These are widely available in ethnic supermarkets in Southern California; I'm not sure how available they are elsewhere. The one pictured above is actually from my grandmother's backyard. In stores, they range in size from as large as a three-year-old's head to the size of an adult's fist. A ripe cherimoya will usually be dark green (though this is dependent on the variety), have a loosening stem, and give to the touch in much the same way as an avocado. They can ripen on the counter but can also develop bruised and unappetizing spots inside the flesh if left for too long.
Mark Twain claimed that the cherimoya is "deliciousness itself!" and I can't help but agree. When a perfectly ripe specimen is sliced open and the luminous white flesh glistens with its juices, it's a moment to behold, akin to that of witnessing a sunrise or getting to third-base for the first time. I usually cut it into wedges and peel back the skin using my fingers or a knife, and sink my teeth in. The flesh of a good cherimoya is, as one of its names indicates, custard-like, with just a touch of fibrousness that reminds you that it actually is, in fact, a fruit. They can be sublimely sweet but I prefer them when they are still on the firm and tangy side. I particularly love the membrane that surrounds each seed. Yes, I'm weird, and yes, this fruit does involve the dreaded spitting-out-of-seeds process-- believe me, it's worth it.
Ohhh, how it's worth it.
More cherimoya links:
- I wonder if this cherimoya nonprofit is still around: http://www.cherimoyas.org">California Cherimoya Assocation
- A very thorough article from 2003: The Strange and Divine Cherimoya