Male State Pre-female blossoms
Cherimoya and Custard Apples (Annona cherimoya) grow in subtropical areas such as Southern California, parts of South Africa, Mexico, parts of Australia and New Zealand and in areas of its native habitat in Ecuador, Peru and Chile.
The cherimoya fruit needs to be ripe to peal and eat; its flesh gives when gently squeezed. The flesh is white, melting, juicy, sweet with an elegant fragrance, is infused with a lot of black seeds, throughout, like an heirloom watermelon.
The fruit grows to the size of grapefruit. Its flavor has been described as a mix of pineapple, strawberry, banana and papaya, and Mark Twain referred to it as "The fruit of the Gods!", for whatever that's worth.
ProductionCherimoyas generally require hand pollination for maximum crop of high quality fruit. Some more recent commercially grafted trees will produce without that.
When Cherimoya blossoms open they are female, and stay female for seven to 12 hours. After that, the blossom opens wider and becomes male. The three petals arch to a 45 degree angle and remains male for around seven to ten hours, which is the time you want to be collecting some. After the male phase, the petals drop.
To hand pollinate, you need to collect pollen with a small artist paint brush during a male phase and store it until new female blooms appear; not more than 24 hours and store it in the fridge. With the same small brush, apply some pollen inside the opening female bloom.
Picking SeasonCherimoya are generally ready to pick after they are a good size starting in February through May. It is usually the size of the fruit that determines when it is picked. They need refrigeration but it is also sensitive to chill. In May and June the trees drop their leaves and any fruit still on the trees gets sunburned and usually drops. If it does not, it is generally not marketable due to the sun damage.
We pick fruit about once a week. Like avocados, cherimoyas begin ripening after they are picked. It takes aroumd five days after they are picked, for the fruit to soften and ready to eat. But squeeze it gently to make sure it is ready. The fruit is sensitive to rough handling even when still hard. A very delicate delicacy.
Trailer Full of Cherimoyas
Purchase unripe, hard fruit and let it ripen on a shelf or counter. They should not be stacked while ripening. Ripen at room temperature, NOT in the refrigerator. Ripening time is usually around 2-5 days. Although the skin usually darkens, the pulp is not affected. Check the fruit at least once a day.
When ripe, the cherimoya yields slightly all over to GENTLE hand pressure. It is then ready to eat or will keep for several days in the refrigerator.
When ready to eat, cut the fruit in two from top to bottom, through the stem. The skin can be quite tough, so you will need a sharp knife. If the cherimoya is ripe, the pulp inside will be soft and easily scooped with a spoon. Pulp that is hard to scoop with a spoon means an under-ripe cherimoya, mushy pulp means an over-ripe one.
Felix with Giant Cherimoyas
Here's some mouth-watering Cherimoya recipes.
Cherimoya have a high respiration rate and are very perishable. They produce very large amounts of ethylene gas as they ripen (as most fruits do). Don't keep ripe fruit together with unripe fruit. Storage temperatures: 41 - 59° F. Different varieties will react differently to storage temperatures.