Strange Fruit with Sweet Flavor
Mark Twain, who sampled the cherimoya during his travels through the Andes, called it the world’s most delicious fruit. And while it may not be the most beautiful, the dull green, misshapen spheroid that is native to the cool valleys of the northern Andes combines the vibrant acidity of the pineapple with the creamy sweetness of the banana. Costa Ricans eat the fruit in freshly sliced sections that expose the soft white flesh and glossy black seeds. One eats the flesh and spits out the seeds, an important step since the latter contain toxins that can be used as an insecticide. Indeed, cherimoya seeds traditionally have been used in Costa Rica to treat lice infestations. In this sense, the cherimoya is a marketer’s dream – tastes great and kills lice!
The cherimoya tree is small – rarely growing taller than 30 feet – and can be found in gardens and on farms at higher elevations around the Central Valley. Pollination is somewhat of a mystery, but scientists suspect that small beetles carry out this task. Flowers are hermaphroditic, but the female and male parts are open and receptive to pollinators at different times, meaning that fruit cannot result from self-pollination. Cherimoya fruits, which can be smooth or bumpy, are a common site at roadside fruit stands in the Central Valley from June through October.