The last time I was at Whole Foods, there was a big cherimoya display. I had never seen them or heard of them before, so, naturally, I was drawn to them like a prehistoric creature to a busty, tank-top-wearing woman in a SyFy Channel original movie. The sign mentioned they were an exotic fruit, and I was sold. I bought two:
These things are cool lookin’! I love their shingled skins. This is how fruit would look in a Dr. Seuss book or a Tim Burton movie:
I did a little online research before digging in. Cherimoya are native to South America, and are grown at high altitudes, in valleys along the Andes. Now they’re grown all over the world, including New Zealand, southern California and Hawaii. In fact, when Mark Twain spent four months in Hawaii in 1866, he famously wrote that cherimoyas were “the most delicious fruit known to men” – a quote that I’ve seen on a few websites, although I found the quote in its entirety, and it’s not even clear if Twain actually ate a cherimoya – they weren’t in season when he was there.
I also consulted a cookbook I have, Mark Bittman’s “How To Cook Everything,” to see what he had to say about cherimoya, and despite the book’s title, Bittman doesn’t suggest cooking it at all – just slicing it open and eating it with a spoon.
So that’s what I did.
Here’s the inside of a cherimoya:
There are black, raisin-sized seeds throughout the cherimoya that aren’t edible, so I fished those out, and dug in with my spoon:
WOW. Even if he didn’t eat one himself, Mark Twain was on to something! My cherimoya was amazing. It’s smooth and creamy, like a really ripe pear can be, but the taste was unlike anything else I’ve eaten. How to describe it? It tastes… tropical. You know how there’s tropical fruit-flavored Starbursts and tropical-flavored gum? Cherimoya tastes like that. A mix of pineapple and banana and papaya and mango and who knows what else. It tastes like one of those tropical drinks with an annoyingly cutesy name that you would order on a cruise ship.
Here’s the remnants after I ate half of my cherimoya:
I ate the other half within minutes.
But I still had another cherimoya in my possession – what to do with that one? This website had an idea: freeze it. Why not? So I sliced the other one in half, and popped it in my freezer.
A few hours later, I pulled it out. It looked exactly the same, but I took a picture anyway:
The website says that “you will enjoy its custard-like texture the most when frozen.” I don’t know if I liked it the most in its frozen state, but damn, it was good. It tasted just like ice cream – silky, smooth and incredibly satisfying.
I read online that the season for cherimoyas in California is from March to May – and it’s already the beginning of June, so hopefully I can pick up a few more before the local ones disappear. I need to head to the store in the next few days anyway… I’ll definitely be on the lookout for cherimoyas!
OH – and in case anyone is wondering about the plate in these photos… yep, those are robots chasing after children in the design around the edge. See?
Keep it up, David!