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The cherimoya (Annona cherimola) is a species of Annona native to the Andean-highland valleys of Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. It is a deciduous or semi-evergreen shrub or small tree reaching 7 m tall. The leaves are alternate, simple, oblong-lanceolate, 7-15 cm long and 6-10 cm broad. The flowers are produced in small clusters, each flower 2-3 cm across, with six petals, yellow-brown, often spotted purple at the base.

The fruit is oval, often slightly oblique, 10-20 cm long and 7-10 cm diameter, with a smooth or slightly tuberculated skin. The fruit flesh is white, and has numerous seeds embedded in it. Mark Twain called the cherimoya "the most delicious fruit known to men."

The Moche culture of Peru had a fascination with agriculture and represented fruits and vegetables in their art. Cherimoyas were often depicted in their ceramics. Berrin, Katherine & Larco Museum. The Spirit of Ancient Peru:Treasures from the Museo Arqueologico Rafael Larco Herrera. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1997.

Cultivation and uses

The tree thrives throughout the tropics at altitudes of 1300-2600m . The name derives from Quechua chirimuya, meaning 'cold seeds', since the seeds will germinate at higher altitudes. Though sensitive to frost, it must have periods of cool temperatures or the tree will gradually go dormant. The indigenous inhabitants of the Andes say that although the cherimoya cannot stand snow, it does like to see it in the distance. It is cultivated in many places throughout the Americas, including California, where it was introduced in 1871, and Hawaii. In the Mediterranean region, it is cultivated mainly in southern Spain, Madeira, Egypt and Israel. The first planting in Italy was in 1797 and it became a favored crop in the Province of Reggio Calabria. It is also grown in Taiwan and New Zealand.

The fruit is fleshy and soft, sweet, white in color, with a sherbet-like texture, which gives it its secondary name, custard apple. Some characterize the flavor as a blend of banana, pineapple, and strawberry. Others describe it as tasting like commercial bubblegum. Similar in size to a grapefruit, it has large, glossy, dark seeds that are easily removed. The seeds are poisonous if crushed open; one should also avoid eating the skin. When ripe the skin is green and gives slightly to pressure, similar to the avocado.

When shipping, one should look for large fruit which is uniformly green. Avoid fruits with cracks or mostly browned skin. Ripe fruit may be kept in the refrigerator, but it is best to let immature cherimoyas ripen at room temperature, until it yields to gentle pressure.

Different varieties have different characteristics of flavor, texture, and fruit shape contours.

Contours can range from imprint areoles, flat areoles, slight bump or point areoles, full areoles - and combinations of the above. The flavor of the flesh ranges from mellow sweet to tangy/acidic sweet, with variable suggestions of pineapple, banana, pear, papaya, strawberry/'berry', and/or apple, depending on the variety. The usual characterization of flavor is 'pineapple/banana' flavor, similar to the flavor of the Monstera deliciosa fruit.

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 hasn't fermented or gone 'bad', then the texture can be custard-like. Often when the skin turns brown at room temperature the fruit is no longer good for human consumption. Also, the skin turns brown if it's been under normal refrigeration for 'too long' - a day or two maybe.

Fresh cherimoya contains about 15% sugar (about 60kcal/100g) and some vitamin C (up to 20mg/100g)


The flowers are hermaphroditic, but have a mechanism to avoid self pollination. The short-lived flowers open as female, then progress to a later, male stage in a matter of hours. This requires a separate pollinator that not only can collect the pollen from flowers in the male stage, but also deposit it in flowers in the female stage. It is acknowledged that there must be such a natural pollinator, and while so far studies of insects in the cherimoya's native region have been inconclusive, some form of beetle is suspected (Schroeder 1995).

Quite often, the female flower is receptive in the early part of the first day, but pollen is not produced in the male stage until the late afternoon of the second day. Honey bees are not good pollinators, for example, because they will only visit flowers in the male stage to collect the pollen, and then not return.

For fruit production outside the cherimoya's native region, cultivators must either rely upon the wind to spread pollen in dense orchards or else pollinate flowers by hand. Complicating matters is the notoriously short lifespan of cherimoya pollen.

Postharvest Handling

The optimum temperature for storage is at 8-12C (46-54F) depending on cultivar, ripeness stage, and duration, with an optimum relative humidity of 90-95%.

Exposure to ethylene (100ppm for 1-2 days) accelerates ripening of mature-green cherimoya and other annona fruits; they can ripen in about 5 days if kept at 15C (59F) to 20C (68F). Ethylene removal can be helpful in retarding ripening of mature-green fruits. [*]

Other Names

Anone in French

Anona in Portuguese

Chirimoya in Spanish

Custard Apple in English

Srikaya in Indonesian

Nona in Malay

Laxmanphal in Hindi (also known as sitaphal)

, Si-jia, after Sakyamuni in Chinese

Annone in Italian

See also

Atemoya (a cross of A. squamosa and A. cherimola)

Custard-apple (Annona reticulata)

Pawpaw (Asimina spp)

Sugar-apple (Annona squamosa)

External links

CHERLA Research Project (EU). Promotion of Sustainable Cherimoya Production Systems in Latin America through the Characterisation, Conservation and Use of Local Germplasm Diversity.

Schroeder, C. A. (1995). Pollination Strategy in the Cherimoya.

Cherimoya website

Owens, K. J.(2003). Genetic diversity of Annona cherimola Mill. in south central Bolivia.

Scheldeman, X. (2002). [https://archive.ugent.be/retrieve/729/19891529.pdf Distribution and potential of cherimoya (Annona cherimola Mill.) and highland papayas (Vasconcellea spp.) in Ecuador]

Bridg, Hannia: Micropropagation and Determination of the in vitro Stability of Annona cherimola Mill. and Annona muricata L.

Postharvest Technology Cherimoya Produce Facts

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Cherimoya

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