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Cherimoyas- A Delicious Tropical Treat

Cherimoyas are one of my favorite tropical fruits.  I tried my first one at a farmers market in Hawaii and I was hooked. Cherimoyas can grow as small as ¼ pound each up to 5 pounds and are a conical or heart shaped green fruit covered in bumps.  The flesh is white and creamy and dotted with big black seeds.  Depending on the variety, they are mellow sweet to tangy or acidic sweet with suggestions of mangos, pineapples, banana, papaya, strawberries and vanilla custard but honestly I can’t compare it to anything else.  Mark Twain called the cherimoya “deliciousness itself.”  The season runs from March to June with the peak time in March and April. Cherimoya’s are grown in California from Santa Barbara all the way down to San Diego.

The cherimoya is believed indigenous to Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia and Peru and was introduced to California in 1871.  George Cunningham, his wife Gale and son Greg from Cunningham Organic Farm grow cherimoyas along with avocados, grapefruit, guavas, kumquats, lemons, limes, macadamias, oranges, passionfruit, persimmons and tangerines.  Cunningham Organic Farm is located in a secluded valley next to the Cleveland National Forest and midway between Los Angeles and San Diego.  George started off with 10 Cherimoya trees and continued to add more. The trees need to be spaced out because they branch out and can form a canopy in about 7-8 years.  Now he is up to 4 acres of cherimoyas and looking to add more.

George, Gale and Greg Cunningham

Look for firm, unripe fruit that are heavy for their size and let them ripen at room temperature out of the sunlight.  Cherimoyas are similar to avocados and should be treated with care so they don’t bruise. Wait a few days until the flesh yields to gentle pressure and the skin has turned slightly brown.  Once you notice the first sign of ripeness wait another day or two to eat but not much longer because the sugars in the flesh will start to ferment.  Ripe cherimoyas can be stored in the refrigerator, wrapped in a paper towel for up to 4 days.

A quick word of warning, only eat the flesh of the cherimoya! The black seeds are toxic and can cause vomiting, nausea, dryness of the mouth, burning in the throat and eating the seeds can cause paralysis that can last up to five hours. You don’t want to have a delicious half-eaten cherimoya on your plate and not be able to eat it. Cherimoyas are full of nutrients including riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin C.

The simplest way to eat a cherimoya is to scoop out the flesh with a spoon and pick out the large black seeds. My favorite way is to cut it in half, wrap it in plastic and put it in the freezer. When you scoop it out it is creamy like ice cream.  What a perfect treat on a warm day.

Cherimoya www.deliciousdelicious.com

 

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