Native to southern Ecuador and northern Peru, where it still grows uncultivated, the tropical fruit cherimoya is unheard of by many Americans, since it has somewhat finicky growing preferences. Cherimoya trees don't fare well in extreme temperatures, nor do they grow in tropical lowlands or at very high altitudes. The leaves and fruit suffer when exposed to climates over 85-90 degrees or below 30-32 degrees Fahrenheit for very long. They also require excellent drainage. Limited production of cherimoya is known in Southern California, but growers report it doesn't do well in Florida, probably because of excessive summer heat.
Cherimoya was carried to other parts of the world centuries ago. Today, it's known on nearly every continent, from China to Egypt, Australia to Hawaii. But it's sometimes known as cherimolia, chirimolla, or even colloquial monikers like "soursop," "pap" or "tzumuxin" in Guatemala, and "anone" in France (being of the genus Annona). Pawpaws and sugar apples are close relatives. Needless to say, the varieties are many.
Cherimoya fruits are sometimes heart-shaped, about the size of a large grapefruit, with creamy white, sweet and slightly tart flesh, green skin, and an abundance of large, black seeds. Neither the skin nor the seeds, which are toxic when crushed, are edible.
Visually like a cross between an artichoke and a strawberry, the flavor resembles a blend of pineapple and banana. Firm fruits should be refrigerated to slow the ripening process and removed three to four days before eating. Easily broken or cut to expose the pleasant fragrance and delicious, custard-like fruit, they're usually eaten like an apple or scooped out with a spoon, or cut in half lengthwise and peeled.
Cherimoya can be cut into cubes, pureed, and used as a mousse or pie filling. Some people add a few drops of lime or lemon juice and dilute with ice water for a refreshing beverage. Seeded, they're added to fruit salads, sherbet, or smoothies, and fermented to produce an alcoholic beverage. Pieces can be dipped in lemon or orange juice to prevent darkening.
Mark Twain described the cherimoya as “deliciousness itself.”
Health Benefits of Cherimoya
With zero saturated fat, cherimoyas are cholesterol-free, high in fiber, iron, and niacin, and contain powerful cytotoxins that are said to combat cancer, malaria, and human parasites. They're high in vitamin C, a natural antioxidant that helps the body resist infection, as well as a good source of B vitamins, notably vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), which provides 20 percent of the daily recommended value.
Cherimoya provides high potassium levels, which helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Furthermore, it contains more minerals weight per weight than a lot of more common fruits, such as apples, because of its copper, magnesium, iron and manganese content.
There's been discussion about the fruit's ability to manufacture GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid ), a neurochemical in the brain sometimes known as "the euphoric amino acid" because of its calming and headache pain-easing effects. Many people have been known to enjoy the fruit for that reason as well as for the flavor.
In rural Mexico, a couple of cherimoya seeds are sometimes roasted, peeled, and pulverized into a powder, and mixed with water or milk to induce vomiting. Mixed with grease, the powder is said to kill lice, as well as cure parasitic skin infections.
Cherimoya Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Studies Done on Cherimoya
Used in traditional Mexican medicine for its anxiety-relieving, anticonvulsant, and tranquilizing properties, cherimoya was studied for possible development of medicine for depressive disorder. Repeated test treatments of cherimoya in a lab setting produced antidepressant-like effects in mice. It was strongly suggested by scientists that it be used in that capacity as an antidepressant agent.1
There is some controversy regarding the use of cherimoya as a cancer cure. In one study, for instance, researchers found extracts to have cytotoxic potential in cultured cancer cells. But another study found certain annona cultivars to induce Parkinson's disease-like symptoms, ostensibly due to the phytochemical annonacin content. 2 However, possible pesticide, herbicide and fungicide use on the fruit has entered the discussion as well.3
Cherimoya Healthy Recipes:
|1 cup heavy whipping cream
||1 cup sour cream
||¼ cup honey
||½ tsp. vanilla
|2 Tbsp. orange juice
||2 Tbsp. lemon juice
||1/8 tsp. salt
||½ cup pureed cherimoya
|2 tsp. grated orange peel
||2 cups seeded cherimoya chunks
||1½ cups orange sections
- Beat the heavy whipping cream in a chilled bowl until stiff peaks rise. Gently combine it with the sour cream in a deep bowl and refrigerate with the beaters until well chilled.
- Beat creams until frothy; gradually adding the honey, vanilla, juices, and salt; beat until quite stiff.
- Blend in cherimoya puree and 1 tsp. orange peel. Place half the cherimoya chunks in the bottom of 4 to 6 parfait glasses. Spoon in a layer of cream, orange sections, a second layer of cream, and remaining cherimoya.
- Top with a dollop of cream and garnish with remaining orange peel and mint leaves. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Cherimoya Fun Facts
Cherimoya pollination is a challenge, because the male and female flowers mature at different times, and few insects visit. So hand-pollination is the method in Chele, done in a six- to eight-hour period. The pollen on partly-opened flowers is collected in the afternoon and kept in a paper bag overnight. The following morning, the pollen is placed in a vial with moist paper and transferred by brush to receptive stigmas, but only a few at a time to extend the ripening season. Fruits from hand-pollinated flowers are superior in shape and size.
Commercial production of cherimoya fruit is a challenge because of its short shelf-life, persnickety cultivation demands, and time-intensive hand-pollination requirements. But it's worth it!
Often considered one of the best-tasting fruits in the world, cherimoyas are becoming more popular in the U.S. for their rich, creamy texture and mildly sweet flavor, which makes excellent smoothies and tea. This exotic tropical fruit is native to the Andes Mountain region, but grows in similar, moderate climates throughout the world, including Southern California. Its nutritional benefits include vitamins A and C, copper, magnesium, iron, and manganese, and there is a growing conversation regarding its possible cancer-inhibiting capabilities.
However, consume cherimoyas in moderation because they contain fructose, which may be harmful to your health in excessive amounts.