From the book
Fruits of Warm Climates
by Julia F. Morton
Crop and Yield
Pests and Diseases
Certainly the most esteemed of the fruits of the genus Annona (family Annonaceae), the cherimoya, A. cherimola
Mill., because of its limited distribution, has acquired few colloquial
names, and most are merely local variations in spelling, such as
chirimoya, cherimolia, chirimolla, cherimolier, cherimoyer. In
Venezuela, it is called chirimorrinon; in Brazil, graveola, graviola,
or grabiola; and in Mexico, pox or poox; in Belize, tukib; in El
Salvador it is sometimes known as anona poshte; and elsewhere merely as
anona, or anona blanca. In France, it is anone; in Haiti, cachiman la
Chine. Indian names in Guatemala include pac, pap, tsummy and tzumux.
The name, cherimoya, is sometimes misapplied to the less-esteemed
custard apple, A. reticulata L. In Australia it is often applied to the atemoya (a cherimoya-sugar apple hybrid).
Plate 7: CHERIMOYA, Annona cherimola
tree is erect but low branched and somewhat shrubby or spreading;
ranging from 16 to 30 ft (5 to 9 m) in height; and its young branchlets
are rusty-hairy. The leaves are briefly deciduous (just before spring
flowering), alternate, 2-ranked, with minutely hairy petioles 1/4 to
1/2 in (6 to 12.5 mm) long; ovate to elliptic or ovate-lanceolate,
short blunt-pointed at the apex; slightly hairy on the upper surface,
velvety on the underside; 3 to 6 in (7.5-15 cm) long, 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 in
(3.8-8.9 cm) wide.
Fragrant flowers, solitary or in groups of
2 or 3, on short, hairy stalks along the branches, have 3 outer,
greenish, fleshy, oblong, downy petals to 1 1/4 in (3 cm) long and 3
smaller, pinkish inner petals. A compound fruit, the cherimoya is
conical or somewhat heart-shaped, 4 to 8 in (10 to 20 cm) long and up
to 4 in (10 cm) in width, weighing on the average 5 1/2 to 18 oz
(150-500 g) but extra large specimens may weigh 6 lbs (2.7 kg) or more.
The skin, thin or thick, may be smooth with fingerprint like markings
or covered with conical or rounded protuberances. The fruit is easily
broken or cut open, exposing the snow-white, juicy flesh, of pleasing
aroma and delicious, subacid flavor; and containing numerous hard,
brown or black, beanlike, glossy seeds, 1/2 to 3/4 in (1.25 to 2 cm)
Origin and Distribution
cherimoya is believed indigenous to the interandean valleys of Ecuador,
Colombia and Bolivia. In Bolivia, it flourishes best around Mizque and
Ayopaya, in the Department of Cochabamba, and around Luribay, Sapahaqui
and Rio Abajo in the Department of La Paz. Its cultivation must have
spread in ancient times to Chile and Brazil for it has become
naturalized in highlands throughout these countries. Many authors
include Peru as a center of origin but others assert that the fruit was
unknown in Peru until after seeds were sent by P. Bernabe Cobo from
Guatemala in 1629 and that thirteen years after this introduction the
cherimoya was observed in cultivation and sold in the markets of Lima.
The often-cited representations of the cherimoya on ancient Peruvian
pottery are actually images of the soursop, A. muricata L. Cobo sent seeds to Mexico also in 1629. There it thrives between 4,000 and 5,000 ft (1312-1640 m) elevations.
is commonly grown and naturalized in temperate areas of Costa Rica and
other countries of Central America. In Argentina, the cherimoya is
mostly grown in the Province of Tucuman. In 1757, it was carried to
Spain where it remained a dooryard tree until the 1940's and 1950's
when it gained importance in the Province of Granada, in the Sierra
Nevada mountains, as a replacement for the many orange trees that
succumbed to disease and had to be taken out. By 1953, there were 262
acres (106 ha) of cherimoyas in this region.
In 1790 the
cherimoya was introduced into Hawaii by Don Francisco de Paulo Marin.
It is still casually grown in the islands and naturalized in dry upland
forests. In 1785, it reached Jamaica, where it is cultivated and occurs
as an escape on hillsides between 3,500 and 5,000 ft (1,066-1,524 m).
