Ramphal may connote other types of fruits in the Annona family, such as custard apple and sweetsop. This entry, however, is specific to Annona reticulata, also known as bullock’s heart. An obvious difference between bullock’s heart and sugar apple or soursop is the exterior—while the sugar apple has a green bumpy surface, ramphals tend to have a smoother surface in varying colors. Some fruits are pale yellow while others are a rusty shade of pink.
Origin of Ramphal
Ramphals originate somewhere in the Caribbean—likely the West Indies—but other contenders are Central and South America. According to the 1886 book, “Origin of Cultivated Plants,” bullock’s heart was spotted growing wild in Cuba, Jamaica, St. Vincent, Barbados, and Panama. Today, the fruit’s naturalized in Southeast Asia, India, Taiwan, West Africa and Australia.
Food historian and author KT Achaya elucidates that the first mention of sitaphal—India’s moniker for the fruit—was in 1672: While in India, P. Vincenzo Marie glowingly described the taste of its smooth, custardy flesh.
Availability of Bullock’s Heart in India
Ramphals grow wild throughout India’s tropical regions: Assam in the East, West Bengal, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and throughout the lower southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The trees grow well in elevations up to 1300, but no higher. Though the fruits tolerate cold conditions reasonably well, they thrive in warmth and humidity.
Where to find Ramphal in India
Ramphal’s main fruiting season occurs from March through May, but some regions have the fruits are available year-round. Most people have an easier time finding ramphal’s close cousin, the custard apple, when it arrives the fall. However, it’s still possible to find ramphal when in season.
Ramphals seldom appear in generic produce shops. A few large metro city malls selling specialty produce may have the occasional ramphal, but it’s a greater likelihood finding them in the villages in which they grow.
Checking for Ripeness in Ramphal
In their unripe state, ramphals are hard to the touch and have shiny, pale green skin. As they ripen, the fruits feel heavy for their size and grow soft. The exterior color of ripe ramphals varies considerably: Some are pale yellowish brown, while others are a dusky purple. Others remain yellowish green, while some transform to a lovely crimson color.
Taste of Bullock’s Heart
Ramphal shares its flavor profile with sugar apple on several points: its texture is creamy yet slightly granular, especially nearest to the skin. Ramphals taste mildly sweet, like custardy bananas and vanilla.
However, the taste of bullock’s heart differs from sugar apple in a few distinct ways—first, bullock’s heart is not as sugary. Secondly, ramphal compensates for its lack of sweetness with a smoother, buttery consistency. As an added bonus, ramphals have fewer seeds. Despite these similarities, most would prefer a sugar apple if given the choice.
Ramphal’s status as a wild fruit creates great variability in its exterior color and taste. Some ramphals possess a rich, sweet taste as described above, but others have an unpalatable coarse texture, insipid flavor, and at worst, an off-putting musky taste as it nears over ripening.
Nutritional Value of Bullock’s Heart
According to the USDA nutrient database, 100g of bullock’s heart contains the following values:
25.2g Carbohydrates (8% RDI)
2.4g Fiber (10% RDI)
.6g Fat (1% RDI)
.2g Saturated Fat (1% RDI)
1.7g Protein (3% RDI)
33IU Vitamin A (1% RDI)
19.2mg Vitamin C (32% RDI)
.1mg Thiamin (5% RDI)
.1mg Riboflavin (6% RDI)
.5mg Niacin (2% RDI)
.2mg Vitamin B6 (11% RDI)
.1mg Pantothenic Acid (1% RDI)
30mg Calcium (3% RDI)
.7mg Iron (4% RDI)
18mg Magnesium (5% RDI)
21mg Phosphorous (2% RDI)
382mg Potassium (11% RDI)
Health Benefits of Bullock’s Heart
Ramphals contain ample vitamin C, a nutrient that boosts the immune system, keeps skin healthy and assists with repairing wounds and cuts. The fruit also contains a good dose of potassium, which helps the body regulate its electrolyte balance, enhance muscle growth, and improves the body’s ability to process waste.
According to the book, “Indian Medicinal Plants,” ramphals have several traditional health benefits. The leaves act as an insecticide, styptic, antihelmintic, and, when applied externally, as a suppurant (or, aids in the elimination of pus). The ripe and unripe fruits combat dysentery; the bark is a potent astringent and vermifuge. In the Southeast Asian traditional medicine system of Unani, healers use leaves as an aphrodisiac and emmenagogue.
Just as soursop leaves have a host of health benefits, so too does ramphal’s:
--A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences found that the leaf extracts showed potent anti-ulcer activity when tested in rats.
--A 2012 study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine found that leaf and bark extracts have anti-dermatophytic potential, thus having possible skin cosmetics applications.
--According to a 2011 study appearing in the International Journal of Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences, ramphal leaves possess anti-helmintic activities
--A 2008 report published in Food and Chemical Toxicology found that anonaine, a compound in the ramphal plant and other Annona species, possesses anticancer activities and holds great potential as a nutritional supplement for cancer chemoprevention.
--According to a 2013 study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research, Annona reticulata leaves possess a glucose-lowering effect, thus acting as an antidiabetic.
|The flesh of some ramphals is tinged with pink|
How to Open/Cut
Ramphals have an uncomplicated structure—simply cut the fruit in half and scoop out the flesh out with a spoon, just as one would with a custard apple or sapota. Spit out the large shiny black seeds burrowed in the flesh. The skin is not edible and should be discarded.
Note: Because the seeds are so large, a fine sieve is not necessary to extricate the pulp. In fact, using a cheesecloth or fine sieve will most likely dilute the pulp unnecessarily.
Store ramphals at room temperature if they need time to soften. Once soft and ripe, the highly perishable fruits will keep only for a day or two. Storing the fruits in the refrigerator will only prolong its sweet flavor for another couple of days.
Once overripe, ramphals become better suited for the compost pile rather than the kitchen table: Their taste grows insipid and musky, with an unpalatable smell to match. Avoid chilling below 10C, as this will result in blackened, less sweet fruit.
It’s possible to freeze ramphal pulp, but the taste will be subdued and duller than in its fresh state.
|Vegan cherimoya ice cream form|
Bullock’s Heart Recipe Ideas and Uses
--Make a ramphal milkshake by blending the pulp with nutmilk, cinnamon, and vanilla. Add a banana if desiring additional sweetness.
--Make a raw vegan custard pie by blending ramphal with banana and butterfruit. Serve in a crust made of ground almonds and dates.
--Make ramphal ice cream by blending the pulp and frozen bananas.
Note: As is true with sugar apples and soursop, heating destroys ramphal’s taste and texture.
Fruits: Custard apple, sugar apple, sweetsop, soursop, mabolo, durian, banana, avocado, breadfruit, banana, date, strawberry
Herbs, Spices, and Oil: coconut oil, sugar, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, vanilla, almond, walnut, cashew, pecan, chocolate
*Note: bullock’s heart is a standalone fruit—do not use too many other ingredients, as this will overwhelm the fruit’s subtle flavor.
Sugar apple (sitaphal), and bullock’s heart (ramphal) derive their name from the legendary Hindu mythology characters, Ram and his wife, Sita. Likewise, Lakshmanphala (Annona muricata) is named after Ram’s brother, Lakshman.
Ramphal’s reputation in the Annona family is that of the ugly duckling, as it’s deemed mediocre in comparison to other fruits in the genus.
Netted custard apple
Ramphal (Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Gujarati)
Lavani, Krishnabija (Sanskrit)