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Tropical Cherimoyas

This is the first of a three part series on tropical fruit leading up to the An Organic Conversation radio show this weekend, as Earl discusses in depth Cherimoyas, Bananas, Pineapple and Mangoes for the full hour.

Cherimoya’s are originally from Ecuador and Peru but in 1871 they were introduced to California which is still the only place in the United States where Cherimoya’s are grown. They need a subtropical climate to thrive and although they are grown throughout South America they can be found on a commercial scale only in Chile, Spain and California.

Cunningham Organic Farm is located in a secluded valley next to the Cleveland National Forest and midway between Los Angeles and San Diego.  George Cunningham, his wife Gale and son Greg from Cunningham Organic Farm grow cherimoyas along with avocados, grapefruit, guavas, kumquats, lemons, limes, macadamias, oranges, passion fruit, persimmons and tangerines.  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. The season runs from February 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.

Cherimoyas are conical or heart shaped with green scales and have been compared to looking a bit like a globe artichoke.  A fruit can weigh anywhere from 3 ½ ounces to 5 pounds plus.  Cherimoya’s hold a special place in my heart not only because they are delicious but they were an instrumental part of being invited to join the Earl’s Organic team. Upon meeting Earl for the first time he quizzed me on the strange green and bumpy shaped fruit on the kitchen counter. Thanks to my recent trip to Hawaii I knew what the fruit was and that it contains toxic black seeds. I shared that cherimoyas had creamy white flesh that tasted a bit like pineapples and strawberries. My favorite way to eat them is to cut them in half, wrap them up and freeze them until the consistency is like ice cream. Earl declared me “a foodie” and my journey at Earl’s began.

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Choosing a Cherimoya

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.

Warning

Only eat the flesh of the cherimoya! As I mentioned above the black seeds are toxic. They 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. Cherimoyas are good for you and full of nutrients including riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin C.

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We will explore bananas, pineapples and mangos in our next blogs. We love hearing how you eat Cherimoyas. Please share your thoughts and recipes on our Facebook page.

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