"The most delicious fruit known to men," proclaimed Mark Twain in The Sacramento Daily Union on October 25, 1866. While he may be right, the cherimoya is certainly one of the ugliest too. I have a sneaking suspicion that these things are actually the eggs of the reptilian humanoids purported by small bands of delusional neanderthals to be in control of the world's governments and financial systems. If my theory is correct then I, for one, welcome our delicious reptilian overlords.
The official story our government wants us to believe is that cherimoyas are fruits native to the Andean-highland valleys of Ecuador and Peru and currently produced throughout many temperate regions throughout the world. The trees don't like frost and snow but thrive in cooler temperatures, leading to the indigenous peoples of the Andes to claim that, "while the cherimoya cannot stand snow, it does like to see it in the distance."
The skin of a cherimoya is soft and smooth, not unlike that of a reptile, and the sweet perfume of the flesh comes through slightly, entirely unlike that of a reptile. Cutting the fruit open reveals a creamy white interior and some very large brown seeds, an appearance that could partly explain why it is also commonly called a custard apple. The flesh is actually segmented into velvety pods that each contain a single seed and can be peeled out intact.
Be careful not to eat neither seed nor skin. The seeds are poisonous if cracked and can be crushed up for use as an insecticide. Even better, eating the skin can result in paralysis for a period of 4 to 5 hours. Learning of this only made me want to try it but I didn't want to chance having my diaphragm or heart paralyzed. Death by cherimoya may be exotic but definitely not too glamorous.
Mr. Twain has a fairly solid case for proclaiming the cherimoya the most delicious of fruits. The closest comparison I can draw to the flavor is a well made, not-too-sweet, non-alcoholic piña colada but really this does no justice to the complexities and smoothness of the flavor. The sweetness teeters on the safe side of being overbearing so that no matter how many pieces of velvety flesh you eat the taste does not become tiresome. There are hints of banana, pineapple, feijoa, and dragon fruit. The texture, sweetness, and flavors also bear a striking resemblance to bubblegum.
The major drawbacks to the cherimoya are its relative rareness, small window of availability, and high price. Five bucks a pound was what they were going for at my local store and my insane cheapness prevented me from buying more than my initial sample. But I can imagine that the passage of time until next season will compound my craving and leave me compelled to indulge in this succulent fruit once more.