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For the thoroughbred racehorse, see Cherimoya (horse).
Cherimoya tree hg.jpg
ChirimuyaAnnona cherimola
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Magnoliids
Order: Magnoliales
Family: Annonaceae
Genus: Annona
Species: A. cherimola
Binomial name
Annona cherimola
Range of Annona cherimola-Current.svg
Current range of uncultivated A. cherimola

Annona pubescens Salisb.
Annona tripetala Aiton[1]

The cherimoya (Annona cherimola), also spelled chirimoya and called Chirimuya by the Inca people, is an edible fruit-bearing species of the genus Annona from the family Annonaceae, which generally is thought to be native to Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia[2] then transported to the Andes and Central America.[2][3][4] Today, cherimoya is grown throughout South Asia, Central America, South America, California, Hawaii, southern Europe, East Africa, Kisii in particular and northern Africa.[2]

Mark Twain called the cherimoya "the most delicious fruit known to men".[5] The creamy texture of the flesh gives the fruit its secondary name, custard apple.


Split cherimoya fruit

Annona cherimola is a fairly dense, fast-growing, woody,[6] briefly deciduous[7] but mostly evergreen low branched, spreading tree[6] or shrub[7] 5 metres (16 ft) to 9 metres (30 ft) tall.[6]

Stems and leaves
Mature branches are sappy and woody;[7] young branches and twigs have a matting of short, fine, rust colored hairs.[6][8]
Leathery leaves 5 centimetres (2.0 in) to 25 centimetres (9.8 in) long[8][9] 3 centimetres (1.2 in) to 10 centimetres (3.9 in) wide[8] mostly elliptic, pointed at the ends and rounded near the leaf stalk. When young, covered with soft, fine, tangled, rust colored hairs. When mature, hairs only along the veins on the undersurface.[6] Tops hairless and a dull medium green with paler veins,[9] backs velvety,[7] dull grey-green with raised pale green veins. New leaves are whitish below.[9]
Leaves are single and alternate, 2-ranked[6] attached to the branches with stout 6 millimetres (0.24 in) to 10 millimetres (0.39 in) long and densely hairy leaf stalks.[8]
Very pale green,[9] fleshy flowers 3 centimetres (1.2 in) long,[7] with very strong fruity odor,[9] each with three outer, greenish, fleshy, oblong, downy petals and 3 smaller, pinkish inner petals[6] with yellow or brown finely matted hairs outside, whitish with purple spot[7] and many stamens on the inside.[8] They appear on the branches opposite to the leaves, solitary or in pairs or groups of three,[6][8] on flower stalks that are covered densely with fine rust colored hairs, 8 millimetres (0.31 in) to 12 millimetres (0.47 in) long. Buds 15 millimetres (0.59 in) to 18 millimetres (0.71 in) long, 5 millimetres (0.20 in) to 8 millimetres (0.31 in) wide at the base.[8]
Fruits and reproduction
Large green conical[9] or heart-shaped compound fruit,[6] 10 centimetres (3.9 in) to 20 centimetres (7.9 in) long,[6] and diameters of 5 centimetres (2.0 in) to 5 centimetres (2.0 in),[8] with skin that gives the appearance of having overlapping scales or knobby warts. Ripening to brown with a fissured surface[9] from winter into spring;[7] weighing on the average 150 grams (5.3 oz) to 500 grams (18 oz) but extra large specimens may weigh 2.7 kilograms (6.0 lb) or more.[6] The ripened flesh is creamy white.[9] When ripe, the skin is green and gives slightly to pressure. Some characterize the fruit flavor as a blend of banana, pineapple, papaya, peach, and strawberry. The fruit can be chilled and eaten with a spoon, which has earned it another nickname, the ice cream fruit. Indeed, in Peru, it is commonly used in ice creams and yogurt.[3]
The flesh of the cherimoya contains numerous hard, inedible, brown or black, beanlike, glossy seeds, 1 centimetre (0.39 in) to 2 centimetres (0.79 in) long[6] and about half as wide.[8] Cherimoya seeds are poisonous if crushed open.[2] Like other members of the family Annonaceae, the seeds contain small amounts of neurotoxic acetogenins, such as annonacin,[2] which appear to be linked to atypical Parkinsonism in Guadeloupe.[10] Moreover, an extract of the bark can induce paralysis if injected.[2]


