The cherimoya (pronounced chair-uh-MOY-yuh) is considered by some “the king of fruit”. This is no surprise given that this ancient Incan fruit was originally reserved for royalty.
From the outside, the cherimoya looks a bit pre-historic. But, open a cherimoya and you will discover a fragrant, ivory, custard-like flesh, hence its common name “custard apple.”
Cherimoya is native to southern Ecuador and northern Peru. The cherimoya was taken to other parts of the world hundreds of years ago, so it is especially well known in Asia as well as throughout South and Central America. It is produced in many parts of the world including: semi-tropical areas of Spain, Chile, Peru, Southern California, New Zealand, Australia, and Israel.
The fruit is oval or heart shaped, 4–8 inches long and 3–4 inches in diameter, with a tough, green outer rind covered with overlapping scales, cherimoya has a creamy white flesh that is sweet and juicy and has numerous dark brown seeds embedded in it that are easily removed. Mark Twain called the cherimoya “the most delicious fruit known to men.” Some characterize the flavor as a blend of banana, pineapple, papaya, peach, and strawberry. Others describe it as tasting like bubblegum.
Cherimoya is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of vitamin B6, riboflavin, thiamin and folate. Several essential minerals are available from a single cherimoya. The fruit is particularly high in potassium and have substantial amounts of copper, manganese and magnesium.
Select cherimoyas with green skin and a gold hue. Some fruits may be tinged with brown, which is okay; 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.
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.
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. Just be sure you don’t eat the shiny, large black seeds inside.