Alhambra Farmers Market
I am guilty of fruit prejudice. Every year I would briskly walk past market stands full of green scaly oddities without hesitation. A rather unappetizing leathery exterior that is sometimes scaly/bumpy with patches of rough brown skin, it felt like the fruit was telling me that it had nothing to offer. But with continued trips to the farmers market, my curiosity (and common sense) forced me to stop this baseless ignorance. Taking my first bite of a cherimoya made me realize that I had been a complete fool all along. Creamy, custard-like flesh with a perfumy sweetness, cherimoyas are some of the most delicious fruits I've ever tasted. Notes of bananas, papaya, mangoes and strawberries hit me with every bite, like a tropical fruit chewing gum but more luscious.
Cherimoyas are part of the Annonaceae family, also called the custard apple family, which include soursops, sweetsops and atemoyas. The confusing thing is that these names are sometimes used interchangeably, despite subtle differences between them all. Generally speaking, most varieties of cherimoya have a pale cream colored flesh with large black seeds. It is important to note that you should avoid these seeds, as they are potentially toxic if crushed open (there's a great discussion regarding this, with links to multiple sources over at 30 Bananas a Day). Luckily the seeds stick out like stripes on a zebra so picking them out is not a problem.
Visiting the Sahu Subtropicals stand, Noe and Cathy helped me choose my cherimoyas. Picking a cherimoya is a lot like picking an avocado; look for fruits that are heavy for their size, and without major skin blemishes. If not consuming right away, choose under ripe fruit that are slightly firmer and lighter in color. Fruits that are already ripe will be very soft and may begin to split open. These need to be consumed immediately, as the thin skin can turn ripe to rot in a matter of days. Under ripe fruits will only take a day or two to ripen at room temperature, so be sure to store them in the fridge.
When your cherimoya is perfectly ripe, cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh. This can be pureed and used in other recipes like pancakes or a cherimoya & raspberry tart. Cherimoya's creamy qualities lend itself well to smoothies and sorbets, but I prefer to enjoy it as is, slightly chilled and by the spoonful.
Got any cherimoya recipes or preparation tips? Let us hear them in the comments, or send them our way at firstname.lastname@example.org