The name originates from the Quechua word chirimuya, which means "cold seeds", because the plant grows at high altitudes and the seeds will germinate at higher altitudes.[2] In Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Colombia the fruit is commonly known as chirimoya (spelled accordingly with the Spanish language rules).

Indigenous cultures[edit]

Moche ceramic cherimoya, 200 BC, Larco Museum Collection in Lima
Cherimoya-shaped bottle made by the Cupisnique culture around 1000 to 700 BC in the Peru's Coast

The Moche culture of Peru had a fascination with agriculture and represented fruits and vegetables in their art. Cherimoyas were often depicted in their ceramics.[11]


Cherimoya sprouts emerging

The flowers are hermaphroditic and have a mechanism to avoid self-pollination.[2] The short-lived flowers open as female, then progress to a later, male stage in a matter of hours. This requires a separate pollinator that not only can collect the pollen from flowers in the male stage, but also deposit it in flowers in the female stage.

Studies of insects in the cherimoya's native region as its natural pollinator have been inconclusive; some form of beetle is suspected. Quite often, the female flower is receptive in the early part of the first day, but pollen is not produced in the male stage until the late afternoon of the second day. Honey bees are not good pollinators, for example, because their bodies are too large to fit between the fleshy petals of the female flower. Female flowers have the petals only partially separated, and the petals separate widely when they become male flowers. So, the bees pick up pollen from the male flowers, but are unable to transfer this pollen to the female flowers. The small beetles which are suspected to pollinate cherimoya in its land of origin are much smaller than bees.

For fruit production outside the cherimoya's native region, cultivators must either rely upon the wind to spread pollen in dense orchards or else use hand pollination. Pollinating by hand requires a paint brush. Briefly, to increase the fruit production, growers collect the pollen from the male plants with the brush, and then transfer it to the female flowers immediately or store it in the refrigerator overnight. Cherimoya pollen has a short life, but it can be extended with refrigeration.


Widely cultivated now, Annona cherimola is believed to originate from the Andes at altitudes of 700 metres (2,300 ft) to 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)[6][12] although an alternate hypothesis postulates Central America as the origin of Annona cherimola because many of its wild relatives occur in this area.[12] From there it was taken by Europeans to various parts of the tropics. Unlike other Annona species[13] A. cherimola has not successfully naturalized in West Africa,[14] and in Australasia Annona glabra is often misidentified as this species.

Western South America: Ecuador, Peru[1][15]
Southern South America: Chile[15]
Current (naturalized and native)
Caribbean: Florida, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico
Central America: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama
Northern South America: Guyana, Venezuela
Southern North America: Mexico
Western South America: Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru
Southern South America: Chile, Brazil
Palearctic: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, France, Italy, Spain, Madeira
Afrotropic: Eritrea, Somalia, Tanzania,
Indomalaya: India, Singapore, Thailand

Cultivation and harvesting[edit]

A Cherimoya fruit, growing in a protective cover on a plantation in Bin Lang Village, Taiwan

Annona cherimola, preferring the cool Andean altitudes, hybridizes with the other Annona species and a hybrid with A. reticulata called atemoya has received some attention in West Africa.[14] Along with other Annona species, Annona cherimola has been shown to possess antioxidant activity in its flesh and skin components [19]

The tree thrives throughout the tropics at altitudes of 1,300 to 2,600 m (4,300 to 8,500 ft). Though sensitive to frost, it must have periods of cool temperatures or the tree will gradually go dormant.[2] The indigenous inhabitants of the Andes say the cherimoya cannot stand snow.

