March 16, 2009
Have you ever seen this exotic fruit in your local grocery store? If you have, chances are that you don’t have any idea what to make of it. Cherimoyas aren’t very good for marketing; they just don’t look very appealing. But trust me; you don’t know what you have been missing! Cherimoyas have engaged some prominent spokesmen such as Thaddäus Haenke, a 19th century explorer, who called cherimoyas a ‘masterpiece of nature’. Even Mark Twain described cherimoyas as ‘deliciousness itself’ and ‘the most delicious fruit known to men’. And yet, cherimoyas remain as the Andean best kept secret. Cherimoyas originally come from Peru and Ecuador. People in those countries say that cherimoyas don’t like to touch the snow but they like to see the snow in the distance. That’s why this fruit adapts pretty well to Mediterranean climates with cool but temperate winters. I’m familiar with cherimoyas because in Chile, where I lived, cherimoyas are considered the national fruit. Everybody loves cherimoyas in Chile, and cherimoya is one of the most preferred flavors of Chilean yoghurt and ice cream! If cherimoyas like to see the snow in the distance, I can understand why they grow so happily in Chile. I’ve never seen a more impressive view of snow capped mountains in an urban environment than in Santiago. Just take a glance of the view of the mountains near my parents’ house there:
Cherimoyas have a green skin and white flesh. Usually, when the skin is brown it means that the fruit was frozen, with a terrible impact on quality (remember? Cherimoyas don’t like to touch the snow!... however, some cultivars do have a brown skin). The flesh is soft, creamy and extremely fragrant. The exquisite flavor of cherimoyas recalls pears, bananas, strawberries and pineapple. All over the inside of the fruit you’ll find big black seeds that you have to discard – they are really big. You can tell if the cherimoyas are ripe by touching them. Like an avocado, a ripe cherimoya will be soft and tender, but not too much. Then, smell the cherimoya: it has to have a very pleasant and fragrant aroma.
In Chile, there is a dessert called chirimoya alegre or happy cherimoya, which is cherimoya with freshly squeezed orange juice. The Peruvian version of chirimoya alegre has more ingredients, but I like the simplicity of Chilean cuisine, because simplicity is also an attribute of Italian cuisine. If you want to go totally exotic, then you can try a happy cherimoya with an Italian twist! Of course, I’m talking about blood oranges! A fruit that tastes like sweet orange, grapefruit and raspberry is the perfect match for a fruit that tastes like pear, banana, strawberry, and pineapple!
‘Bloody’ Happy Cherimoya or Anona Molto Felice
Freshly squeezed blood orange juice
Sugar to taste
Peel the cherimoyas and separate the flesh from the seeds. In doing so, you’ll have little pieces of cherimoya that you can put in a bowl. Squeeze the blood oranges and add the juice to the cherimoya. You want to cover the little pieces of cherimoya with juice. About 5 oranges are enough for 2 medium sized cherimoyas. Add some sugar if you want and put it in the fridge. Let it rest at least 20 minutes and serve cool.
In Italy, cherimoyas (anona in Italian) are grown in the Reggio Calabria area. However, they are considered an exotic and utterly expensive delicacy. In North America, cherimoyas are grown in California.