New favorite fruit: Cherimoya


The day after my excursion to Hillcrest Farmer’s Market, I decided to make a breakfast of the exotic fresh fruits I found there. Two cherimoyas and two passion fruit provided ample material to start the day.

Cutting through the leathery, dark purple skin of the passion fruit revealed a bright magenta pith surrounding a freakishly yellow-green gooey interior, slightly milky and almost fluorescent, like radiator fluid. They were hyper-tart.

The cherimoyas, by contrast, were creamy and soft, with a complex flavor reminiscent of piña colada: banana, coconut, pineapple flavors were present, but also a definite apple-pear note as well. The texture was definitely custardy (hence their other name, custard apple), occasionally also pear-like with a faint fibrous feel. Overall mellow and sweet, very easy to eat by the spoonful, except for the abundance of hard, black seeds that you could easily break a tooth on.

After tasting each individually, I decided to just mix them together. The creamy sweetness of the cherimoya tempered the hair-bristling tartness of the passion fruit. A taste of the tropics in a bowlful of local fruit — local to San Diego, that is.

I eschewed my normal morning espresso for a pot of the black tea chai I purchased from Conscious Cookery at the market, rounding out the exotic theme. I love a good chai, and hers fits the bill: Pungently spicy with a strong clove note that tingles the palate, but not so much to overpower the flavors of anise, cardamom and black pepper. Sweetened with a little local honey and a cloud of milk, well, who needs coffee?

As spring and summer encroach on Northern California, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for cherimoyas. I’m eager to play with this deliciously custardy fruit. I’m thinking maybe crème brulée or ice cream for starters …

  • ann

    can u eat the cherimoya as soon as u buy it, or do u need to let it ripen?
    Always been curious about this fruit, but since it’s kinda pricey haven’t tried it yet.

  • The cherimoya we bought were ready to eat, but once previously I had purchased and tried to eat one that was unripe, and it was not such a pleasant experience. The fruit should be dark green with blackish markings, and should yield to gentle pressure (but not be totally mushy). If it’s hard, you’ll need to let it ripen a few days until it’s ready to eat. It’s worth the wait.

  • I always want to like cherimoya — custard + apple = yum! — but haven’t had one that I enjoyed yet. Maybe I need a fresh one?
    We have passion-fruit vines in our garden. So far they’ve been ripening in ones and twos, but hopefully we’ll get a decent harvest soon — enough to make dessert, anyway.

  • strangely I was first introduced to cherimoya at Milennium where the pastry chef can make some amazing desserts, and vegan no less!
    but for creme brulee be “careful.” tropical fruits tend to have enzymes which interfere with dairy coagulation. in other words you may not get a set…
    the fruit may be better suited for ice cream, yes, or sorbet.
    love love love passion fruits. I especially like feeding it to those whove never tasted the real thing. sumptuous, sensual and surprising!

  • Anita: Or maybe it was underripe? They’re pretty flavorless (except for bitterness) until they ripen fully.
    I’d love to avail myself of some of your passion fruits if you get a bumper crop. I remember a pavlova smothered in passion fruit I had whilst in Australia. The intense sugariness of the meringue against the tartness of the fruit … perfect.
    Shuna: Wow, good thing I know a pastry chef! Thanks for the tip. Perhaps a panna cotta set with a soupcon of gelatin would work?
    Hmmm … cherimoya panna cotta with passion fruit. Uh, yum!

  • Catherine

    I had cherimoyas in Australia, up in Queensland, and LOVED THEM. However, when I got back to the NW USA, I tried one in Oregon and it had this weird spicy flavor that tasted completely off. Do you think it was bad luck or should I try again? And how did you combine the two?

  • One thing that was abundantly clear even given the small sample at the farmer’s market is that there are several varieties. At Hillcrest I saw three distinct sizes with different textures on the skin. I ended up buying the middle ones only because they were the only ones that seemed to be ripe enough to eat right away. I wonder if perhaps you had a different variety? Or, possibly, that they take on flavors from the environment they’re grown in. Could there be cherimoya terroir?

  • Hmm, interesting. I will have to see these out and try them…

  • I’m willing to bet you’ll find them in the Sacto farmers market come summertime. Do I predict a cherimoya cupcake with passion fruit frosting in your future?

  • I also first tried custard apples in Australia, and they are one of my favorite fruits! This might sound strange, but a ripe custard apple goes really well with blue cheese. It is not an attrative combo (a little too pale and sloppy!), but the sweet-tart taste is amazing.

  • Hi, first time here. Saw on Mattbites that you would love to do a meme. Consider yourself tagged, then! Read on her:

  • Oh! Cherimoya! Yum! Ate them all over Singapore and Thailand. The only thing I love more is snakefruit…
    I want to see what you come up with recipe-wise!
    But–I’ve never understood the passion for passionfruit. Even perfectly ripe they’re still just a meh thing for me.

