Taste Test: Cherimoya

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It's called cherimoya, and — as the woman stocking the produce section at Rainbow reminded me twice — it's only in season, like, right now. On the outside, it looks like a cross between an artichoke and a pear — green, scaly, and lightbulb-shaped. It has a few decent-sized seeds in its core that are easy to remove, and its white flesh is jello-smooth. I suppose I could have mixed it in a salad or something, but I decided to just eat it raw. After all, this is a fruit that Mark Twain supposedly called "deliciousness itself."

I don't know what it tasted like to him, but to me it tasted like... part apple, part pear, part strawberry, part cherry, coated in sugar and wrapped in the texture of a fruit roll-up. I wish I'd bought more than one. When the skin turns slightly brown like this one, that's when it's perfectly ripe and good to eat.

Cherimoya is a subtropical fruit and was originally found in South America, but it is now grown in California and Hawaii, too. It has lots of sugar and vitamin C. In the ancient Cupisnique and Moche cultures of Peru, cherimoya was often depicted as pottery, like so:

cherimoya pottery.png

If you don't want to eat the fruit raw, try making cherimoya sorbet by pureeing the fruit with sugar and lime juice, then freezing it.

Every installment of Taste Test will explore recipes, the science, and some history behind a specific food item.

Image via Xeni's Flickr

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  1. here in Chile is called CHIRIMOYA, the best is to smash it and mix it whit white wine to make a “borgoña”, nice and cold!

  2. Chirimoya as we call it in Spain, when season its sweet & delicious, but some kind -the bad ones- texture could be granulated.

  3. It’s called a Chirimoya, and the usual way of eating them here in Chile is cut in pieces, with orange juice. We call it Chirimoya Alegre (Happy Chirimoya).

    You can also do the same with mangoes.

  4. Cherimoyas are awesome! Gotta be careful not to let them get overripe, though. Last week I left one on the counter too long, and it tasted like all the things you mentioned mixed with dog crap.

  5. I bought a cherimoya at a farmer’s market in SoCal one time, and I found it to be the most wonderful fruit I had ever had. It really is extremely delicious.

    1. also known as a custard apple, this sweet delight when ripe is less ‘stringy’ and acidic than a soursop. but they look similar inside, tho the latter’s texture is somewhat firmer than a fragrantly ripe custard apple… both of course gorged upon when in season in malaysia ;)

  6. I use to have a tree of that in my house (boliva), it was a strange tree, it gave a dozen or so a year, some times as bigs as a head. The fruit is simply awesome and every one tastes a little different. Is possible to do a really good ice-cream of that also.

  7. Love them! BUT – I’ve never been able to find a good one here in Texas. For some reason, I was able to find perfect one in Barcelona when I lived there. When they’re good, they are as described — banana, apple, pear flavors. When they’re bad they are pasty and smelly, like eating dried glue.

  8. My mother is from Chile where this fruit is grown and cherished. She simply cannot get enough of it! We’ve tried to find it sold here in MA but it’s impossible. Encouraging to hear that now it is being grown in CA though.

    1. the farmers market in coconut grove has trop. fruit from the redlands in south dade also you can ck-out some of the growers fruit stands down south.

  9. I love these. The first cherimoya I ever tasted came from a grocery store in Bellingham Wa. The seeds ended up sprouting in my fridge so I planted them in a pot to see what would happen. This resulted in a one foot tall sapling that lived on my windowsill for several years. Never got any fruit from it but it did blossom a couple of times.

  10. They’re awesome. Also called ‘custard apples’. Love the smooth black pips – not to eat, obviously, but they are most satisfying to spit out! Like tiny pebbles.

  11. Cherimoya are fantastic, I encourage anyone who hasn’t tried one to do it while they’re in season. I had one for the first time in Hawaii last year and it instantly became a brand new favorite.

  12. We had a related fruit, a Mountain Soursop, growing in our backyard in Florida.

    Terrible. Just terrible. :(

    But we also had Monstera Deliciosa, Mangoes, Sour Oranges, Key Limes and Avocados so it was alright.

  13. I love these segments!!

    Will definitely have to pick up a cherimoya soon. I’ve always seen them at the store, but haven’t tried them yet.

  14. Here in Chile we have a dessert call “Chirimoya alegre” that is delicious. You have to peel and cut in pieces the Chirimoya, squeeze some fresh oranges and mix it all. You can let it rest for a while and then serve it.
    It´s real good and full of vitamin c.