It found its way to Haiti sometime later. The first planting in Italy
was in 1797 and it became a favored crop in the Province of Reggio
Calabria. The tree has been tried several times in the Botanic Gardens,
Singapore first around 1878—but has always failed to survive
because of the tropical climate. In the Philippines, it does well in
the Mountain Province at an altitude above 2,460 ft (750 m). It was
introduced into India and Ceylon in 1880 and there is small-scale
culture in both countries at elevations between 1,500 and 7,000 ft
(457-2,134 m). The tree was planted in Madeira in 1897, then in the
Canary Islands, Algiers, Egypt and, probably via Italy, in Libya,
Eritrea and Somalia.
The United States Department of
Agriculture imported a number of lots of cherimoya seeds from Madeira
in 1907 (S.P.I. Nos. 19853, 19854, 19855, 19898, 19901, 19904, 19905).
from Mexico were planted in California in 1871. There were 9,000 trees
in that state in 1936 but many of them were killed by a freeze in 1937.
Several small commercial orchards were established in the 1940's. At
present there may be less than 100 acres (42 ha) in the milder parts of
San Diego County. Seeds, seedlings and grafted trees from California
and elsewhere have been planted in Florida many times but none has done
well. Any fruits produced have been of poor quality.
In Peru, cherimoyas are classed according to degree of surface irregularity, as: 'Lisa', almost smooth; 'Impresa', with "fingerprint" depressions; 'Umbonada', with rounded protrusions; 'Papilonado', or 'Tetilado', with fleshy, nipple-like protrusions; 'Tuberculada',
with conical protrusions having wartlike tips. At the Agricultural
Experiment Station "La Molina", several named and unnamed selections
collected in northern Peru are maintained and evaluated. Among the more
important are: #1, 'Chavez', fruits up to 3.3 lbs (1 1/2 kg); February to May; #2, 'Names', fruits January to April; #3, 'Sander',
fruits with moderate number of seeds; July and early August; #4, fruit
nearly smooth, not many seeds, 1.1 to 2.2 lbs (1/2-1 kg), June to
August; #5, nearly smooth, very sweet, 2.2 Ibs (1 kg), March to June;
#6, fruit with small protuberances, 1.1 to 2.2 Ibs (1/2-1 kg), not many
seeds; #7 fruit small, very sweet, many seeds, March to May; #8, fruit
very sweet, 1.1 to 2.2 Ibs (1/2 1 kg), with very few seeds, February to
In the Department of Antioquia, Colombia, a cultivar called 'Rio Negro'
has heart shaped fruits weighing 1 3/4 to 2.2 Ibs (0.8-1 kg). The
cherimoyas of Mizque, Cochabamba, Bolivia, are locally famed for their
size and quality. 'Concha Lisa' and 'Bronceada' are grown commercially in Chile. Other cultivars mentioned in Chilean literature are 'Concha Picuda' and 'Terciopelo'.
Ernesto Saavedra, University of Chile, after ex perimenting with growth
regulators for 4 years, developed a super cherimoya, 4 to 6 in (10-15
cm) wide and weighing up to 4 Ibs (1.8 kg); symmetrical, easy to peel
and seedless, hence having 25% more flesh than an ordinary cherimoya.
However, the larger fruits are subject to cracking.
The leading commercial cultivars in Spain are 'Pinchua' (thin-skinned) and 'Baste' (thick-skinned.)
Named cultivars in California include:
'Bays'—rounded, fingerprinted, light green, medium to large, of excellent flavor; good bearer; early.
sometimes shouldered at the base, slightly and irregularly tuberculate,
with fairly thick, downy skin. Of good flavor, but membranous sac
around each seed may adhere to flesh. Bears well; grown commercially;
prominently papillate; skin tbin, slightly downy; variable in flavor;
only fair in quality; generally bears well but doesn't ship well;
'Booth'—short-conical, fingerprinted, medium to large; of good flavor; next to 'Deliciosa in hardiness. Late.
'McPherson'—short conical, fingerprinted but umbonate at the base; medium to large; of high quality; bears well. Midseason.
but not shouldered; smooth or faintly fingerprinted; skin green to
bronze; bears well. Late. Leaves wavy or twisted.
smooth or fingerprinted, with tbick, tough, green or yellow green skin;
of fair quality; ships well. Leaves wavy or twisted.
with rounded apex; slightly papil late to umbonate; medium to large;
skin medium thick; of good flavor; doesn t bear well near the coast.
in 1940s; rounded, short, finger printed; of medium size; excellent
quality; bears well, even without hand-pollination.