In the Mediterranean region, it is cultivated mainly in southern Spain and Portugal, where it was introduced between 1751 and 1797[2] from where it was carried to Italy, but now can be also found in several countries of Africa, the Middle East and Oceania. It is cultivated throughout the Americas, including Hawaii since 1790 and California where it was introduced in 1871.[2]

Large fruits which are uniformly green, without cracks or mostly browned skin, are best. Unripe cherimoyas will ripen at room temperature, when they will yield to gentle pressure.[2]

Exposure to ethylene (100 ppm for one to two days) accelerates ripening of mature-green cherimoya and other Annona fruits; they can ripen in about five days if kept at 15 to 20 °C (59 to 68 °F). Ethylene removal can be helpful in retarding ripening of mature-green fruits.

Eating characteristics[edit]

Ripe cherimoya fruits

Different varieties have different flavors, textures, and shapes.[2] Shapes can range from imprint areoles, flat areoles, slight bump or point areoles, full areoles, and combinations of these shapes. The flavor of the flesh ranges from mellow sweet to tangy or acidic sweet, with variable suggestions of pineapple, banana, pear, papaya, strawberry or other berry, and apple, depending on the variety. The usual characterization of flavor is "pineapple/banana" flavor[citation needed], similar to the flavor of the Monstera deliciosa fruit.

Cherimoya, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 313 kJ (75 kcal)
17.71 g
Sugars 12.87
Dietary fiber 3 g
0.68 g
1.57 g
Thiamine (B1)
0.101 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.131 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.644 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.345 mg
Vitamin B6
0.257 mg
Folate (B9)
23 μg
Vitamin C
12.6 mg
Vitamin E
0.27 mg
10 mg
0.27 mg
17 mg
0.093 mg
26 mg
287 mg
7 mg
0.16 mg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

When the fruit is soft-ripe/fresh-ripe and still has the fresh, fully mature greenish/greenish-yellowish skin color, the texture is like that of a soft-ripe pear and papaya. If the skin is allowed to turn fully brown, yet the flesh has not fermented or gone "bad", then the texture can be custard-like. Often, when the skin turns brown at room temperature, the fruit is no longer good for human consumption. Also, the skin turns brown if it has been under normal refrigeration for too long - a day or two maybe.

Nutritional value[edit]

In a 100 g serving providing 75 calories, cherimoya is an excellent source (> 19% of the Daily Value, DV) of vitamin B6 and a good source (10-19% DV) of vitamin C, dietary fiber and riboflavin (table).

Postharvest handling[edit]

The optimum temperature for storage is 8–12 °C (46–54 °F), depending on cultivar, ripeness stage, and duration, with an optimum relative humidity of 90-95%.[2]


Chirimoya of the Granada-Málaga Tropical Coast[edit]

The Chirimoya of the Granada-Málaga Tropical Coast is a fruit of the cultivar ‘Fino de Jete" grown in the Granada-Málaga tropical southern coast of Spain with the EU's appellation protected designation of origin status. [20]