  15. Well, in Chile its called: Chirimoya. We have icecreams, juices and other stuff with the taste of the fruit.

    Try this: peel the fruit, get rid of the seeds (they are almost the size of an olive, so you cant go wrong)
    cut the chirimoya in small chunks, and put som fresh orange juice over it. Its a desert called Chirimoya Alegre (happy chirimoya) delicious

  16. Useless fun fact – first time I read about cherimoya was in Jonathan Kellerman’s book “Blood Test”. First published in 1986, btw.

  17. Mh… Cherimoyas … I LOVE ’em.

    BTW an English name for Cherimoya is “Custard Apple”, in Germany they’re also called “Vanilleapfel” (Vanilla Apple) and on Madeira they’re called “Anonash” (sp.?)

    Greetings, Tom

  18. I grew up in Hawaii and lots of people had chirimoya trees in their yards (guess I grew up with the Chilean translation). These things are so good I have literally eaten myself sick on them. I don’t recommend that part, but definitely try the fruit.

  19. LOVE these segments. Would love to see your reactions to Durian (sp?) fruit. Keep these up… great reading!!

  20. Hey, in India this is called “Seetaphal” or “custard apple” because of its custardy texture. It is rare to get this in UK but I did find some in Wembley. Rich in Riboflavin and Niacin it is a wonderful fruit to eat. As kids, we ate several a day.

  21. Actually they are called “chirimoyas” if you pronounce it in spanish, then write that sound as if it were english it does come out as “cherimoyas”.

    @pabloortuzar

    You forgot the rum! that’s why it is a “happy” chirimoya.

  22. Huh.

    I had a fruit in Panama just last month that someone said was also called a custard apple, but I was told it was called “guanamana”, fuck if I know how its spelled, but it was pronounced in such a way that you automatically sang “do-DOOO-DA-do-do” afterwords, like the Muppet show song, “Mahna Mahna”.

    It was tasty. Damn tasty. Was white and slimy, but who cared cuz it tasted so good. If Frank from Pacific Bay Resort near Boca Chica is reading this, thanks Frank!

  23. These are delectable, but more commonly available in local farmers’ markets than in grocery stores. I would just buy them, cut them open, and scoop out the flesh with a spoon, spitting out the pips.

  24. In the Philippines, this is called ‘atis’.

    Guanabana is called ‘guyabano’ – delish as fruit shake. :D

  25. There is a fruit called ‘Sita Phal’ (wiki – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugar-apple) and it is available in India during rainy season. It is available abaundently in the state of Andhra Pradesh (capital: Hyderabad). As per wiki – sitaphal or seethaphal (सीता फळ literally meaning “sita fruit” as the fruit has too many seeds and monkeys will not eat them – monkeys are believed to be friends of Rama, Sita’s husband). If you want to know who is this Rama and Sita, you have to read the epic Ramayan.

  26. I had a few of these in Peru about twelve years ago, and they are indeed deliciousness personified. First I had them straight, and they tasted like the best ice cream ever, Then I dined with some locals who blended it with sugar and probably lime. That was good, but took on a processed/trying too hard taste. I bought a couple on Austin, but they don’t travel well. I’m 47, lived all over the world, this is still the single best tasting thing I have ever eaten!

  27. I am so happy to see this fruit getting some publicity. I rate fruit and this little dream came dangerously close to earning all five stars.

    To me Cherimoya tastes like exotic, cool creme brulee. I can’t believe this comes off the tree this way and did not require hours of mixing and baking and hovering on my part. As you may know, I like fruit quite a lot, but this is the first fruit that has knocked me over with love, particularly since it looks like a heart when you cut it in half. SWOON. It really is amazing. Find it and eat it. Cherimoya

  28. Peruvian here. A some have say, chirimoyas are great when fresh or well conserved. Is quite abundant here so yo can get maybe 3 kilograms (around 7 pounds) for 5$ value. I just came to know they are also growing in other faw-away lands. I am happy to know that.

  29. Cherimoya is very similar to (and related to) paw paw, a fruit that is native to the midwest and eastern U.S. Like cherimoya, paw paw has a short season (in the fall), ripens very quickly and therefore ships poorly, and is very delicious. I’m considering growing paw paw trees in my backyard.

