Nice to Know Ya, Cherimoya
What lies beneath the leathery skin is a custard-like fruit that’s fantastic in smoothies, salsas or simply on its own.
By Robbie Sigona
What is cherimoya? Well, would it help if we called it by its alias, custard apple? We’ve received many calls from customers asking if it’s cherimoya season, and we’re happy to say the sweet, white-fleshed and custard-like fruit from Santa Barbara is in and at its peak.
Is that a Suit of Armor?
What looks to be scaly isn’t so. The cherimoya has a green & brown leathery covering that’s neither smooth nor prickly. The outside is characterized with bumps dimples, giving it an air of something similar to a large pear wearing a suit of armor. Others say it resembles its Amazonian cousins, the soursop or guayabana, which also have a prickly-looking skin.
Once sliced in half, you’ll see that under its suit of armor, the cherimoya has a delicate flesh with a custard-like texture (just watch out for the large black seeds). The fruit is pearly white, soft and silky smooth; not unlike an actual creamy dessert custard. The flavor of cherimoya combines attributes of apple, passion fruit, banana, mango, and pineapple into a unique flavor profile all its own.
With this tropical flavor comparison, you may be surprised to learn these delicate fruits come to us from the hills of Santa Barbara in Southern California. It’s rare that you’ll see cherimoya in big chain grocery stores as they’re more of a specialty item and are usually a bit on the expensive side.
This is because cherimoya are very delicate and do not have a long shelf life. Also, the process of growing cherimoya is not as easy as growing most other fruits. The blossoms of a cherimoya tree are hand-pollinated by growers because the flowers are often closed to tightly for bees to pollinate.
Cherimoya are believed to be native to the South American Andes Mountains near Ecuador where it was originally discovered in the inter-Andean valleys. In the late 19th century it was brought to California where it is now grown in the coastal and foothill regions of the southern part of the state. Sigona’s is currently carrying Bay variety, which is typically light green and heart-shaped, with about a three- to four-inch diameter. We’ll likely carry the fruit through the end of May.
A small cherimoya contains about 231 calories and is high in vitamins C, B6 and minerals, such as potassium and manganese. It’s a great source of dietary fiber. The fruit can be used to make a variety of desserts and drinks, but one of my favorite ways to eat it is on its own after it has been slightly chilled. A word to the wise: watch out for the large black seeds buried within the cherimoya. They’re inedible.
To access the creamy, white flesh, cut the cherimoya in half lengthwise and simply scoop it out with a spoon (as you would an avocado). Once the cherimoya has been halved, we recommend squirting on a bit of lemon or lime juice to keep it from darkening (again, like an avocado). Cherimoya can also be peeled and diced for salsas, salads or seafood dishes, and is also fantastic pureed for mousses, dessert sauces, pie fillings or smoothies.
The cherimoya is particularly tasty when frozen – it becomes a completely natural alternative to ice cream! Check out our cherimoya recipes, including one for a Citrus, Chile Shrimp and Cherimoya Salad.
There is nothing quite like sub-tropical fruit in early spring! Try a cherimoya today and you won’t be disappointed!