Soursop is the fruit of Annona muricata, a broadleaf, flowering, evergreen. The exact origin is unknown; it is native to the tropical regions of the Americas and is widely propagated. It is in the same genus, Annona, as cherimoya and is in the Annonaceae family.
The soursop is adapted to areas of high humidity and relatively warm winters; temperatures below 5 °C (41 °F) will cause damage to leaves and small branches, and temperatures below 3 °C (37 °F) can be fatal. The fruit becomes dry and is no longer good for concentrate.
The flavour of the fruit has been described as a combination of strawberry and pineapple, with sour citrus flavour notes contrasting with an underlying creamy texture reminiscent of coconut or banana.
K M Varadharaj, 70, an agriculture graduate growing organic grape for the past 30 years, and his wife Jaya, 68, a home science graduate, who run the farm say they get at least five such clients a day . Varadharaj first came to know about the graviola plant, also called soursop or mullu seethapalam, when someone suggested it could help cure his throat cancer. After he got cured, Varad haraj and Jaya trekked through Nagercoil’s forest ranges in 2010, got a few saplings of the plant with the help of tribal people and began to growing them in their farm.
Graviola, which has its origins in Central and South America, is widely prescribed by alternate medicine practitioners. Scientific studies have found it contains acetogenins, a compound which has chemotherapeutic properties and can kill cancer cells.
“In 2008, doctors noticed a small patch in my upper jaw which was later diagnosed as throat cancer. I underwent five rounds of chemotherapy and 16 rounds of radiotherapy ,” recalls Varadharaj. “It was during this period that one of our long-time customers told us about graviola and even gave us a fruit which he had sourced from Nagercoil,” said Varadharaj. “We found so much information about its health benefits,” he said.
More than six years later, the couple has 400 trees spread across three acres. They make graviola jam, juice which is sold at `500 for 700 ml, fruits which are sold at `350 per kg and even thick leaves which are sold at `1 each, especially to the poor.