By Sean Forsha
For me, one of the most enjoyable parts of writing these Seasonally Speaking columns is doing the research. I love falling helplessly into the rabbit holes of information only to resurface hours later with little shining nuggets of trivial knowledge. Such was my recent experience while looking into cherimoya, an exotic, tropical fruit I’ve only eaten a few times and about I knew very little. So into the caverns of the Internet I charged head-on, hoping for the best. I was not let down.
First a bit of basic info about cherimoya: The name originates from the Quechua, an indigenous language of the South American highlands and translates to “cold seeds” as the cherimoya trees grow well at higher elevations and the seeds can germinate in cold temperature. Cherimoya is thought to be native to equatorial South America and spread through exploration and colonialism by Europeans to other tropic parts of the world. Cherimoya has been successfully grown in California since first introduced in 1871. The flavor of the flesh ranges from mellow sweet to tangy or acidic sweet, with variable suggestions of pineapple, banana, pear, papaya, strawberry or other berry, and apple, depending on the variety. The texture of ripe cherimoya is custard-like which has provided the fruit with alternate names such as custard apple and ice cream fruit. Cherimoya is in season for us here in California from November-May and mostly grown in the Central Valley by farmers like Brokaw Ranch Company – a vendor I used to buy from at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market when I lived and cooked in San Francisco – and more locally to Long Beach at Underwood Family Farms – which looks to have impressive “you-pick” options and kid-friendly events worth making the short drive north.
So, with just a bit of fossicking the on-line resources about cherimoya I also learned about an ancient language of the Andes and found a farm nearby I’m eager to check out with my family.
The wonderful collateral knowledge gathering has begun.
But wait, there’s more…
Delving a bit deeper, I come to find out one of the greatest American writers had serious love for cherimoya! Mark Twain, during a trip to Hawaii in the mid-1860’s, dispatched his travels and observations in colorful transcripts to the Sacramento Daily Union. In an anecdote about a visit to a sugar plantation at Waiohinu, Twain refers to cherimoya as “…the pride of the islands, the most delicious fruit known to men.” I’d say any fruit that gets that kind of endorsement from Mark Twain is worth trying. So, let’s eat…
Cherimoya are most often eaten raw when the fruit is soft-ripe/fresh-ripe and still has the fresh, fully mature greenish/greenish-yellowish skin color, the texture is like that of a soft-ripe pear and papaya. If the skin is allowed to turn fully brown, yet the flesh has not fermented or gone “bad”, then the texture can be custard-like. I’ve provided a recipe using cherimoya in a delicious smoothie, which I think is the perfect vehicle for delivering the valuable nutrients of the fruit in a convenient way that will allow you to sip as we trip together further into the depths of research and discover the fascinating world of hand pollinating hermaphroditic cherimoya trees in the San Fernando Valley!
- 2 ripe, medium cherimoya, pulped and seeded
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 ½ cup unsweetened, vanilla almond milk
- 1 cup baby spinach leaves
- Ice, optional
Place all ingredients into a high-power blend and blend until smooth. Makes 16 ounces of smoothie.