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Despite being relatively unknown in the States, the cherimoya had at least one famous American fan, with none other than Mark Twain describing the plant as “the most delicious fruit known to men.”
With an endorsement like that, we’re not really sure why he didn’t write more about cherimoya. (Surely Huck Finn could’ve packed one in his rucksack?) But don’t worry Mark, we’re here to make up for your mistake.
Once you actually see a cherimoya, it’s not hard to see why Twain was so enamored with them.
Possibly the most adorable fruit on earth, cherimoya look like a real-life armadillo Pokemon. Or maybe a soccer ball that dressed up as an artichoke for Halloween. In other words: rolly polly, (usually) green, and with a cool scale pattern stamped on their skin.
On the inside, a crisp-white fruit is revealed, with the finer-shaped specimen sporting their stark black seeds in a cool star pattern.
And that’s to say nothing of the cherimoya taste.
One nickname for the fruit is the “custard apple,” and that’s because cherimoya taste exactly like that sounds. With a flesh that’s sweet, tart and creamy, it’s not unusual for the fruit to be scooped out with a spoon, eaten and enjoyed like a natural bowl of ice cream.
But all that perfection doesn’t come easy.
High Altitude, High Reward
Yet another nickname for the cherimoya is “the pearl of the Andes” – a nod to the fruit’s favorite getaway.
Cherimoya, which roughly translates to “cold seeds,” like things a bit brisker than most of their subtropical cousins. The plant prefers the cooler temperatures of higher altitudes, found primarily on trees that grow on mountain slopes. (Or maybe it’s because they know how good they taste, and like to look down their nose at all the lesser fruits?)
Still, it takes more than a nice view to keep cherimoya happy. The fruit diva also demands a nearby ocean, barely bothering to germinate any further than 15 miles from the sea.
As such, it’s a bit tricky to find just the right place for cherimoya to grow, but the fruit seems to like the scene well enough in Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia – while Spain has also found a few nice niches for them, along with California and all its magical soil and shores.
Still, the difficulty of supplying cherimoya has hardly put a dent in demand, and people have been cultivating the fruit for centuries, concocting a number of different ways to enjoy its deliciousness.
The Spice of Life…
There are dozens of different types of cherimoya grown today, but some of the most popular types of cherimoya on the market include:
Behl—Arguably the tastiest cherimoya of all, this varietal is renowned for its spot-on combination of juiciness, sweetness and acidity. Depending on when it’s picked, its perfectly smooth flesh can carry notes of anything from vanilla, banana, raspberry or pineapple.
Booth—One of the most likely kinds of cherimoya you’ll encounter, this cultivar grows—and travels—particularly well thanks to its hardiness. And it continues to deliver on the inside, with a fruity flesh that can take on the taste of papaya.
El Bumpo—Aside from being one of the most fun types of cherimoya to say, El Bumpo is also one of the best kinds of cherimoya to eat. The varietal is particularly noted for its fine flavor and ice cream smoothness.
Fino de Jete—This kind of cherimoya is most famous for its strange skin, with scales that jut out more than its smoother siblings. On the inside, though, it’s business as usual, with a smooth and sweet dollop of cherimoya goodness.
Honeyheart—True to its name, this fruit reveals a golden-tinted flesh inside of its heart-shaped body. And the sweetheart of a cultivar is also considered one of the tastiest types of cherimoya.
McPherson—This cultivar tends to have a darker green skin and less seeds than its siblings. But its flavor also makes it stand out, with a banana-like taste that can skew particularly sweet, depending on the temperature outside when the plant is growing.
Pierce—A cherimoya so tasty, its developer named it after himself. This varietal was first cultivated in Mexico, and has gone on to more international notoriety thanks to its smooth skin, sweet taste and high sugar content.
White—Another favorite of commercial growers, this type of cherimoya is particularly well-liked for its large size and more-dependable growing patterns. On the inside, it sports a tropical-tasting flesh, with notes of mango and papaya.
But no matter which type of this ice cream fruit you settle on, we’re sure you’ll get your just desserts.