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Soursop is a tropical evergreen tree that produces fruit with a prickly yellow-green skin. Also referred to as graviola, all its parts from the root to leaves are edible or has medicinal value. It is a fast growing tree that starts producing fruit in the third year.

Patrick Gichunge showcases soursop fruits that he harvested in his home in Mitunguu, Meru County. He sells a kilo at Sh200.
Photo|POOL

Background of soursop

Soursop has its place amongst a unique plant family, Annonaceae, whose members include the cherimoya, custard apple and sugar apple. The trees bear strange looking fruit and are native to tropical regions of the Americas.

Soursop has many uses in traditional medicine and it has been used to treat a wide range of health conditions and ailments. With its strong nutrient profile, it provides a variety of health benefits.

People in the Americas are known to consume it a lot as well as use its fruit for treating parasite infections Β because they believe it contains chemicals that might help fight against cancer, as well as bacteria, viruses and parasites.

Common varieties of soursop in Kenya

In a publication Safari Guide about the general agronomy a farmer must observe when growing the tree, the experts Β observe that the fruit tree grows well in tropical climate and in Uganda, it can grow well in all parts of the country though there are selected varieties that have been adopted by growers in the country. There are no named varieties in Kenya however these are the some of the internationally named varieties which include Bennet, Cuban fibreless and Morada which is of Brazilian origin.

Soil requirements for soursop farming in Kenya

Soursop grows in a wide array of soils as long as the soil is well drained. A soil PH of between 5 and 6.5 is ideal. The soursop tree is small in size and may serve as an intercrop between large fruit trees. Soursop can be propagated from seed or cuttings.

Good drainage is necessary for good root development and especially to avoid problems of root diseases.

How to propagate soursop

Soursop can be propagated by seed and vegetatively by grafting. However seeds should be washed and dried before planting and when seeds are planted within 30 days from harvesting there is a 90 percent germination rate in a period of 15-30 days.

We have stocked a few soursop seedlings that are ready for planting, contact us via 0724559286 or 0790509684.

Planting Soursop in Kenya

Proper planting is one of the important steps in successfully growth of the fruit tree.

Plant well developed seedlings and ensure they are mulched to suppress weeds and to improve moisture retention in the soil.

Soursop trees prefer warm and humid conditions to thrive, they are very susceptible to low temperatures. On maturity fruit may emerge anywhere on the tree ; trunk, branches or twigs. The tree will require adequate fertilizing of which we recommend organic compost and mulching using organic material. Young trees can be supported using bamboo sticks.

Fruiting of soursop

A rapid grower, soursop trees produce their first crop three to five years from seeding. Seeds stay viable for up to six months but better success is met by planting within 30 days of harvest and seeds will germinate within 15-30 days. Propagation is usually through seeds however, fibreless varieties can be grafted.

Harvesting soursop in Kenya

The tree starts to flower and eventually fruit in the third year, fruits are harvested when they are fully developed but still green. Thereafter it takes 2-4 days to ripen. A single tree can produce 60-70 fruits in a year. The fruit should be handled with care when harvesting to avoid bruising it. After harvest prune slightly as you eliminate dead wood.

Soursop may be directly consumed when ripe or processed into ice cream, syrup, smoothies, juice, pulp etc. The fruit has a white fleshy and fibrous pulp with a sweet sour flavor and is rich in vitamin B and C.

Post-harvest consideration should be taken once the fruits are harvested. This is so because the fruit softens in between four and seven days and has a shelf life of another three to five days.

Soursop Market in Kenya

The soursop fruit is sold in some of the major markets in Nairobi that include; Ngara, city and wakulima. There is no documentation on any commercial soursop plantations in Kenya but a few plants have been spotted in coast, Nyanza and central regions. Soursop (annona muricata) is often mistaken for or referred to as custard apple (annona reticulata) , they belong to the same family- annona, but they are two different fruits. We will explore Custard apple in our next article.

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Pests and diseases of soursop farming in Kenya

There are various pest and diseases that attack the soursop tree. Locally it is more vulnerable to the fruit fly and aphids. Plant disease free seedlings and monitor your plants for any pests and diseases. In case of any attacks consult your extension officer; we do also assist farmers by offering them professional advice concerning the same.

Health benefits of soursop

Soursop fruit contains energy building content, protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A and C and phosphorus among others. These properties are meant to boost the immune system.
Experts contend that one whole soursop fruit contains around 83 percent of the recommended daily allowance of fibre in the body which is a vital nutrient for digestive health.

While most research is limited to test-tube studies, soursop may be beneficial in helping to fight and prevent cancer. The extract could reduce the size of breast cancer tumours and kill cancer cells as well as stop formation of leukaemia cells.

Since it contains Antioxidants, they help in fighting free radicals, reducing the damage to the cells caused by oxidative stress.

One of the side effects of oxidative stress is inflammation. The antioxidants in soursop may, therefore, help to reduce inflammation in the body.

It also helps in minimising High blood pressure which otherwise could lead to serious issues of heart disease.

Soursop may provide antibacterial effects including strains that cause gum disease and cholera.

Happy gardening and make sure you plant a fruit tree.

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