The fruit is oval, often slightly oblique, 10-20 cm long and 7-10 cm diameter, with a smooth or slightly tuberculated skin. The fruit flesh is white, and has numerous seeds embedded in it. Mark Twain called the cherimoya "the most delicious fruit known to men."
The Moche culture of Peru had a fascination with agriculture and represented fruits and vegetables in their art. Cherimoyas were often depicted in their ceramics.
The fruit is fleshy and soft, sweet, white in color, with a sherbet-like texture, which gives it its secondary name, custard apple. Some characterize the flavor as a blend of banana, pineapple, and strawberry. Others describe it as tasting like commercial bubblegum. Similar in size to a grapefruit, it has large, glossy, dark seeds that are easily removed. The seeds are poisonous if crushed open and can be used as an insecticide. One should also avoid eating the skin as it may cause paralysis from 4 to 5 hours. When ripe the skin is green and gives slightly to pressure, similar to the avocado.
When shopping, one should look for large fruit which is uniformly green. Avoid fruits with cracks or mostly browned skin. Ripe fruit may be kept in the refrigerator, but it is best to let immature cherimoyas ripen at room temperature, until it yields to gentle pressure.
Different varieties have different characteristics of flavor, texture, and fruit shape contours. Contours can range from imprint areoles, flat areoles, slight bump or point areoles, full areoles - and combinations of the above. The flavor of the flesh ranges from mellow sweet to tangy/acidic sweet, with variable suggestions of pineapple, banana, pear, papaya, strawberry/'berry', and/or apple, depending on the variety. The usual characterization of flavor is 'pineapple/banana' flavor, similar to the flavor of the Monstera deliciosa fruit.
When the fruit is soft-ripe/fresh-ripe and still has the 'fresh' fully mature greenish/greenish-yellowish skin color, the texture is like that of a soft-ripe pear and papaya. If the skin is allowed to turn fully brown, yet the flesh hasn't fermented or gone 'bad', then the texture can be custard-like. Often when the skin turns brown at room temperature the fruit is no longer good for human consumption. Also, the skin turns brown if it's been under normal refrigeration for 'too long' - a day or two maybe.
Fresh cherimoya contains about 15% sugar (about 60kcal/100g) and some vitamin C (up to 20mg/100g)
Quite often, the female flower is receptive in the early part of the first day, but pollen is not produced in the male stage until the late afternoon of the second day. Honey bees are not good pollinators, for example, because their bodies are too large to fit between the fleshy petals of the female flower. Female flowers have the petals only partially separated, and the petals separate wide when they become male flowers. So the bees pick up pollen from the male flowers, but are unable to transfer this pollen to the female flowers. The small beetles which pollinate cherimoya in its land of origin are much smaller than bees.
For fruit production outside the cherimoya's native region, cultivators must either rely upon the wind to spread pollen in dense orchards or else pollinate flowers by hand. Complicating matters is the notoriously short lifespan of cherimoya pollen.
The optimum temperature for storage is at 8-12°C (46-54°F) depending on cultivar, ripeness stage, and duration, with an optimum relative humidity of 90-95%.
Exposure to ethylene (100ppm for 1-2 days) accelerates ripening of mature-green cherimoya and other annona fruits; they can ripen in about 5 days if kept at 15°C (59°F) to 20°C (68°F). Ethylene removal can be helpful in retarding ripening of mature-green fruits.
Please see Pimenta et al., 2003 for information about toxicity.