If you’ve never tried cherimoya, you are in for a real treat. Also known as a “custard apple,” one juicy bite and you’ll know why. The taste is the best qualities of mango, banana, papaya, and vanilla flavors and the flesh itself is creamy smooth.
Cherimoyas are native to South America, but I have several of the small, bushy trees growing on my ranch near San Diego where they produce fruit from March through May. You can smash cherimoyas and use the pulp in smoothies or as a sauce for ice cream, but I love to cut them in half and just eat the flesh with a spoon.
They have a deep green skin and creamy white flesh dotted with large black seeds. In Britain they’re called custard apples, which aptly describes their texture and flavor.
The black seeds are poisonous when crushed, so be sure to discard them. Cherimoyas offer vitamin B6—an antioxidant (Ao) and an anti-inflammatory (Ai), vitamin C, iron, and riboflavin for cell energy. Cherimoyas are in season pretty much all year long. Very ripe, soft pears can be used in place of cherimoyas in recipes, but pears don’t have the same anti-inflammatory properties.
If delicious, exotic taste weren’t enough, cherimoyas are also an excellent source of FoodTrients, full of age-defying, health-promoting, healing properties like:
- Vitamin C–One average-sized cherimoya contains about 90 calories and 35% of the RDA for vitamin C. A natural anti-oxidant, vitamin C promotes healing, formation of cartilage, tendons and ligaments. By consuming one cherimoya daily—about one cup– it helps develop resistance to infections and assists in the elimination of pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.
- Cardiovascular Health – The fruit reduces bad cholesterol (LDL) and increases good cholesterol (HDL) levels in the blood, improving blood flow to the heart, which can reduce the risk of heart attacks. The potassium in cherimoya regulates heart rate and blood pressure, offering protection from strokes. Cherimoyas are a good source of fiber which helps prevent the absorption of cholesterol in the GI tract.
- B Complex Vitamins – Cherimoyas are a good source of B vitamins which help your metabolism and immune system function properly. They also contribute to healthy skin, hair, eyes, liver and help the nervous system function properly. A serving of cherimoya provides 20% of the RDA for B6 (pyridoxine), which contributes to the reduction of stress and depression.
- Fiber – One medium cherimoya provides about 8% of your daily dietary fiber needs. Fiber adds bulk which is essential for keeping the digestive tract healthy, maintaining steady blood sugar levels and protecting from type 2 diabetes.
- Minerals – Cherimoyas are rich in copper, magnesium, iron and manganese and contain more of these minerals for their weight than many common fruits like apples.
- Antioxidants – Cherimoyas contain several polyphenol antioxidants, which limit damage caused to the cells by free radicals.
- Good for Your Skin – The generous amount of vitamin C in cherimoyas helps in the formation of collagen which provides elasticity to the skin, keeping it healthy and youthful. It also helps to combat free radicals in the body.
- Promotes Hair Growth – Cherimoya contains nutrients like magnesium, zinc iron and vitamin C, which promote hair growth.
Though I love eating cherimoyas plain, I like to use them as an exotic ingredient paired with familiar ones in nostalgic recipes from my past. I love to include them in my Exotic Fruit Salad recipe (see below) whenever I can buy them fresh in the market.
For a special treat I make my mother’s recipe for Cherimoya Circles which are custard-like balls rolled in sugar. They are an indulgence, but through some experimentation, I have modified this recipe to make it healthier, yet still rich and indulgent. Even though cherimoyas from California and Mexico are in season from March to May, you can purchase them online from Amazon.com or www.melissas.com all year long.
Exotic Fruit Salad with Yogurt and Granola
This recipe is a protein-packed, vitamin-filled way to grab a healthy snack or start your morning. You can add spices, such as nutmeg, cardamom, and allspice (about ⅛ tsp. each), and nuts. Instead of exotic fruits you can use grapes, mangos, apples, blackberries, strawberries, and/or bananas. The Omega-3 fatty acids in the flaxseeds are great for your arteries and heart. Oats and fiber are both known to reduce cholesterol. The exotic fruits in this recipe are full of antioxidants and vitamin C, which helps the body resist infection and aids tissue regeneration. The probiotics in yogurt can help digestion and bolster the immune system. Cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels.
2 cups oats
⅓ cup maple syrup
½ cup flaxseeds
¼ cup sesame seeds
1 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 egg white (organic, free-range, or Omega-3-enriched)
⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs. maple syrup
½ cup sliced fresh figs
½ cup cubed fresh pineapple
½ cup sliced cherimoya (or mango or papaya)
½ cup sliced and seeded jujubes (or apples)
½ cup sliced fresh jackfruit sections (or bananas)
½ cup peeled, sliced kiwis
½ cup peeled, halved, and seeded rambutans
2 cups plain, low fat Greek yogurt
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Make the granola: Toast the oats on a large, rimmed baking sheet for 6–10 minutes, being careful not to let them burn. Reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees. Warm the maple syrup in the microwave for 1 minute or until it is thin and runny. Toss with the oats, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, cinnamon, and salt.
3. Whisk the egg white and fold it into the granola mixture. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the granola to a parchment-lined or nonstick baking sheet. Leave any excess liquid behind. Bake at 275 degrees for 1 hour or until dry and crisp. Cool.
4. While the granola is baking, make the dressing: toss the lemon juice with the maple syrup and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.