#656)—introduced in 1940's; long conical to heart shaped,
slightly tuberculate; of excellent flavor; ships well.
Among others that have been planted in California but considered inferior are: 'Horton', 'Golden Russet', 'Loma', 'Mire Vista', 'Sallmon'.
problem with the cherimoya is inadequate natural pollination because
the male and female structures of each flower do not mature
simultaneously. Few insects visit the flowers. Therefore,
hand-pollination is highly desirable and must be done in a 6- to 8-hour
period when the stigmas are white and sticky. It has been found in
Chile that in the first flowers to open the pollen grains are loaded
with starch, whereas flowers that open later have more abundant pollen,
no starch grains, and the pollen germinates readily. Partly-opened
flowers are collected in the afternoon and kept in a paper bag
overnight. The next morning the shed pollen is put, together with moist
paper, in a vial and transferred by brush to the receptive stigmas.
Usually only a few of the flowers on a tree are pollinated each time,
the operation being repeated every 4 or 5 days in order to extend the
season of ripening. The closely related A. senegalensis Pers., if
available, is a good source of abundant pollen for pollinating the
cherimoya. The pollen of the sugar apple is not satisfactory. Fruits
from hand-pollinated flowers will be superior in form and size.
cherimoya is subtropical or mild-temperate and does not succeed in the
lowland tropics. It requires long days. In Colombia and Ecuador, it
grows naturally at elevations between 4,600 and 6,600 ft (1,400-2,000
m) where the temperature ranges between 62.6° and 68°F
(17°-20°C). In Peru, the ideal climate for the cherimoya is
said to lie between 64.5° and 77°F (18°-25°C) in the
summer and 64.5° and 41°F (18°-5°C) in winter. In
Guatemala, naturalized trees are common between 4,000 and 8,200 ft
(1,200-2,500 m) though the tree produces best between 4,000 and 5,900
ft (1,200-1,800 m) and can be grown at elevations as low as 2,950 ft
(900 m). The tree cannot survive the cold in the Valle de Mexico at
7,200 ft (2,195 m). In Argentina, young trees are wrapped with dry
grass or burlap during the winter. The cherimoya can tolerate light
frosts. Young trees can withstand a temperature of 26°F
(-3.33°C), but a few degrees lower will severely injure or kill
mature trees. In February 1949, a small scale commercial grower (B. E.
Needham) in Glendora, California, reported that most of his crop was
lost because of frost and snow, the cherimoya suffering more cold
damage than his avocados, oranges or lemons.
The tree prefers
a rather dry environment as in southern Guatemala where the rainfall is
50 in (127 cm) and there is a long dry season. It is not adaptable to
northern Guatemala where the 100 inch (254 cm) rainfall is spread
throughout the year.
Finally, the tree should be protected from strong winds which interfere with pollination and fruit set.
cherimoya tree performs well on a wide range of soil types from light
to heavy, but seems to do best on a medium soil of moderate fertility.
In Argentina, it makes excellent growth on rockstrewn, loose, sandy
loam 2 to 3 ft (0.6-0.9 m) above a gravel subsoil. The optimum pH
ranges from 6.5 to 7.6. A greenhouse trial in sand has demonstrated
that the first nutritional deficiency evoked in such soil is lack of
seeds, if kept dry, will remain viable for several years. While the
tree is traditionally grown from seed in Latin America, the tendency of
seedlings to produce inferior fruits has given impetus to vegetative
Seeds for rootstocks are first soaked in water
for 1 to 4 days and those that float are discarded. Then planting is
done directly in the nursery row unless the soil is too cool, in which
case the seeds must be placed in sand peat seedbeds, covered with 1 in
(2.5 cm) of soil and kept in a greenhouse. They will germinate in 3 to
5 weeks and when the plants are 3 to 4 in (7.5-10 cm) high, they are
transplanted to pots or the nursery plot with 20 in (50 cm) between
rows. When 12 to 24 months old and dormant, they are budded or grafted
and then allowed to grow to 3 or 4 ft (0.9-1.2 m) high before setting
out in the field. Large seedlings and old trees can be topworked by
cleft-grafting. It is necessary to protect the trunk of topped trees to
The cherimoya can also be grafted onto the custard apple (A. reticulata).
