How does your garden grow?
By Eric Danell, Dokmai Garden
December is a good time to harvest thurian thet
thet or guanabana, is rare in Thailand but easy to grow.
By Eric Danell,
Locals who have never been further away than 4 km from their village
ask us with hesitation whether Dokmai Garden’s large, spiny, green fruits
are ‘thurian’ (durian) or not? They are ‘thurian thet’ in the Central Thai
language, or ‘soursop’ or ‘guanabana’ in English (Annona muricata,
Yesterday evening I had my first fruit in a long while. It was huge and in
perfect eating condition; so soft you could peel it by hand and eat the
white pulp with a tablespoon. In fact, taste and texture reminds me of a
Although this Central and South American plant is easy to grow in the Chiang
Mai valley, I rarely see it here and I have never seen its fruit in any Thai
fruit market. It seems much more common elsewhere in Southeast Asia, such as
Ketsanee likes ‘noina’, i.e. sweetsop or custard apple (Annona squamosa)
which grows in many Chiang Mai gardens, and which is often for sale in the
local markets. My experience of that fruit here at Dokmai Garden is that
without bagging (or pesticides if you are still into chemical gardening) the
fruits mummify due to thirsty insects. All you get without precaution are
small, black and dry fruits which remind me of shrunken heads. Soursop seems
to stand the insects much better.
I bought one soursop sapling a few years ago which was in a terrible
condition, so I had to cut it down to stimulate the growth of new shoots.
Since then I have transplanted five more from cuttings from this original
specimen, and yesterday’s fruit was from one of those cuttings. The cuttings
smell soursop – a most appealing experience! A 30 cm woody cutting is simply
stripped from its leaves and inserted into moist sand and kept under shade
until the new leaves sprout. A couple of weeks after that you transplant to
a sunny or partly sunny place. At Dokmai garden we water these fruit trees
all year round, and they grow much easier than durian (Durio zibethinus,
Malvaceae) which is not related (different family, different flavour,
The international name Annona muricata was coined by Linnaeus in 1753.
‘Annona’ is the Latinized form of the vernacular name for the related
cherimoya fruit (Annona cherimola) in the American indian language Taino.
‘Muricata’ means ‘shaped like murex’, Aristotle’s name for a marine mollusk
with spines used for the production of purple dye. When Linnaeus wrote
“pomis muricatus” in the species description he meant that the fruits have
spines, but they are soft. I have only seen real cherimoya once in Thailand,
at Ketsanee’s land in Mae Khanin Tai in the nearby Opkhan national park. I
have not had the time to transplant it to Dokmai Garden yet.