Cherimoya

Other names: Custard Apple, Chirimoya, Chirimolla

Availability: November and December. February through June.

Source: California, Central and South America.

Handling Tips: 36-38°F, ripen at room temperature

General Information: This fruit is becoming more and more popular, as people discover its great flavor. The inside has inedible black seeds that are easily avoided. The pulp is like the avocado and blends flavors of banana, mango, papaya and pineapple. Use in mousse, fruit salads, or in chicken and tuna salads. Pairs well with melon in fruit cups too. High in fiber and an ample dose of niacin

Applications: Ripening cherimoya is basically pretty simple. It is just kept at room temperature on the kitchen counter, and it will be ripe and ready to eat about seven days after it was picked. Cherimoya is ready to eat when it softens to about like the heel of one's hand. If in doubt, it should be allowed to ripen further. It's better for it to be a little over ripe than a little under ripe. After ripening, cherimoya can be kept for several days in the refrigerator. It should not be put in the refrigerator before ripe.

History: The cherimoya is believed indigenous to the interandean valleys of Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia. In Bolivia, it flourishes best around Mizque and Ayopaya, in the Department of Cochabamba, and around Luribay, Sapahaqui and Rio Abajo in the Department of La Paz. Its cultivation must have spread in ancient times to Chile and Brazil for it has become naturalized in highlands throughout these countries. Many authors include Peru as a center of origin but others assert that the fruit was unknown in Peru until after seeds were sent by P. Bernabe Cobo from Guatemala in 1629 and that thirteen years after this introduction the cherimoya was observed in cultivation and sold in the markets of Lima. The often-cited representations of the cherimoya on ancient Peruvian pottery are actually images of the soursop, A. muricata L. Cobo sent seeds to Mexico also in 1629. There it thrives between 4,000 and 5,000 ft (1312-1640 m) elevations.

It is commonly grown and naturalized in temperate areas of Costa Rica and other countries of Central America. In Argentina, the cherimoya is mostly grown in the Province of Tucuman. In 1757, it was carried to Spain where it remained a dooryard tree until the 1940's and 1950's when it gained importance in the Province of Granada, in the Sierra Nevada mountains, as a replacement for the many orange trees that succumbed to disease and had to be taken out. By 1953, there were 262 acres (106 ha) of cherimoyas in this region.

In 1790 the cherimoya was introduced into Hawaii by Don Francisco de Paulo Marin. It is still casually grown in the islands and naturalized in dry upland forests. In 1785, it reached Jamaica, where it is cultivated and occurs as an escape on hillsides between 3,500 and 5,000 ft (1,066-1,524 m). It found its way to Haiti sometime later. The first planting in Italy was in 1797 and it became a favored crop in the Province of Reggio Calabria. The tree has been tried several times in the Botanic Gardens, Singapore first around 1878�but has always failed to survive because of the tropical climate. In the Philippines, it does well in the Mountain Province at an altitude above 2,460 ft (750 m). It was introduced into India and Ceylon in 1880 and there is small-scale culture in both countries at elevations between 1,500 and 7,000 ft (457-2,134 m). The tree was planted in Madeira in 1897, then in the Canary Islands, Algiers, Egypt and, probably via Italy, in Libya, Eritrea and Somalia.

The United States Department of Agriculture imported a number of lots of cherimoya seeds from Madeira in 1907 (S.P.I. Nos. 19853, 19854, 19855, 19898, 19901, 19904, 19905).

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