In India this rootstock has given 90% success. Cuttings of mature wood
of healthy cherimoya trees have rooted in coral sand with bottom heat
in 28 days.
young trees should be spaced 25 to 30 ft (7.5-9 m) apart each way in
pits 20 to 24 in (50-60 cm) wide, enriched with organic material. In
Colombia, corn (maize), vegetables, ornamental foliage plants, roses or
annual flowers for market are interplanted during the first few years.
In Spain, the trees are originally spaced 16.5 ft (5 m) apart with the
intention of later thinning them out. Thinning is not always done and
around the village of Jete, where the finest cherimoyas are produced,
the trees have grown so close together as to form a forest. In the
early years they are interplanted with corn, beans and potatoes.
to eliminate low branches, providing a clean trunk up to 32 in (80 cm),
to improve form, and open up to sunlight and pesticide control, is done
preferably during dormancy. After 6 months, fertilizer (10-8-6 N, P, K)
is applied at the rate of 1/2 lb (227 g) per tree and again 6 months
later at 1 lb (454 g) per tree. In the 3rd year, the fertilizer formula
is changed to 6-10-8 N,P,K and each year thereafter the amount per tree
is increased by 1 lb (454 g) until the level of 5 lbs (2.27 kg) is
reached. Thenceforth this amount is continued each year per tree. The
fertilizer is applied in trenches 6 in (15 cm) deep and 8 in (20 cm)
wide dug around each tree at a distance of 5 ft (1.5 m) from the base,
at first; later, at an appropriately greater distance.
trees are irrigated every 15 to 20 days for the first few years except
during the winter when they must be allowed to go dormant—ideally
for 4 months. When the first leafbuds appear, irrigation is resumed.
With bearing trees, watering is discontinued as soon as the fruits are
In Chile, attempts to increase fruit set with
chemical growth regulators have been disappointing. Spraying flowers
with gibberellic acid has increased fruit set and improved form and
size but induces deep cracking prior to full maturity, far beyond the
normal rate of cracking in fruits from natural or hand-pollinated
Cropping and Yield
cherimoya begins to bear when 3 1/2 to 5 years old and production
steadily increases from the 5th to the 10th year, when there should be
a yield of 25 fruits per tree—2,024 per acre (5,000 per ha).
Yields of individual trees have been reported by eyewitnesses as a
dozen, 85, or even 300 fruits annually. In Colombia, the average yield
is 25 fruits; as many as 80 is exceptional. In Italy, trees 30 to 35
years old produce 230 to 280 fruits annually.
The fruits must
be picked when full grown but still firm and just beginning to show a
slight hint of yellowish-green and perhaps a bronze cast. Bolivians
judge that a fruit is at full maturity by shaking it and listening for
the sound of loose seeds. Italians usually wait for the yellowish hue
and the sweet aroma noticeable at a distance, picking the fruits only
24 to 28 hours prior to consumption. However, if the fruits must travel
to markets in central Italy, they are harvested when the skin turns
from dark-green to lighter green.
In harvesting, the fruits
must be clipped from the branch so as to leave only a very short stem
attached to the fruit to avoid stem caused damage to the fruits in
handling, packing and shipping.
Keeping Quality and Storage
fruits should be held at a temperature of 50°F (10°C) to retard
softening. When transferred to normal room temperature, they will
become soft and ready to eat in 3 to 4 days. Then they can be kept
chilled in the home refrigerator if not to be consumed immediately. A
California grower has shipped cherimoyas ('Deliciosa' and 'Booth')
packed in excelsior in 12 lb (5.5-kg) boxes to Boston and New York
quite satisfactorily. And the fruit has been shipped from Madeira to
London for many years.
In Bolivia, fruits for home use are
wrapped in woollen cloth as soon as picked and kept at room temperature
so that they can be eaten 3 days later.
Pests and Diseases
cherimoya tree is resistant to nematodes. Very few problems have been
noted in California except for infestations of mealybugs, especially at
the base of the fruit, and these can be flushed off. In Colombia, on
the other hand, it is said that a perfectly healthy tree is a rarity.
In the Valle de Tenza, formerly an important center of production, lack
of control of pests greatly reduced the plantations before 1960 when
programs were launched to improve cherimoya culture here and in various
other regions of the country.
