From the University of California Cooperative Extension
Compiled by Robert Vieth, Master Gardener
The cherimoya is regarded by many as being among the best of tropical
fruits. The cherimoya has a texture of a soft, non-gritty pear and a
delicate, highly appealing fruit flavor with little acidity. Cherimoyas
usually are eaten fresh; however they are excellent in ice cream and
sherbets. The seeds, leaves, and limbs contain poisonous alkaloids that
have been used to kill lice. Taken internally, these alkaloids act as
an emetic and cathartic and should be regarded as poisonous. The
biggest drawbacks in production in California are that the flowers
usually require hand pollination to ensure a good set of fruit, and
ripen over an extended period; however, from a marketing standpoint
these shortcomings can be turned into advantages. A recent appearance
or introduction into the Santa Barbara area, of the trash beetle or
Rove beetle (Staphylinidae), may provide sufficient pollination to
eliminate the need for hand pollination. The species is not readily
grown outside of its native (high elevation tropics) habitat. In the
United States, only the southern California coastal climates are
conducive to cherimoya production. Southeast Asians and Hispanics prize
the fruit and a national market has been established in gourmet
groceries. The fruit commands a premium price in these limited market
Annonaceae family consists of 50 genera of which Annona (about 100
species) and Rollinia (about 50 species) are the most important
commercially. The most esteemed of the fruits of this family is the Annona cherimola.
The family is tropical and semi-deciduous in habit. The cherimoya drops
its leaves in late spring (or early summer) after which it blooms. Its
leaves are alternate, ovate to elliptical (1.5 to 3.5 inches wide by 3
to 6 inches long) with a slightly hairy upper surface.
family exhibits a protogynous dichogamous flowering habit, that is,
complete flowers in which the stigma is receptive before the pollen is
ready to shed from the anthers. This condition is very important in
cherimoya since the configuration of its flowers is not conducive to
pollination by natural means. Therefore, pollination is done by hand:
pollen is usually collected in the late afternoon or evening, stored in
a cool place, and applied to the mature stigmas which are usually
receptive in the morning. Cherimoya flowers, borne solitary or in
groups of 2 or 3, are pendulous having three fleshy petals, a green to
brown exterior, white interior, and are 1 to 2 inches in length.
is typical of the family, the cherimoya fruit is formed by the fusion
or partial fusion of the carpels resulting in a more or less bumpy
fruit with many seeds. Cherimoyas ripen in 5 to 8 months after
pollination changing in color from a darker to a light green or
greenish tan, 3 to 8 inch ovoid weighing 1/2 to 6 lbs. In California
fruit ripens from November to June.
Other members of the family that are grown for their fruit are:
Sugar apple or custard apple (Annona squamosa)
Atemoya (A. squamosa & A. cherimola)
Soursop (Annona muricata)
Ilama (Annona diversifolia)
Bullock's heart (Annona reticulata)
Biriba (Rollinia deliciosa)
Pawpaw (Asimina triloba)
of the species grown for fruit require a tropical or semitropical
climate except for the pawpaw which is native to temperate North
America. Moreover, all but the cherimoya are better adapted to wet
tropical conditions. The cherimoya's home is the highland tropics which
are often characterized as areas of eternal spring with temperatures
seldom straying from the 60'so (F). There are wet and dry seasons with
typical annual rainfalls being about 50 inches.
The cherimoya is
adaptable to Mediterranean climates. In addition to San Diego and Santa
Barbara and Ventura counties in the United States, significant
commercial plantings have been made in Chile, Spain, Peru, Israel, New
Zealand, Australia and Italy.
Annona squamosa resembles the
cherimoya in texture and flavor and, since it is the more widely
adaptable to humid conditions, it is the most widely planted in the
more tropical parts of the world.
The cherimoya requires a
relatively frost-free environment similar to lemons (short periods of
26ºF for mature trees of hardy varieties). Some chilling seems
beneficial (50 to 100 hours between 32ºF and 45ºF). However,
a sunny location is needed since sufficient heat is required to develop
a good flavor (inland, protection from extremely hot temperatures and
dry winds is more important). In California most varieties do well
extending 3 to 15 miles inland from the ocean. Further inland, care
must be exercised in selecting a variety that will do well. The
cherimoya will not tolerate prolonged high humidity, such as is
encountered in Florida.
most critical soil requirement is that of good drainage. Sandy loam or
decomposed granite is preferred, but cherimoyas will succeed on many
soil types with pH 5 to 8.
Trees are normally planted on 20 to 25 foot centers in California. Tighter centers are used where intensive pruning is employed.
respond to fertilizer applications generally provided every 3 months
with a balanced fertilizer such as 8-8-8. Yellow leaves may not
indicate a need for fertilizer but may be a response to cold
temperatures or to the soil being too dry or wet.
to 2 scaffold branches. Severe pruning (2/3 of new growth) is popular
in order to aid in picking. Only shoots that are approximately 60
degrees from trunk are normally saved.
Pests and Diseases
are generally disease free. They are susceptible to Armillaria (oak
root fungus) and Verticillium wilt. Good drainage and watering
practices will minimize these problems. Similarly crown rot can occur
if care is not taken in keeping the crown of the tree relatively dry.
Ants are a problem since they promote mealy bugs on the fruit. Ants are
most easily controlled by limiting access from the ground by placing a
mechanical or acceptable chemical barrier on the trunk of the tree.
seedlings have a good probability of producing acceptable fruit, trees
are normally grafted or budded on seedling rootstock to ensure reliable
results. Grafting is done in the spring at or before leaf drop. Scion
wood should be collected just before leaf drop. Plants also can be
rooted from cuttings, although it is somewhat difficult. Seed has good
viability for 2 to 3 years if stored properly.
Harvesting and Storage
is done by hand while the fruit is still firm on the tree (February to
April depending on location). The crop is normally hand pollinated to
ensure a long harvest season. Ripeness of fruit must be determined by
the color of fruit. Depending on the variety, the fruit turns from a
deep green to a light green or greenish tan.
The fruit is packed in single layer containers to prevent bruising. If stored, temperatures should not go below 50° F.
The fiscal aspects of orchard investment are similar to that of lemons.
has exceeded demand and supported a significantly higher market price
which offsets the need for hand pollination and picking.
|'Bayott' (Bays x ott) - small to medium, smooth ovoid||"Ott" - small to medium, small bumps (umbonate), spherical; sweet mild flavor; inland|
|'Bays' - medium, smooth, spherical; good lemony flavor||'Pierce' - medium, smooth, ovoid; sweet pineapple-banana flavor; inland|
|'Booth' - small to medium, smooth, conical; papaya like flavor||'Ryerson' - medium, very smooth, conical; very sweet agreeable flavor; early|
|'Chaffey' - small to medium, smooth, ovoid; lemony flavor; coastal||'Spain' - small to medium, smooth, conical; banana flavor|
|'Deliciosa' - large, bumpy (mammillate), conical; fair flavor; inland (more frost hardy)||'White' - large, bumpy ovoid; mild papaya like flavor; coastal|
|'El Bumpo' - medium, bumpy (mammillate), conical; excellent flavor|
cherimoya has the following nutritional content per 1 gram of edible
fruit. (Note that analyses vary depending on the fruit ripeness,
variety, etc. and the values here are only a relative guide whose
accuracy is approximately +/- 20%.)