Cawesh, also known as poshe-te, is a plant species belonging to the Annonaceae family. Commonly, the Annonaceae family is also known as the custard apple family. This tree (scientific name A. scleroderma) bears an edible cream-colored fruit, which is similar to an orange in size. The cawesh fruit has a soft texture, while its flavour is somewhat buttery and a mix of banana and pineapple. As the creamy white skin of this fruit is tough, making it easy to handle the fruit. Unfortunately, very few people outside its native region are aware of the cawesh fruit.
The plant’s original habitat, which is in Central America’s Atlantic coast, spreads from Guatemala and Mexico to Honduras. Till today, this species is not cultivated extensively, barring a few places in Guatemala. The trees propagated from seeds takes around four years to bear their first fruit.
Cawesh (A. scleroderma) is a low growing tree that attains a height of anything between 15 m and 20 m. The leaves of cawesh tree are rough and lanceolate. The surface of the leaves is glossy, but somewhat pubescent on the reverse side. Their petioles are delicate and measure 3 cm in length. A. scleroderma trees bear greenish yellow flowers. The external petals are longitudinally prominent and they come up in small branches. Sometimes they may also appear in groups in the aged parts of broad branches. In fact, the blossoms of posh-te or cawesh are very similar to those of custard apple flowers, other than the fact that the petals of cawesh have a somewhat brownish tinge and are also longer compared to the flowers of custard apple.
The fruits of cawesh have a creamy hued skin with a soft texture. Inside, the flesh has a flavour akin to a blend of banana and pineapple. The poshe-te is known to be among the most refreshing and flavourful Annona’s, but it is not easily available outside its native region. In fact, very few people know about this delectable fruit. Cawesh is very aromatic as well as flavourful. While its skin is dull green, inside the pulp is soft textured and succulent. Different from some varieties of Annona, the pulp of cawesh is not fibrous. As the fruit has a tough exterior it is easy to handle the fruit. Moreover, it also protects the fruit from insect attacks. It is important to prune these trees keeping the wide crown intact, as this will make it easy to harvest the fruit. At the same time, it will protect the tree from damages caused by birds and wind.
The form of cawesh is roundish oblate. It measures roughly 3 inches (7.5 cm) across and has a dull green skin, which is separated into areoles by little creases. The shell of cawesh is almost 1/4 inch in thickness. The seeds of the fruit are embedded in the whitish softening pulp. The size of cawesh seeds is similar to those of cherimoya.
As a fruit, A. scleroderma has numerous advantages both in terms of local consumption as well as for export. Aside from its aroma and flavour, which is not as potent as fruits of some other species of Annona but very pleasant, this fruit is available in abundance in its native habitat. The creamy grey or cream-colored flesh of the fruit easily separated from the seeds. At the same time, the flesh of this fruit is not fibrous or contains any sandy grains sticking to the membrane of the seeds. Moreover, the chunky, leather-like skin of sawesh does not crack and is highly resistant to attacks by insects and birds. The rough exterior of this fruit also protects it from damages during normal packaging and transport.
The fruits of cawesh appear in small bunches of two to three on the branches. As the fruits are set in clusters, they are usually small in size. However, if the fruits are thinned out, it would help the trees to yield larger fruits. Hence, this practice needs to be encouraged among people cultivating this species.
Fruits of several species belonging to the Annonaceae family contain notable amounts of valuable nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins and lipids. Some such species include sugar apple seeds, cherimoya and soursop. As a result, they can be used in various foods as well as feeds. Besides, they offer and are responsible for various other important antioxidant actions of phenolic compounds. Seeds of fruits of these species contain oils that are excellent source of some unsaturated fatty acids, particularly linoleic and oleic acids.
In addition, plants in the genera Annona are vital sources of various essential minerals like calcium, potassium and phosphorus. They also play important roles in a number of biological functions, for instance they help in protecting our teeth and bones, make our muscles stronger and enhance our general health.
However, the main interest in the plants of these species is owing to their potent anti-carcinogenic effects. For remedial purpose, the plants of specific species are obtained. It has been established that various parts of specific species belonging to family Annonaceae possess the potential to treat cancer. In addition, they have wide ranging of anti-microbial actions and are effective for combating both fungal and bacterial infections.
It is worth mentioning here that cawesh fruits contain a properly balanced proportion of two vital salts – sodium and potassium, which are useful in controlling as well as regulating the fluctuations of blood pressure in our body. Cawesh fruits contain elevated levels of another vital mineral, magnesium, which helps to relax the heart’s smooth muscles and, at the same time, pacifies cramps and jerks. In this way, consumption of cawesh fruits helps to prevent heart attacks and stroke. Cawesh fruits also contain fiber and niacin that are effective in lowering low density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol, while increasing high density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol in the system. Moreover, the nutrients in cawesh also help in putting off the incorporation of cholesterol in our gut. Aside from the health benefits of cawesh discussed above, this fruit also thwarts the detrimental free radicals from assaulting lipids, thereby boosting the health of our heart.
Cawesh also contains elevated amounts of vitamin C and riboflavin, which effectively aid in combating free radicals that attack and destroy the healthy cells in our body. In addition, these nutrients also help in promoting exceptional eye-sight.
We often suffer from fatigue, but seldom realize that it is caused due to various diseases and ailments. When we are fatigued, we usually find that we suddenly require more rest and also need to have sound sleep. It is worth mentioning here that cawesh is a storehouse of energy and, hence, consuming this fruit helps our body to recuperate as well as reinstate the energy lost due to fighting ailments and diseases. The nutrients present in cawesh help to fight weariness as well as debility. Moreover, it contains potassium, which is useful in preventing as well as overcoming muscle debility.
Among the other health benefits offered by cawesh fruits, they are effective in combating common cold as well as influenza. These fruits are rich in vitamin C content and, hence, are useful in boosting our immune system.
Habitat and cultivation
Apparently, this species (A. scleroderma) grows wild in a vast area ranging from the Atlantic slope in Campeche right up to Honduras. However, in Guatemala, this species is grown in a relatively small area on the Pacific slope between an altitude of 300 m and 1000 m. This region is known as Bocacosta and the soil here is volcanic and very fertile. Moreover, this region has a very brief dry season and receives an annual rainfall of 4000 mm. Fruits of cawesh trees appear late in the season sometime between December and April. However, the maximum yield of cawesh fruits is during the beginning of February.
Different from the seeds of other fruits of plants belonging to the Annona family, cawesh seeds sprout readily when they are fresh. The germination rate is as high as 90 per cent in a month and they also do not require any pre-planting treatment. However, stored cawesh seeds normally take roughly six months to take root, especially the seeds that have been kept aside for two to three months. Cawesh trees propagated from seeds start bearing fruits after four years. By this time, these trees attain a height of anything between 4 m and 6 m.
For instance, in Australia this species (A. scleroderma) has an excellent growth, especially when it is grafted on the stocks of Rollinia mucosa and A. muricata.
Collection and harvesting
Even when the cawesh fruit is ripe, its skin remains green. Ideally, the cawesh fruit should be picked when it is properly filled out and the marks on its skin become flattened. After picking the fruits, they need to be stored indoors to allow them some time to ripen completely. The harvesting of cawesh fruits is somewhat similar to that of custard apples.