Caterpillars (Thecla sp. and Oiketicus kubeyi) may defoliate the tree. A scale insect, Conchaspis angraeci attacks the trunk and branches. Prime enemies are reported to be fruit flies (Anastrepha sp. ); leaf miners (Leucoptera
sp.), particularly in the Valle de Tenza, which necessitate the
collection and burning of affected leaves plus the application of
systemic insecticides; and the seed borer (Bephrata maculicollis).
The latter pest deposits eggs on the surface of the developing fruits,
the larvae invade the fruit and consume the seeds, causing premature
and defective ripening and rendering the fruits susceptible to fungal
diseases. This pest is difficult to combat. Borers attack the tree in
Argentina reducing its life span from 60 to 30 years.
The coccid, Pseudococcus filamentosus attacks the fruit in Hawaii, and Aulacaspis miranda
and Ceropute yuccae in Mexico. In Spain, the thin-skinned cultivar
'Pinchua' is subject to attack by the Mediterranean fruit-fly, Ceratitis capitata.
seeds for planting are subject to attack by weevils. To avoid
damping-off of young seedlings, dusting of seeds with fungicide is
recommended. The tree may succumb to root-rot in clay soils or where
there is too much moisture and insufficient drainage. Sooty mold may
occur on leaves and fruits where ants, aphids and other insects have
Fig. 19: Cherimoyas (Annona cherimola) from the highlands are sold at fruit stands along Venezuelan roadways.
flesh of the ripe cherimoya is most commonly eaten out of-hand or
scooped with a spoon from the cut open fruit. It really needs no
embellishment but some people in Mexico like to add a few drops of lime
juice. Occasionally it is seeded and added to fruit salads or used for
making sherbet or ice cream. Colombians strain out the juice, add a
slice of lemon and dilute with ice-water to make a refreshing soft
drink. The fruit has been fermented to produce an alcoholic beverage.
Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion
|Analysis of cherimoyas in Ecuador||Colombian Analysis|
|Moisture|| 74.6 g||Moisture||77.1 g|
|Ether Extract||0.45 g||Protein||1.9 g|
|Crude Fiber||1.5 g||Fat||0.1 g|
|Nitrogen||.227 g||Carbohydrates||18.2 g|
|Ash||0.61 g||Fiber||2.0 g|
|Calcium||21.7 g||Ash||0.7 g|
|Phosphorus||30.2 mg||Calcium||32.0 mg|
|Iron||0.80 mg||Phosphorus||37.0 mg|
|Carotene||0.000 mg||Iron||0.5 mg|
|Thiamine||0.117 mg||Vitamin A (Carotene)||0.0 I.U.|
|Riboflavin||0.112 mg||Thiamine||0.10 mg|
|Niacin||1.02 mg||Riboflavin||0.14 mg|
|Ascorbic Acid||16.8 mg||Niacin||0.9 mg|
|Ascorbic Acid||5.0 mg|
seeds, like those of other Annona species, are crushed and used as
insecticide. Paul Allen, in his Poisonous and Injurious Plants of
Panama, (see Bibliography), implies personal knowledge of a case of
blindness resulting from "the juice of the crushed seeds coming in
contact with the eyes. " The seeds contain several alkaloids: caffeine,
( + )-reticuline, (-)-anonaine, liriodenine, and lanuginosine.
ingestion of 0.15 g of the dark-yellow resin isolated from the seeds
produces dilated pupils, intense photophobia, vomiting, nausea, dryness
of the mouth, burning in the throat, flatulence, and other symptoms
resembling the effects of atropine. A dose of 0.5 g, injected into a
medium-sized dog, caused profuse vomiting.
wrote that hogs feed on the fallen fruits in southern Ecuador where
there are many cherimoya trees and few people. One wonders whether the
hogs swallow the hard seeds whole and avoid injury.
possess the same alkaloids as the seeds plus michelalbine. A team of
pharmacognosists in Spain and France has reported 8 alkaloids in the
leaves: ( + )-isoboldine, (-)-stepholidine, ( + )-corytuberine, ( + )
( + )-reticuline, (-)-anonaine, liriodenine, and lanuginosine.
In Jamaica, the dried flowers have been used as flavoring for snuff.
In Mexico, rural people toast, peel and pulverize 1 or 2 seeds and take
the powder with water or milk as a potent emetic and cathartic. Mixed
with grease, the powder is used to kill lice and is applied on
parasitic skin disorders. A decoction of the skin of the fruit is taken
to relieve pneumonia.
Last updated: 3/8/2013 by