If you’ve never tried cherimoya, you are in for a real treat. When you see them in a store or farmers’ market, roughly fist-sized with scaly green skin, they look like something a giant lizard would lay. But slice one open, and inside there’s a wonderful custardy flesh studded with purplish-black seeds. 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 about November 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.
- 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. For a special treat I make my mother’s recipe for Cherimoya Circles which are custard-like balls rolled in sugar. Through some experimentation, I have modified this recipe to make it healthier, yet still rich and indulgent. Even though cherimoyas are in season in North America from November to May, you can purchase them online from www.melissas.com all year long.
Yield 12-24 Circles
2 ripe cherimoyas
1/2 cup sweetened, condensed milk
4 egg yolks
2 Tbsp. cornstarch diluted in 4 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. Smart Balance or butter
Demerara sugar crystals for coating
1. Scoop the white flesh out of the green cherimoya rind and discard the large, oval, hard black seeds. Mash the cherimoya pulp. Set aside.
2. Blend the condensed milk with the egg yolks and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until very thick, about 5-7 minutes.
3. Add the mashed cherimoya pulp and cook another 10 minutes, stirring all the while.
4. Add cornstarch slurry and butter substitute and continue cooking another 5 minutes, or until the mixture hangs together like a dough. Remove from heat and cool until comfortable to touch.
5. Roll teaspoons full of cherimoya candy together to form small balls. Dip balls in crystalline sugar to coat.