Cherimoya – “custard apple” in the UK – is the exotic fruit of the Annona cherimola tree, native to South America but now cultivated in other warm climates including southern Spain, southern California and South Asia. The shape and skin of the cherimoya resemble an artichoke, but its interior flesh is custard-like in texture with an appealing blend of delicate fruit flavours. It is high in potassium, magnesium, antioxidants, B vitamins, vitamin C and dietary fibre, making the cherimoya not only delicious, but also nutritious. In traditional South American medicine, the fruit is used to treat a variety of conditions including stomach and intestinal cramps, diabetes, anaemia and arthritis; research shows that it may also be effective in helping to kill cancer cells.
Tip: Select unblemished, uniformly-shaped fruit that is firm to the touch; leave the custard apples to ripen at room temperature until they yield to pressure just as a ripe avocado would. Chill, cut in half lengthwise and eat by scooping out the creamy flesh with a spoon. The seeds should be discarded as you eat. The fruit may also be frozen for a treat similar to ice cream, or added to shakes, sorbets, desserts and salads.
Quick Recipe: Although cherimoyas are usually enjoyed chilled, you may like to try this easy baked custard apple recipe. Slice ripe cherimoyas in half lengthwise and place flesh side down in a shallow oven-safe dish. Bake at 400°F (200°C) for half an hour or longer, until the juices caramelise. Serve the cherimoya fruit-side up, garnishing if desired with fruit syrup or granulated sugar.