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Universally regarded as a premium fruit, the cherimoya (Annona cherimola) has been called the “pearl of the Andes,” and the “queen of subtropical fruits.” Mark Twain declared it to be “deliciousness itself!”

In the past, cherimoya (usually pronounced chair-i-moy-a in English) could only be eaten in South America or Spain. The easily bruised, soft fruits could not be transported any distance. But a combination of new selections, advanced horticulture, and modern transportation methods has removed the limitations. Cushioned by foam plastic, chilled to precise temperatures, and protected by special cartons, cherimoyas are now being shipped thousands of kilometers. They are even entering international trade. Already, they can be found in supermarkets in many parts of the United States, Japan, and Europe (mainly France, England, Portugal, and Spain).

Native to the Ecuadorian Andes, the cherimoya is an important backyard crop throughout much of Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Peru. Chileans consider the cherimoya to be their “national fruit” and produce it (notably in the Aconcagua Basin) on a considerable commercial scale. In some cooler regions of Central America and Mexico, the plant is naturalized and the fruit is common in several locales. In the United States, the plant produces well along small sections of the Southern California coast where commercial production has begun.

Outside the New World, a scattering of cherimoya trees can be found in South Africa, South Asia, Australasia, and around the Mediterranean. However, only in Spain and Portugal is there sizable production. In fruit markets there, cherimoyas are sometimes piled as high as apples and oranges.

A good cherimoya certainly has few equals. Cutting this large, green, heart-shaped fruit in half reveals white flesh with black seeds. The flesh has a soft, creamy texture. Chilled, it is like a tropical sherbet—indeed, cherimoya has often been described as “ice-cream fruit.” In Chile, it is a favorite filling for ice-cream wafers and cookies. In Peru, it is popular in ice cream and yogurt.

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