Cherimoya (Annona cherimola)

The cherimoya is often considered one of the best-tasting fruits in the world, its commercial production hampered by its short shelf-life, often tender skin and difficulty harvesting the fruit. The cherimoya’s rich and creamy pulp, with a hint of a sweet fruity flavor, makes an excellent dessert fruit and is becoming increasingly popular in temperate climates.

Description: Trees are fast-growing, producing fruit from seed in 3-4 years. Flowers are formed in small groups at nodes along the branches. A single flower first opens as female, which lasts for 36 hours, followed by a male stage, lasting for another 36 hours. Flowers are almost never pollinated by their own pollen, and without proper pollinators which do not exist outside its native range, cherimoya’s must be hand pollinated. Pollen is generally collected from a few male flowers and stored in a small bag while it is used to pollinate female flowers. Pollen cannot be stored for more than a few hours before it loses viability. Flowers bloom from late winter to early summer, followed by fruit which ripen from October to May. Fruits are large, from 4-8" long, and sometimes weighing over 5 pounds. Harvest fruits when skin turns slightly yellow or pale green, or when skin gives a little to touch.

Hardiness: The cherimoya is subtropical and when full-grown can survive to 25F. Young trees are susceptible to frost. Sunset Zones: 21-24, H1, H2; 16-20 (marginal) USDA: 10a-11

Growing Environment: Trees do not like intense heat or desert conditions. 50-100 hours of winter temperatures between 32-55F is usually necessary for fruit production. Cherimoya’s prefer a summer temperature of 65-80F, and a winter temperature of 41-65F. In cool climates, branches will defoliate for a few months in winter. Cherimoya’s like cool summers and cool nights. Very hot or cold weather, and cold or hot winds can be damaging. Water frequently when the plant is putting out new growth, infrequently when the plant is dormant. Fertilize every three months for best growth.

Propagation: Propagation is by seed, grafting, and air layering. Grafting and air-layering are chosen to propagate select cultivars. Seedlings with 70F bottom heat germinate in about 21 days. Without heat, seeds may take 1-2 months for germination.

Uses: Almost exclusively eaten fresh, out of hand. The pulp does not store well and the fruit is only available fresh. Seeds are toxic and when crushed can be used as an insecticide.

Native Range: Native to the Andean valleys of Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. Commercially grown in Australia, South America, Asia, Spain, Italy, and California.