also rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, niacin & potassium. Most significantly, this tasty fruit is an excellent alternative to dairy products, making it perfect for those who are allergic to dairy products as it provides the same nutrition.
Custard apples are good for those who need to gain weight. A mixture of honey and custard apple, when consumed regularly, will help add the required weight and those much-required calories. But this does not mean you cannot eat custard apple if you want to stay in shape! Having it in moderation will not harm you.
Rich in copper and dietary fibre, consuming sharifa helps assist digestion, help ease bowel movement and relieves constipation. The abundance of dietary fibre in custard apple helps slow down the absorption of sugar and reduces the risk of developing type-2 diabetes. The potassium and magnesium in custard apples help regulate blood pressure. A rich source of iron, the fruit is also useful in treating anaemia.
Due to high-levels of vitamin A, custard apple is great for healthy skin, healthy hair and better eyesight. It helps moisturize cells from within and therefore keeps ageing at bay. Talking of looks, the creamy pulp can be used as a topical balm to treat boils and ulcers. Hard to believe, but The outer skin of custard apple is helpful in combating against tooth decay and gum pain – all you need to do is pound it in a pestle or mortar and apply gently on the affected area. To sum up, custard apple promotes a healthy heart, is beneficial in pregnancy, improves eye vision, cures arthritis, fights fatigue, and protects against anaemia.
Custard apple contains natural sugar, and hence makes great nutritious snacks and can be incorporated in several desserts. The fruit can be consumed just by itself or in the form of shakes, smoothies, desserts and ice cream.
Trained at the Delhi Institute of Hotel Management, Chef Anand Panwar, Executive Pastry chef for Roseate Hotels & Resorts, has whipped up culinary delights at The Grand, Aman and Dusit Devarana among others. He enjoys the alchemy of pairing unusual ingredients to churn out sinful desserts. He shares the recipe for a delightful dessert made using custard apple…
Sharifa Raspberry Bomb
- Fresh Sharifa puree – 300 gm
For Raspberry mousse –
- Raspberry puree or jam – 100gm
- Mascarpone cheese – 100gm
- Egg yolk – 2no’s
- Sugar – 25gm (if using jam, reduce quantity to 15gm)
- Milk – 100ml
- Fresh whipping cream – 100ml
- Gelatin – 1 golden sheet
Method: In a pan boil milk and put it on low flame once boiled. Mix egg yolk and sugar separately and add in milk, whisk quickly. Once its thick let it keeps aside to cool down. Add soaked gelatin sheet to the above and mix well. In a whipping bowl mix whipping cream and cheese well until soft peaks form. Once the egg mixture is at room temperature add cream cheese mixture. Finally, add raspberry puree or jam. Pour mousse mix into sphere mould in less quantity and then layer Sharifa puree in more quantity. Finish with mousse and let it set. Once set, unmold and cover with your choice of glaze and serve.