This variety is prepared and packed in the geographical area because "it is a very delicate perishable fruit and its skin is very susceptible to browning caused by mechanical damage, such as rubbing, knocks, etc. The fruit must be handled with extreme care, from picking by hand in the field to packing in the warehouse, which must be carried out within 24 hours. Repacking or further handling is strictly forbidden." [21]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) (1997-07-11). "Taxon: Annona cherimola L.". Taxonomy for Plants. USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program, National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. Retrieved 2008-04-17. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Morton, JF (1987). "Cherimoya, in Fruits of Warm Climates, p 65-9". Center for New Crops and Plant Products, Purdue University Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture. 
  3. ^ a b Popenoe H, King SR, León J, Kalinowski LS, Vietmeyer ND, et al. (1989). "Cherimoya". Lost crops of the Incas: Little-known plants of the Andes with promise for worldwide cultivation. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. pp. 228–239. ISBN 978-0-309-07461-2. 
  4. ^ van Zonneveld M, et al. (2012). "Mapping Genetic Diversity of Cherimoya (Annona cherimola Mill.): Application of Spatial Analysis for Conservation and Use of Plant Genetic Resources". PLoS ONE. 7 (1): e29845. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029845. PMC 3253804Freely accessible. PMID 22253801. 
  5. ^ Twain M (October 25, 1866). "Kau and Waiohinu in Kilauea, June, 1866". The Sacramento Daily Union. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Current name: Annona cherimola". AgroForestryTree Database. International Center For Research In Agroforestry. Retrieved 2008-04-17. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g EEB Greenhouse Staff, University of Connecticut (2008-04-10). "Annona cherimola Mill.". Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Greenhouses. Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Greenhouses. Retrieved 2008-04-17. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER) (2008-04-09). "Annona cherimola (PIER Species info)". PIER species lists. United States Geological Survey & United States Forest Service. Archived from the original on July 15, 2007. Retrieved 2008-04-17. Wiggins, I. L.Porter, D. M. 1971. Flora of the Galapágos Islands. Stanford University Press. 998 pp. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Flynn, Tim (2002-05-22). "Record Detail ANNONACEAE Annona cherimola Mill.". Herbarium Database. National Tropical Botanical Garden. Retrieved 2008-04-17. 
  10. ^ Champy P, et al. (December 2005). "Quantification of acetogenins in Annona muricata linked to atypical parkinsonism in guadeloupe". Mov. Disord. 20 (12): 1629–3. doi:10.1002/mds.20632. PMID 16078200. 
  11. ^ Berrin, Katherine & Larco Museum. The Spirit of Ancient Peru: Treasures from the Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1997.
  12. ^ a b van Zonneveld M, Scheldeman X, Escribano P, Viruel MA, Van Damme P, et al. (2012). "Mapping Genetic Diversity of Cherimoya (Annona cherimola Mill.): Application of Spatial Analysis for Conservation and Use of Plant Genetic Resources". PLoS ONE. 7 (1): e29845. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029845. PMC 3253804Freely accessible. PMID 22253801. 
  13. ^ Aluka. "Entry for Annona glabra Linn. [family ANNONACEAE]". African Plants. Ithaka Harbors, Inc. Retrieved 2008-04-17. [permanent dead link]
  14. ^ a b Aluka. "Entry for Annona cherimola Mill. [family ANNONACEAE]". African Plants. Ithaka Harbors, Inc. Retrieved 2008-04-17. [permanent dead link]
  15. ^ a b c Bioversity International. "Result set for: Annonaceae Annona cherimola". New World Fruits Database. Retrieved 2008-04-17. [dead link]
  16. ^ Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). "PLANTS Profile, Annona cherimola Mill.". The PLANTS Database. United States Department of Agriculture,. Retrieved 2008-04-17. 
  17. ^ Australian Plant Name Index (APNI). "Search results". Integrated Botanical Information System (IBIS). Australian Plant Name Index (APNI). Retrieved 2008-04-17. 
  18. ^ Landcare Research. "1 *A. cherimola Miller, Gard. Dict. ed. 8 (1768)". New Zealand Plant Names Database. Landcare Research Allan Herbarium and New Zealand Plant Names Database. Retrieved 2008-04-17. Cherimoya is cultivated in warmer parts of the North Id, especially in the Bay of Plenty. Frs form regularly in the North Id but apparently never form on Raoul. 
  19. ^ Gupta-Elera G, Garrett AR, Martinez A, Robison RA, O'Neill KL (2010). "The antioxidant properties of the cherimoya (annona cherimola) fruit". Food Research International. 44: 2205–2209. doi:10.1016/j.foodres.2010.10.038. 

External links[edit]