Cherimoya!

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.

It’s gooooood.

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!

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12 Responses to Cherimoya!

  1. Denise Zolbert says:

    Very interesting, can’t wait to try one… hope I can find one in the desert.
    Don’t you think they look a bit like artichokes? Love how you discover
    new things to eat!!!! Thanks

  2. Caron says:

    Very interesting. I have never seen or heard of these but would love to try them. Maybe next year. 🙂

  3. 14 Semanas says:

    My family is Peruvian and cherimoyas are super popular there- they use them in everything: smoothies, ice cream, shakes, desserts, etc. You should make a trip down and see it for yourself!

  4. Casey says:

    I just did a post on cherimoyas a few weeks ago when my parents tree was loaded with them. We picked at least 20 one day, let them soften a day or so and just had feast upon feast. But we only know to eat them plain – I-ve got to try some of 14 semanas suggestions next year. Oh, and I live in Paraguay, South America!
    http://caseys279.blogspot.com/2011/05/chirimoya-and-cactus-berries.html

    • David says:

      Great post! The cactus berries look incredible. And I’m glad I have a reader in Paraguay! That means I’ve had 2 readers in South America (that I know of)!

  5. Lindsay says:

    David, having eaten all of the exotic fruits and veggies, was forced to move on to exotic animals, starting with armadillos.

    No, no, no…cherimoyas look and sound delicious! I think I’ve seen them in stores before, and I’ll certainly pick on up next time I spot one…I just hope I’m not too late! 😀

  6. Michael says:

    Actually, the season for Cherimoyas in Southern California runs from as early as Thanksgiving time, into May or June, as different varieties ripen at different times. So you can start looking at Farmers Markets late in the year, and enjoy this wonderful fruit for many months. Prices are usually better at those markets than at a supermarket, BTW.

    Just like other fruits, for example apples, various cherimoya varieties have slightly different flavors – I prefer ones not overly sweet. I can’t say I would think of freezing the fruit, although on a really hot day it might be a treat. I prefer it closer to room temperature.

    I don’t remove the seeds with a spoon, but separate them from the flesh in my mouth and spit the seeds out. That way none of the flesh is wasted (see some residue on the seeds in your photos).

    You can see some watery areas near the tip, in your first fruit. So those parts were a bit overripe. Hard to get it exactly perfect. The one on this page,
    http://wesisland.blogspot.com/2010/08/mark-twain-cherimoya-is-deliciousness.html,
    is very brownish and would probably have a very off taste, somewhat acrid. That page gives the precise Mark Twain references.

  7. Scott Benlevi says:

    I never worry about the price as i can pick them right off the tree in the back yard here in Israel. In the local shuk(market), they go for 18 shekels per kilogram or a little over 2$ a pound.

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