  • First time on your blog, it’s really great! I bought a cherimoya a while back and was startled by how custardy it tasted! I have recently found a wonderful recipe for Cherimoya Ice Cream that I’m dying to make! It sounds divine!

  • I love cherimoya when it is ripe and sweet. Otherwise, it tastes like green bananas. Eck!
    The best way to enjoy fresh passion fruit is to squeeze the juice out of the pulps using a wire mesh and then sweeten with a little syrup and lots of soda water. Yummy! Passion fruit-eade. 🙂

  • Cherimoyas are pretty much grown in the Mainland US just a bit north of San Diego proper, near the towns of Escondido, Encinitas, Vista and San Marcos, in a valley that is perfect for growing. That is where the farmer from whom you bought them from has his orchard/farm. They also are abundant in the mid-to-late winter, don’t know why, but they are. Otherwise, they don’t grow anywhere in the US other than Hawaii.
    I make a great parfait with them, layered with pureed mango, papaya, and when in season, hacihya persimmon. It is an incredible parfait. I also use it to make “live” pies with banana and young coconut as the filling. YUM!

  • erik_flannestad

    There’s a woman who specializes in exotic fruit at the Alemany farmers’ market, who frequently has Cherimoyas.
    Yes, they are a winter fruit in CA. I believe she grows them near Palmdale and also sells at a couple other markets in the Bay Area.
    One of the reasons Cherimoya are so expensive is that whatever pollinates them doesn’t live here. To get fruit, every flower has to be pollinated by hand.

  • the name of this fruit in France is Anone .
    We don’t find it easily ,only in the tropical groceries.
    but it’s very delicious and you describe very well the flavor . The first time that I tasted it ,it was in Israel in a market .

  • Goodness — I go away for a few days and the world comments!
    Carolyn: I think bleu cheese sounds like an ideal complement, if not photogenic.
    ASMO: Will check it out!
    Tokyorosa: I guess you have to really like sour things to dig passion fruit. The color is also part of the appeal (even if it is less than attractive).
    Freya: Please share that ice cream recipe if you can. I think that would be a great first thing to make with them.
    Ming: An excellent idea. I think juicing the passion fruit is the right thing to do, as the seeds are kind of a distraction. Probably good to just keep some of that around for all kinds of uses. Like, say, cocktails. 🙂
    Michelle: There were three different cherimoya vendors there — the ones I bought were right across from your booth, a German woman helped me. The parfait sounds to die for — and the idea of matching young coconut with it is awesome!
    Erik: I know I’ve seen them here before. I’m sure they have trouble keeping up with demand, unless they’re too exotic and don’t get bought up. Either way, I’m gonna be aggressive (B-E Aggressive!) when it comes to finding them this year. Really interesting about the hand-pollination, too!
    Lili: Interesting — I saw online that Spain is another major producer. Good that you can get them at all!

  • debi

    so you call it cherimoya — we call it ATIS here in the PH.
    Wonderful recipes and hilarious instructions.. guess, that makes me a new fan.

  • This has certainly been a great vocabulary lesson for me! now I know how to say cherimoya in French and Tagalog. Neat!

  • There are several named varieties of cherimoya including a pink fleshed one called Selma. I’ve seen fruit from 5 ounce to 1 1/2
    pounds on the same tree, so size doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a different variety. If you live on the California coast or in the San
    Francisco Bay area you can easily grow cherimoyas. They don’t need a lot of heat, but they can’t take cold winters.
    Cherimoyas were Mark Twain’s favorite fruit!
    For more info on growing your own check out

  • Sean, I found your blog as a hit when looking up Selma Cherimoya. I just got a question from a non-member about where they could buy it up here. Heh!
    Some of the members of California Rare Fruit Growers grow cherimoyas. Our upcoming meeting will be talking about what one can and cannot grow successfully in the SF Bay Area.

  • Lisa

    Hello all. I live in NJ and believe it or not, Wegmann’s grocery store is currently selling cherimoyas grown in CA. I haven’t tried it yet as it’s not quite ripe enough. I have seen a recipe using cherimoyas as a filling for a sort of devil’s food cake topped with cherries. Sounded really good but complicated to make.

  • Susan

    I just Stumbled upon this post, and I’m SO jealous that you live in an area with such abundant exotic fruits and veggies. I live in a wee little country town in Michigan, and the most exotic thing I can find is the hothouse imported stuff at the local big-box store, which is 20 miles away.
    However…I do have access to the BEST strawberries, blueberries and asparagus in the world. 🙂

  • Not to mention your cherries!