(Annona cherimola – Family Annonaceae)
Cherimoya, chirimoya, anona/anona blanca, custard apple
cherimoyer (French), Cherimoyer-Frucht (German), cherimoya/chirimoya (Spanish), cherimolia (Portuguese), cachiman la Chine (Haiti), chirimorrinon/catoche/catuche (Venezuela), pox/poox/zapote de viejas/cabeza de negro (Mexico), huanaba (Guatemala), anona de puntitlas (Argentina), sinini (Bolivia), graviola/jaca do Pará (Brazil)
The cherimoya originated in the mountains of Ecuador and Peru, where the prehistoric Chimu and Nazca terracotta vases, modeled after the fruit, have been dug up.
Its smooth, black seeds have also been found in Inca graves.
The name cherimoya comes from the Peruvian “chirimuya”, which means ‘cold seeds’, presumably an allusion to the wet freshness of the fruit and the large seeds inside. The number of seeds varies, depending on where the fruit is grown.
There are about sixty species of Annona, but most are very rare; and all are native to the Americas. It is now grown throughout the subtropics, including California and Florida, and exported from India and Israel to Europe.
The members of the Cherimoya family resemble each other, having thick, soft, inedible skin that encloses a creamy flesh and large seeds. The cherimoya is a large, heart-shaped or oval fruit, consisting of many corpels (concave sections). It is smooth and green, about the size of a pear, with a pattern that looks like the scales of a young pine cone or artichoke. Size varies greatly, ranging from those that weigh about three ounces to others than weigh more than five pounds.
Cherimoyas are high in Vitamin C and iron. They contains no sodium and are richer in niacin, phosphorus, and thiamin than most fruits.
Since they are very fragile, only compact and unblemished fruit should be chosen for purchase. When the corpels have separated, the fruit has passed its prime.
The fruit should have a slight give to it when pressed, and then eaten as soon after purchase as possible. If refridgerated, they will keep for a day or two.
Unripened fruit can be kept at room temperature in a brown paper bag until ripened.
All types of cherimoya can be eaten fresh after discarding the seeds. They can also be blended with four times its volume in water to make a refreshing drink or made into jams, jellies, or sorbets.
Shapes of the Cherimoya are as follows:
Finger-printed: called “anona de dedos pintados” in Costa Rica because its surface is covered with U-shaped areoles resembling finger-prints in wax. They often contain relatively few seeds.
Smooth: called “chirimoya lisa” in South America and “anon” in Mexico City. It is one of the best varieties, but the name is also applied to the ‘pond apple’ and the ‘bullock’s heart’. The smooth surfaces can cause some confusion.
Tuberculate: is a very common form that is heart-shaped, with wart-like tubercles near the top of each areole.
Mammillate: called “cirimoya de tetillas” in South America. It is grown in Madeira and South India.
Umbonate: called “chirimoya de puas” and “anona picuda” in South America. It is oblong-conical with a somewhat umbilicate base and a surface studded with protuberances each corresponding to a carpel. This form has thicker skin, more acidic pulp, and more seeds.
Other members of the same family with a similar flavour are as follows:
Sugar apple/sweetsop/custard apple (A. squamosa). Custard apples are heart-shaped or oval, and can weigh up to a pound. They have a light tan or greenish quilted skin, which develops brown patches as the fruit ripens. The flesh is particularly mellow and custard-like.
Ilama (A. diversifolia)
Soursop/Bullock’s heart (A. muricata). Soursop is also called prickly custard apple or bullock’s heart. The soursop is about twice as big as the cherimoya, with a heart shape which gives it its alternate name. The skin is pale green when unripe, and turns brown as it ripens.
It also has numerous short, fleshy spines and, when ripe, develops a rank, bitter flavour so is almost always discarded. However, the flesh has a sharper flavour than the custard apple but is still very sweet, if you can get around the numerous black seeds.
When ripe, the soursop should be brown all over and give when pressed with the fingertips. It is popular in Cuba in a drink called “champola de guanàbana”.
Hybrids,for example, the atemoya, a cross between a cherimoya and the sugar-apple, are now fruits in their own right.