  30. Atemoya, their wonderful cousin has a different skin, but same remarkable flesh! The Chinatown merchants in Honolulu see me coming and smile…

  31. The correct word is CHIRIMOYA

    Well, if you’re speaking Spanish. The word in English is Cherimoya. We’re allowed to have our own words for things.

  32. I think you mean the correct “palabra” is chirimoya. And they are delicious. Half the fun is of course getting to enjoy it when it is just right. Took me a few tries. Anyone have advice on what to do if you cut the skin too early?

  33. Southeast Asian custard apples have a quite different flavor than the Latin American ones. The skin is more segmented too, almost like scales on a snake. Wikipedia seems to think they’re different as well

    Annona reticulata with Black-naped Oriole in Kajang, Selangor, Malaysia

    The custard-apple, also called bullock’s heart or bull’s heart, is the fruit of the tree Annona reticulata.

    But the cherimoya fruit usuallt comes form Annona cherimola, not reticulata.

  34. The cherimoya fruit tastes great when you are hungry and you dont have many choices available.
    But in a tropical country like the Philippines where variety of fruits is a rule rather than an exception – the fruit is overtaken by its near cousins.

  35. chirimoya are delicious. i used to buy them by the case when they were in season, but you have to eat them quickly before they spoil.

    chirimoya tastes like juicyfruit…seriously.
    that is the closest taste I’ve been able to describe it to.

  36. Sobe Lifewater makes a 0 calorie Cherimoya flavor now. I think it’s probably their most recent in the 0 calorie line. I tried all the other 0 calorie flavors before I came across this one in stores, and it’s now my favorite. I have several bottles of it sitting in my kitchen right now. I’d never heard of Cherimoyas until I saw this drink and had to look it up at Wikipedia. I’ve never had a real Cherimoya though. :( I think I’ve seen it in the grocery store, though, so I’ll definitely have to try it now after reading all the glowing reviews.

  37. It is chirimoya in Mexico also.

    The transliteration is necessary, becaus in English chirimoya would sound nothing like the original Spanish word.

  38. mmmmmm It’s also known as a “custard apple”. I had this for the first time while in Malaga, Spain this past summer. It does taste very much like bannana and strawberry mixed together. One of my favorite fruits. I’m so glad they now grow these in California!

  39. the way I grew up eating Chirimoya’s and still eat them to this day is with some lemon juice and salt. Deelish!

  40. In Australia this fruit is called a custard apple. We eat this delicious fruit by itself. The custard apple breaks into small sections letting you eat the fleshy white part while spitting out the fairly large black seeds. Delicious!

  41. in india there is a similar fruit called the “sarifa” or in some parts “sitafal” the few brits. who tried it called it “custard apple” as the australians, in india it is also eaten by breaking it up and spooning out the contents and spitting out the black seeds.
    we grow these and the cherimoya beats the competition

  42. They are also grown in Florida. Had two trees in the yard growing up. delicious. Try its relative the sugar apple also part of the Annona family.

  43. In Australia we call it a custard apple. My childhood home had a custard apple tree in the back yard. You had to eat them before they got too ripe or they’d be mushy and stinky.

  44. I used to eat chirimoyas whenever possible when I lived in southern Spain. It really is the best fruit I’ve ever tasted. Agree with the commenter who likened the flavor to Juicy Fruit Gum. Less bogus-tasting, though, and with a (very) minor piney note. Unbelievably good.

  45. Freeze it and then scoop it like ice cream. It is absolutely wonderful. If possible try guanabana as well.

  46. “A ‘few’ seeds?” Of course outside the USA regulated environment all fruits have seeds.
    And Pablo is right Cherimoya in english sounds like Chirimolla. Poison in the seed? , never heard of, an my aunt used to grew them here, in the outskirts of Maracaibo

  47. In West Africa, they’re called Sweet Apple.

    Someone asked upthread about how to eat them. They have a thickish skin on the outside and multiple fleshy segments on the inside, each containing with a smooth black seed. They’re sort of like a compound lychee that way.

  48. In Australia they’re well known as a custard apple. Also interestingly, we have a different pawpaw too… In Australia pawpaw is papaya…

  49. Wow, this is one of the coolest post, look at the diversity of language around a similar family of fruit! This is what learning should always be about.

    Also, paw-paw’s are wonderful fruits, really good when they ripen in the fall. We used to mix them with persimmons before the persimmon would frost over and were still really tart. It was a wonderful sweet/tart blend.

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