Jewel of the Incas
Periodically I work at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. Although the work can be at times physically demanding I like talking to San Franciscans about what they are cooking or offer simple preparation tips. This weekend I was a "helper" to the "avocado man"–as the customers call him.
The avocado season has yielded a large crop this year so the season more or less didn’t come to an end. In addition to Gwen avocados Brokaw offered Bearss limes, Eureka lemons, Valencia oranges, guavas and cherimoyas.
Based on the reactions of serious cherimoya lovers at the market–including one 30-ish looking woman who literally jumped up and down as she recounted a year of feasting on cherimoyas in Chile–I had to see what the I had been missing out on.
The fruit won’t win any beauty contests. The heart-shaped fruit is wrapped in a skin that looks a bit reptilian. Close cousins in this fruit family include U.S. native fruit paw paw; soursop from West Indies; sweetsop (sugar apple) from Latin America and a hybrid of the cherimoya and the sweetsop called atemoya.
The name cherimoya translates in the Incan language as "cold breast." Grown around the world the fruit is native to the Andes region particularly Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. The Incans enjoyed this fruit so much they called it the "fruit of the gods." Cherimoyas began cultivation in the area between San Francisco to Santa Barbara when "avocado root rot" attacked local groves and an alternative crop was needed in the temperate coastal climate.
Growing this fruit is very labor intensive as the flowers need to be hand-pollinated with an artist’s brush (!), harvested-individually and stored with great care to prevent rot. So you can expect to pay a high price at the market running anywhere from $6-$9/lb. The California growing season begins in mid-January and ends in June. In the U.K. and Australia this fruit is commonly referred to as custard apple, yet another reference to its texture.
Called the "tree of ice cream" for it’s flavor profile hinting at it’s custard-like texture and rich flavor. It becomes ripe over several days at room temperature. When the flesh gives when you lightly press it should be eaten right away or it can be tucked into the fridge for a brief holding period of two to four days.
The fruit is very digestible. In fact in my research I found that in Japan the fruit is given as a gift to a sick person.
To eat simply cut the fruit in half and use a spoon to eat the flesh. The skin and black seeds are not edible. To prepare for use in recipes, cut the top and the bottom of the fruit off and slice off the outer skin; slice or cut into medium-sized pieces.
Mark Twain once declared the taste is "deliciousness itself". An online guide to growing cherimoya in New Zealand suggests that cherimoyas taste like a combining of the "exotic flavours of pineapple, papaya, passionfruit, banana, mango and lemon into one luscious delight." I would say that these are apt descriptions as my first taste was something akin to eating an exquisite ambrosia.
Buy cherimoyas online @ Melissa’s 3 pounds for $29.00
from Diamond Organics Recipe Flyer
2 good size cherimoyas
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 can (large) evaporated milk-frozen
1 cup sugar
1 envelope gelatin(without flavor)-dissolved in 1/2 cup of boiling water
Freeze can of milk. Mash the cherimoya and add sugar. Beat milk until it turns double in volume and looks creamy. Add the cherimoya gelatin and vanilla. Pour it into an oiled mold and refrigerate until it truns firm. Unmold when ready to serve. Serve it with chocolate sause.
1 can condensed milk(large)
1 can evaporated milk (large)
4 Tablespoons cocoa or chocolate squares.
Mix the ingredients in a pot,over low heat, stirring constantly until it gets slightly thick. Remove it from heat and add 2 Tbsp butter and 1 tsp. vanilla.