Properties and Benefits of Cherimoya: Chirimoya, cherimoya, chirimoyo or ‘custard apple’ is the exotic fruit of the cherimoya (Annona cherimola) tree. The fruit is cultivated extensively in Central and South America, Tanzania, Egypt, Italy, India, Thailand and Singapore.
Cherimoya is a good source of vitamins C and B6 and contains small amounts of important minerals such as copper, potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and iron. Being a good source of fiber, this fragrant fruit boasts cholesterol-lowering properties and promotes cardiovascular health. Cherimoya is not only low in calories, but also has an extremely low fat content, as well as a high water content. Regular consumption promotes weight loss naturally.
What does cherimoya (custard apple) look like? Cherimoya is either a roundish apple shaped or heart-shaped fruit with light green skin, covered in bumps that I find look very similar to scales. While some varieties have a softer skin, others have more prominent, almost pointy bumps. Although some varieties can reach a few kilos, usually only medium-sized 300-400 g fruit are marketed (cherimoya are quite pricey outside their production areas). Ripe cherimoya are green or yellow-green and have a creamy-white, soft-textured, somewhat mushy or custard-like pulp. Cherimoya seeds are hard, shiny, dark brown-colored and evenly spread throughout the pulp. Neither the seeds, nor the skin are edible.
What does cherimoya taste like and why is it called ‘custard apple’? Well ripe, fresh cherimoya fruit are quite fragrant and kind of sweet. The reason why they are called ‘custard apple’ is that they have a custard-textured pulp which taste somewhat like custard. Cherimoya tastes something between vanilla and banana, with a mushy pear-pulp texture, occasionally gritty, but a good kind of gritty. The fruit also has a particular sweet fragrance that reminds me of peaches or pineapple.
How to choose good, ripe cherimoya? Choose the largest green, slightly yellow-green cherimoya and avoid the fruit with brown spots because they may be well past their season. Ripe cherimoya has a soft, ready to crack skin. If the fruit is hard, leave it to soften (a.k.a. ripe) for a few days at room temperature. Remember to also give it a sniff: if it gives off a pleasant, fragrant smell, then it should be good.
What happens if you put cherimoya in the refrigerator? The same thing that happens with bananas: their skin gets damaged by the cold and turns brown, but they are still good on the inside. If your cherimoya lacks flavor, if it tastes bland, like a flavorless custard, then it might be overripe.
And now come the health benefits. Cherimoya has a good caloric value of about 70 kcal/ 100 g of raw pulp. Not only this, but it is 79.39% water and only 0.68% fat. What this basically means is that cherimoya help you lose weight and keep you hydrated, provided you replace some chips, crisps or other fatty foods in your diet with 1-2 helpings of fruit. If you find this fruit to you liking, you can juice it, add it to smoothies, even ice cream.
Because it contains no saturated fats and no cholesterol and provides 3 g of fiber/100 g of pulp, cherimoya is a safe food for anyone struggling with high cholesterol levels or battling cardiovascular disease. Dietary fiber, for instance, prevents fat from food from being absorbed by the intestines, thus indirectly contributing to lowering cholesterol levels. Increasing your fiber intake also adds bulk to stools so they are expelled quicker from the intestines. This not only prevents constipation, but also promotes colon health.
Cherimoya was found to contain several antioxidants called acetogenins. According to preliminary research, these compounds have anti-malaria, antihelminthic (killing intestinal parasites) as well as anticancer properties which may prove useful for the development of future treatments. Nevertheless, a study suggests that the same antioxidant acetogenins, when ingested in excess, may cause damage to nerve cells, possibly resulting in symptoms similar to Parkinson’s syndrome: instability, tremors, shaking and other movement problems. However, it has yet to be proven that moderate consumption of cherimoya may cause any health problems, so this remains nothing more than a theory.
As you can see from the nutrition table above, cherimoya is a good source of vitamin C, providing 20% of RDA. Vitamin C stimulates the production of collagen, a protein that maintains the structure of our skin, blood vessels, organs and bones. Basically, a good vitamin C intake stimulates our body to produce enough collagen to keep us looking young and wrinkle-free. In addition to this, vitamin C prevents scurvy, helps us develop resistance against viral infections, accelerates wound healing and protects us against free radical damage.
Cherimoya contains good amounts of pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and riboflavin (vitamin B2), thiamine (vitamin B1) and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). B complex vitamins supports the activity of the nervous, digestive, muscular and respiratory systems. Last but not least, the fruit boasts small amounts of important minerals such as copper, potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and iron.
Overall, cherimoya is a healthy choice, worth including in our diets. The fact that is has a soft texture and a sweet taste makes things all the more fun. Have you ever tried cherimoya? If so, what do you think about it?