Cherimoya

the most delicious fruit known to men

Common Names

chirimola,  chirimuya, custard apple

Native Region

South America

USDA Growing Zones

Zone 9, Zone 10, Zone 11
A mostly evergreen tree originally from the mountainous regions of South America. Also known as the "ice cream fruit".  A popular ingredient in ethnic ice creams other frozen desserts.

It is now grown in many regions around the world.  There many cultivars like the "African Pride" from Southeast Asia or the "Fino de Jete" from Spain.

It likes a nice warm growing season with a cooling period as the fruit matures.  It can tolerate cold but not freezing.
Fun Fact: The bark of the tree contains minute quantities of annonacin, a neurotoxin. 

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The history and background

Cherimoya Guide


"The most delicious fruit known to men."
-- Mark Twain
Cherimoya Quick Facts
Scientific NameAnnona cherimola
Common Namescherimoya, attemoya
OriginsMountainous regions of South America
Annual or Perennial?Perennial
Plant TypeMostly evergreen tree
Plant Size6 meters
Growing
Growing DifficultyModerate
Growing Zone(s)9 and above
Growing Requirements: Temperature48 F minimum
Growing Requirements: SoilWell-draining soil
Growing Requirements: SunlightPrefers full sun
Growing Requirements: WaterWater 30 in./year
Weight (Individual Fruit)1-3.5 lbs
Fruiting Season2 months
Fruit Size & Shape4-5" in diamter; Spherical, oblong
Edible Partswhite flesh of fruits
Fruit TasteSweet, like mango or pineapple
Ripens Off the Vine?Yes

Growing & Caring for

Your Cherimoya Plant


If you live in a zone where this wonderful tree can thrive, it is best to plant it in the ground where the soil is rich and well draining. In places that don't get much rain, it may need to be watered.  

The tree will drop all their leaves in the late winter, around March in Southern California.   At this time, we prune the trees.  Although commercial growers will remove quite a lot of the branches, we usually take of around 20% or less.  This also a good time fertilize. 

A general purpose fruit tree fertilizer found at the local Home Depot or someplace similar works well.  As a good way to keep of weeds and maintain soil moisture, you can also put a thick layer of mulch under the tree. We use wood chips and leaves and we lay it on thick--6 inches or more .   This also has the benefit of conditioning the soil as it breaks down.

Videos We Love!

How to Prune a Cherimoya Tree
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Finder
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Learn More about Farming

Cherimoya FAQ


How Do I Get My Cherimoya Plant to Produce Fruit?

The tree will start putting out flowers around May.  The flowers themselves are rather nondescript but they have wonderful "sweet" smell to them.

The flower can only be pollenated right at the beginning when it is partially open. Once it fully opens the pollen is accessible but that flower wil no longer accept pollen.  In the tropics, the night insects like moths and beetles will pollinate these flowers.  However,  the fruit trees grown here in the US rely on bees to pollinate them, but bees don't fly at night.  

This is the main reason why people here have trees but no fruit.  A simple work around this is hand pollenation. We collect the pollen in the evening and pollinate the  flowers the next day as new flowerbuds open up.

The pollen can be refrigerated for several weeks if needed.

How Many Years Before My Cherimoya Plant Produces Fruit?

The tree will start putting out flowers around May.  The flowers themselves are rather nondescript but they have wonderful "sweet" smell to them. The flower can only be pollenated right at the beginning when it is partially open.

Once it fully opens the pollen is accessible but that flower will no longer accept pollen.  In the tropics, the night insects like moths and beetles will pollinate these flowers.

However,  the fruit trees grown here in the US rely on bees to pollinate them, but bees don't fly at night.   This is the main reason why people here have trees but no fruit.  A simple work around this is hand pollenation.

We collect the pollen in the evening and pollinate the  flowers the next day as new flower buds open up.  The pollen can be refrigerated for several weeks if needed.

When Do I Pick the Fruit?

In southern California, fruit is ready to pick in the late fall, around October or November.  It is picked while still hard.

Because cherimoya is a tropical fruit, we recommend that the fruit be stored in a paper bag at room temperature until ripe.

Be careful with the fruit on the tree as it is prone to getting eaten by birds and other critters.  I've heard that you can protect them with disposable pantyhose, with the mesh letting the fruit grow and hopefully confounding any critter that want to eat it.  People use this trick on melons quite successfully.

Anyhow, you definitely want to keep an eye on your cherimoya fruit because just about everything out there loves how it tastes. 

How Do You Eat a Cherimoya?

The flesh is is white with 10 or more large black seeds interspersed throughout.  You slice it in half and scoop out the tender flesh and consume it.  Spit out the seeds, they separate easily from the flavorful flesh.  The seeds are not edible.  The skin is not generally consumed, although it doesn't taste bad or anything.

What Does a Cherimoya Fruit Taste Like?

The fruit is quite sweet and tangy. It is somewhat like a very sweet pineapple or a mango, but it has it's own distinct taste. When ripe,  it quite aromatic.  It reminds me of a ripening guava.

The texture of the flesh is soft. The skin has a slight give the fruit is ready to eat. You test it as you would an avocado.  Just give it a squeeze. If it's hard, give it another day.  If it has a slight give, it is ready.

Keep in mind that once the cherimoya is ready, it will soften very quickly--in only 3 or 4 days.  You don't want to wait too long or it will over-ripen and get very mush, although it will also be very sweet.

As a personal preferance, I prefer the fruit to be barely ripe.  It has the sweet, tangy flavor while the flesh is still firm and not too soft.  Give the cherimoya a try,  it is wonderful and exotic!
How To Eat A Cherimoya Chirimoya Chirimuya (Tropical Fruit)

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