If you live outside Southern California I may be throwing you a curve ball. I am not sure how popular this fruit is across the US. I am even less sure how well it is appreciated in other countries (beside its native Ecuador or Peru where it is known as “The Jewel of the Incas”).
But I do know that in Los Angeles it is revered! There are no less than 2 dozen streets bearing the name in So. California.
And there is good reason. The flesh is lusciously soft. It is sweet but tangy. One bite and you will absolutely long for more.
I have heard their flavor described as a mixture of mango, papaya, bananas and even coconut. To me it’s got the sweet tart acidity of a really good apple with a super creamy texture, not unlike custard. But truthfully it can’t really be compared to anything else.
Mark Twain called the cherimoya “the most delicious fruit known to men.” He was even more to the point when he called it “deliciousness itself.” Which in true Twainian fashion, seems to be the definitive end all descriptor.
But it’s an odd looking bugger!
It kinda looks like a big green pine cone.
Cherimoyas are in season right now through June. When you buy one look for skin that is uniformly green— without blemishes, cracks, or brown spots. They should not be soft at purchase because they bruise so easily. It’s better to let them ripen a few days undisturbed at room temperature. They will yield to gentle thumb pressure when ripe. Very much like an avocado.
Of course I can’t ever pick an easy fruit to love. I always end up picking things that come with disclaimers. The cherimoya has a big disclaimer. You cannot eat the skin. And I don’t mean that it tastes bad. I mean it can cause paralysis.
Mild and inconsequential paralysis but it can last up to five hours. Which would be five hours of pure torture if you were suddenly left immobile with a gorgeous half eaten cherimoya staring you in the eye!
The easiest way to eat the fruit is to cut it in half and scoop the flesh out with a spoon. Spitting the large shiny black seeds across the room as you go. Them’s good spittin’ seeds!
But today I am going for a more sophisticated presentation. I am pairing it with lime and raspberries in a simple tart.
I rolled mine out in one direction to get the appropriate sized rectangle for my tart pan. I sprinkled the dough with some lime zest before rolling so as to embed a slight hint of flavor into it.
After that I baked it until golden and lovely. I did not bother with weights. I only need the barest hint of a lip to make this tart look it’s very best.
I used a lime glaze on the shell once it was cool. Then I arranged sliced cherimoya over the tart shell and brushed them with more lime glaze and a good sprinkle of some more air dried lime zest.
I need to warn you. A ripe cherimoya is very difficult to slice in an attractive manner. You may be disappointed with the results. I find it best to quarter and peel the fruit, then slice (removing the seeds as you work). Go ahead and peel 2 big cherimoyas for this tart.
Which is a lot more than you’ll need. But this way you can ‘cherry-moya pick’ the prettiest pieces. There won’t be any perfect slices, I promise you that. But you should begin to get the hang of it as you work, so as to get enough adequate looking slices.
I topped the tart with quite a few big beautiful raspberries. This is a wonderful combination with the lime and really goes a long way in dressing up the tart if your cherimoya slices are little ragged looking.
The amazing thing about this tart is you get the rich creamy sensation of pastry cream with out using any pastry cream at all. The cherimoyas luscious texture is responsible for this phenomenon. Which makes this (arguably ) a lighter version of classic French pastries!
But it’s not like leaving the pastry cream out is any kind compromise in this situation. The rich creamy notes of cherimoya are more than enough to carry load in this beautiful cherimoya tart.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD