Pre-Incan people cultivated the fruit as far back as 2,500 BC. More recently, Mark Twain said that the Cherimoya was “deliciousness itself”. Perhaps that’s why the fruit doesn’t last that long in the market even though it is very expensive. Oh yea, the fruit also looks really cool.
- The fruit itself ranges in size from 8 in to 12 in in length. Better size and number of fruit is obtained with hand pollination or planting another cherimoya nearby.
- The outer surface of the fruit may be bumpy or flat with large fingerprint like markings.
- The thin skin is green and the flesh is white with hard black seeds. The black seeds are inedible/toxic.
The Cherimoya fruit texture is similar to custard, but it is also juicy. Overall it is sweet with mild acid overtones. Cherimoya fruit is a wonderful mix of flavors in one fruit; banana, passion fruit, pineapple and papaya. When chilled, its flavor is somewhat similar to ice cream.
- The main season is October to May.
- Buy or pick the fruit when the skin is turning slightly lighter in color but the fruit is still hard.
- Allow to ripen in a dark area at room temp for a few days until it feels lightly soft to touch. Ripening and softness is similar to an avocado.
- The tree starts to fruit when around 4 years old.
- It is a fast-growing tree, and can reach 30+ feet in height. However, it is easily trained with pruning in the dormant season. The wood is brittle so pruning also helps the tree to support the heavy fruit. Young plants need staking.
- Green leaves with a prominent light green central vein.
- Briefly deciduous; loosing leaves for a short time in late winter/early spring.
- The flowers are green and easily missed on casual inspection.
The tree is said to be able to tolerate a wide range of soil types but prefers well draining fertile soil with neutral to slightly acidic pH.
Bi-weekly irrigation in the growing season (April to January) The plant is prone to root rot with prolonged moist conditions. The trees also dont seem to like the dry air of the desert where the leaves are easily damaged by dry Santa Ana winds. Overall, the plant appreciates a slope for drainage and cooler marine air. Most of the US crop is grown in coastal and coastal-foothill areas of Southern California.
Balanced fertilizer 1x in midwinter, and then again every three months throughout the growing season. Mature trees are said to require 4 ounces of actual nitrogen per inch of trunk diameter per year.
- It is a subtropical plant native to northwest parts of South America and traditionally grown in cool mountain altitudes at the equator. The plant can withstand a light frost but not much more than that. Like other deciduous trees they need a chilling period (40-100 hrs at 45 F).
- For more information about the lowest temperatures that you can expect in your area, check out my article “Climate Zones: What can I grow in my yard?”
- The main pests in California are mealybugs and snails. However, I did get a rather bad scale infection this last dormant season. It seems that ants were an accessory to this infestation. Tanglefoot on masking tape around the trunk helps keep the ants away that bring in the mealybugs and scale.
- I have also read that you shouldn’t plant this tree in old vegetable gardens, near tomatoes, eggplant or asters because Cherimoya are susceptible to the same soil diseases. Cherimoyas are also susceptible to Armillaria (Oak Root Fungus) and Verticillium.
- Squirrels have also discovered the fruit. Therefore, I keep a close eye on the fruit and pick them a little early because I dont like to share with my rodent neighbors.
- Cherimoya fruit tastes great any way you serve it, but it is best when chilled.
- It is often added to desserts.
- Some make ice cream out of it.
- Note: the Cherimoya fruit seeds are toxic, so don’t go putting this in a blender before taking the seeds out.