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Cherimoya: Kitchen Basics

CherimoyaGot cherimoya? Got spoon?

You are ready for a tasty pineapple-papaya-banana-pear flavored treat that deserves its aliases “custard apple” and “sherbet fruit”.

The cherimoya is nothing less than a tropical dessert on the half shell.

The cherimoya’s flesh is juicy and creamy custardy. Its sweet flavors will swirl in your mouth.

There are only one or two ways to truly enjoy the cherimoya. You can cut it in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon, or you can peel it and cube it and enjoy it with a fork. The only obstacle to a quick consumption of a cherimoya is its large black seeds; they slow you down just enough to heighten the anticipation of the next bite.

The cherimoya is an odd looking fruit. You would never guess what is inside. It is irregularly oval in shape with a leathery pale green skin covered with a scaly thumb-print pattern. It looks something like what a prehistoric pear might look. The cherimoya stands 4 to 6 inches tall and can weigh from ½ to 2½ pounds.

Inside, the cherimoya’s flesh is white with the texture of firm custard. Its seeds are large and black and shiny. The skin is too bitter to be eaten.

The cherimoya is one of 50 varieties in what is known as the custard apple or Annona family. Other fruits in the family include:

Sweetsop: a small egg-shaped fruit with thick, coarse, yellow-green skin. The sweetsop has yellow flesh, dark seeds, and is divided into citrus-like segments.

Atemoya: a cross between the cherimoya and the sweetsop. It is about the size of a large mango with tough pale green skin covered with a scaly pattern similar to the cherimoya. It has a cream-colored custard-like pulp that has a sweet, mango-vanilla flavor. The atemoya is full of large black seeds.

Soursop is a larger spiky-looking fruit that can weigh up to 15 pounds. It has a bright, white flesh with a rich pineapple flavor and aroma. It is divided into segments and is mostly seedless.

Local Season. The cherimoya is at its peak season from late autumn through early spring, November through May in the northern hemisphere.

Sweetsops and soursops are available midsummer to midwinter. Aremoyas are in season from late summer to early fall.

Choose. A ripe cherimoya will give slightly to a gentle squeeze much like a peach. Cherimoyas are usually picked before they are fully ripe. Avoid fruit with brown splotches or a fermented aroma. The skin of over-ripe fruit will start to blacken.

Amount. One large cherimoya (about 1½ pounds) yields about 2 cups of cubed fruit or 1½ cups purée.

Store. Ripe cherimoyas will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator. Cherimoyas will ripen at room temperature. Turn the fruit as it ripens. When cherimoyas are ripe they will give slightly with soft pressure.

Cherimoyas are difficult to freeze.

Prepare. Rinse the cherimoya briefly before using. After rinsing, peel and cube or cut the fruit in half lengthwise, discard the fibrous center if it is still hard, remove the seeds, and spoon out the flesh. To prevent the flesh from darkening sprinkle the flesh with lemon or orange juice.

Serve. The cherimoya is usually eaten raw. Cooking will alter the fruit’s flavor.

  • Chill and eat with a spoon.
  • Remove the seeds, dice and add to fruit salads.
  • Purée and use in sorbets, ice cream, yogurt.
  • Purée and serve and eat like ice cream.
  • Cube and combine with fresh orange segments for breakfast.
  • Serve with orange sherbet for dessert.
  • Sprinkle with orange-flavored liqueur.
  • Cook to make jam, jelly, compote, or press for juice.
  • Add purée to pastry and cookies.

Flavor partners. The cherimoya has a flavor affinity for heavy cream, kiwi, lemon, lime, mango, orange, passion fruit, pineapple, and sour cream.

Nutrition. Cherimoyas are low in sodium, high in niacin and are a good source of vitamin C, phosphorus, and thiamin. A ⅓ pound serving of cherimoya contains 94 calories.

Cherimoya facts and trivia. The cherimoya is native to the Andean valleys of Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. The fruit grows on a thorny-branched tree that can grow to about 25 feet tall. Cherimoya trees do not yield a large number of fruit and each cherimoya fruit must be handpicked as they ripen.

Cherimoyas easily grow in tropical and subtropical regions. Beyond its native range in South America, the cherimoya now grows in Southern California, Australia, Mexico, and Israel. Spain is the largest commercial center for cherimoyas.

The word cherimoya is derived chirimoya from the Quechua language, an Inca language still spoken in Peru and Bolivia. It means “cold seed”.

The botanical name for the cherimoya is Annona cherimola. The botanical name for the sweetsop is Annona squamosa, for the atemoya Annona x atemoya, for the soursop Annona muricata.


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  1. I don’t have a cherimoya jam recipe. However, here is a recipe for a tasty cherimoya melange: Quarter the cherimoya, cut out the central fiber, then peel; cut each quarter into thin lengthwise slices and pick out the seeds with a knife tip. Combine the pieces with delicate fruits such as grapes, melon, tender-fleshed pears, or berries. Or sieve the cherimoya to make a custard-like sauce, adding a little cream and nutmeg, if you like; or sharpen with a few drops of lemon, lime, tangerine, or orange juice. Serve with delicate cakes, crepes, or poached fruit or any way you might serve a pouring custard. Or incorporate into a mousse or Bavarian cream or custard of chiffon pie filling. Perhaps another reader will have the cherimoya jam recipe for us.

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