Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What is a Cherimoya? Perhaps the Greatest Fruit on the Planet.


The cherimoya (pronounced chair-uh-MOY-yuh) is the king of fruit. This is no surprise given that this ancient Incan fruit was originally reserved for royalty.

From external appearances, the cherimoya isn't exactly captivating. It looks more like something out of The Flintstones rather than an exquisite fruit. Don't let its pre-historic appearance put you off. Slice open a cherimoya and you will discover a fragrant, ivory, custard-like flesh, hence its common name "custard apple."

When selecting cherimoyas, look for green skin with a gold hue. Some fruits may be tinged with brown, which is ok; however, avoid fruits that are black or shriveled. Allow cherimoyas to ripen at room temperature. A ripe cherimoya, like a ripe avocado, should yield to gentle pressure, and will have a browner skin. (Note: In the first photo, the green cherimoya in the forefront needs a couple more days to ripen, while the browner cherimoya in the back is ready to eat.)

Once ripe, cherimoyas can be refrigerated for 1-2 days, but they will lose their flavor if kept longer. They are best eaten as soon as they reach full ripeness; their flavor is most intense when eaten at room temperature or just slightly chilled.

cherimoya halved

What does a cherimoya taste like? A perfectly ripe cherimoya is an intoxicating combination of tropical flavors like bananas, coconut, strawberries, and mangoes. Some people also taste pineapple and papayas. Don't think one fruit could possibly have all of those ambrosial flavors? Then try one to see for yourself.

scooping out the cherimoya's flesh

Slice the fruit in half, and using a spoon, scoop out the flesh. You could sprinkle it first with fresh lime juice; you could add the flesh to a smoothie; you could even make sherbet with it. But don't. It's best unadulterated, when you can truly appreciate its unique flavor and texture. Just be sure you don't eat the shiny, large black seeds inside. Chomping on those will just send you to the dentist's office.

Once you taste a cherimoya's luscious, creamy flesh, you'll understand why Mark Twain called it "the most delicious fruit known to man."

scooping out the cherimoya's flesh

Where can you buy cherimoyas? Most U.S. cherimoyas are grown in CA and are available from early January through April. However, since they're sensitive to temperature changes, the season varies from year to year. Few major supermarkets will likely carry cherimoyas; try specialty and organic markets, or go online to reputatble sites such as Though they're pricey, they're worth every penny.

You might also like these California winter fruits and recipes:

Strawberry Guavas

Wild Arugula and Blood Orange Salad with Prosciutto

Shrimp Tacos with Citrus-Avocado Salsa

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