It probably goes without saying that small towns usually have less diverse choices of food than large towns, or cities. But every so often one will surprise you. The tiny Pennsylvania town Wysox (population of less than 2000 people) did so recently. Their local grocery store, Tops, had an exotic or two hidden away. And thanks also to Alix (aka Panther) for alerting me to this food's presence, and serving it to the crew.
Cherimoya is a fruit of slightly questionable heritage. Some scientists claim it's South American in origin, specifically in the Andes region, while others point out it's closely related to several Central American varieties. But whatever New World area it originally came from, it's since spread in popularity. It's also now grown in South Asia, California and Florida, Portugal, and Italy.
To be frank, it's not an attractive looking fruit. It's a green color, with occasional black markings, and has diamond shaped dimples all over it. It's fairly large, being a little bigger than a grapefruit. The interior pulp is whitish, with about 20-30 black seeds.
The cherimoya tree is fraught with danger. The seeds, young fruit, and leaves serve as insecticides to certain insect species. The sap is irritating, and can injure people's eyes. A chemical in the bark can be used to induce paralysis, (at least in toads). Finally, the seeds are poisonous. Luckily, since it's fairly easy to accidently consume one, they can safely pass through a person's digestive system--they're only hazardous if the seed is broken up.
Cherimoya certainly has its fans. Famous author Mark Twain claimed it was the "most delicious fruit known to men." Others compare its taste to a blend of pineapples, papaya, bananas, strawberries, and peaches. It's also known as the "custard apple" because of its flavor.
I had it twice. The first time it was presumably not as ripe, since the texture was rather firm. It was okay, but it did have a weird chalky tint. The second time I let it sit for a few day before I ate it. This aged fruit was much softer--I was able to scoop it from the rind with a spoon. I liked it much better this way--it was mild, sweetish, and pretty good. Although it did give me a mild stomach ache afterward--evidently it was a tad overripe. I didn't notice all the blended fruit flavors mentioned earlier, but maybe my palate isn't sophisticated enough, due to years of canned pasta, gas station beef jerky, and White Castle burgers.
Anyway, to sum up, I don't quite agree with Mr. Twain's assessment, but cherimoya was good when it was aged a bit. I would have it again. Finally, like many fruits, it's nutritious, having significant amounts of fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin B-6, and several antioxidants.