You can tell when a custard apple is ripe when the fruit is has slightly changed its color. You can feel that the top of the fruit has gotten softer and quite squishy. The nodules or dimples on the fruit are more flattened down and spaced out apart.
When picked early, however, immature custard apple will still ripen and taste very good. It just doesn't develop that richness and deeper flavor like the ones that have been matured on the tree.
If animals are a problem in your backyard, you could pick the custard apples early. That is when the color on the skin is still green or has a bit of yellow/light green to it. You can use a pair of pruning shears to snip the fruit off the woody branch.
On the other side, if you'd like to pick it ripe, when the fruit has developed quite a sheen around its body color, then it is a good sign it's ready to pick. Another way to tell is to feel the outside skin of the fruit. Usually, the not-ripe-yet fruit skin will give a smooth and non-sticky feel, whereas the ripe one will feel more sticky to the hand.
To make a raw custard apple ripe, one primitive way is to place it in boiled rice. Or to make it ripe faster, you could wrap the custard apple in a paper bag with other fruits like an apple or raspberries or simply a banana.
The custard apple skin doesn't have to be peeled off when you eat it. Some of the fruits have a bright red color like an apple while others have the color right when it's picked off the tree.
To tell that it's ready to eat, you could feel the tip of the fruit. If it's soft, a bit squishy and sometimes gives in when you press lightly onto it, then it's good to eat.
Custard apple fruit has the texture like its cousin soursop. However, it's very sweet. Unlike dragon fruits, custard apple seeds can't be eaten. You can use them to start new trees.
The flesh of the apple is whitish and has some light or dark pink blushes depending on the way it was formed. You can cut the fruit in half and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh to enjoy.
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