It just wouldn’t be right to have a category on local food and drinks without mentioning one of our key tropical fruits grown here – the Chirimoya, or “Custard Apple” (annona cherimola). In a nutshell – they have the consistency of a banana, but taste a bit like cold custard.
Sometimes spelt “Cherimoya” this pale green fruit is around the size of a large avovado, and is distinguished by its indented skin, with thumbprint sized hollows. Originally believed to be a native plant of Ecuador or Colombia, it has spread through the Andes and central America to Peru and Bolivia. It is now a key crop of the Costa Tropical, though is also grown in the north of Africa, souther Asia and American states with a similar climate such as parts of souther California.
The trees grow up to around 9m high – the fruit is harvested from mid October until late spring, with the beginning of the harvest being marked with the fiesta at Torrecuevas around 12 October.
While Chirimoyas are sometimes made into cold mousses or ice creams, the usual way to eat them is with a tea spoon. Simply slice in half, and then spoon out the creamy pulp, discarding the numerous black or dark brown seeds (in a large one there can be the thick end of a hundred so the development of new seedless varieties is eagerly anticipated by the catering trade..
They aren’t the world’s best for being shipped, as they tend to go from unripe to over ripe in a matter of a few days. You’ll struggle to find them in good condition in the UK – occasionally the likes of Waitrose will have them, but knowing now how good they can be it’s sad to report that they were never at their best when bought in the UK.
The taste does also tend to change depending on how ripe the fruit is – initially when still slightly firm and a paler colour they are more “pear-ish” (a lot of people describe them as having papaya, peach or faint pineapple tastes). When fully ripe they are more “custardy” – but soon go brown and start to ferment becoming inedible.
Chirimoya de la Costa Tropical de Granada-Málaga
Chirimoyas grown within the Costa Tropical region now have their own quality mark which is awarded to just two varieties – Fino de Jete and Campas.
These can only be grown in the prescribed areas of Motril, Salobreña, Vélez de Benaudalla, Los Guájares, Molvízar, Ítrabo, Otívar, Lentejí, Jete and Almuñécar in Granada Province, and Nerja, Frigiliana, Torrox, Algarrobo and Vélez-Málaga in Malaga Province.
Of these two varieties, Campas (named after it’s breeder in Rio Seco in the 1950s, whose name was Campos,) tends to be an earlier cropper staring in late September.
It is larger than Fino de Jete, weighing in between 300 grams to 1 kg for a large one, and has slightly under 10% of its bulk as seeds, though is less hardy being slightly more susceptible to cold weather.
Fino de Jete, however, is easier to grow and accounts for some 90% of local production and crops from Mid October to late February – so from a grower’s perspective is where the money is.
Per 100g, the average Chirimoya packs:
Iron – 0,7 mg
Sugars – 14 to 18 g
Vitamin A – 1 mg
Vitamin B – 0,08 to 0,1 mg
Vitamin B1 – 0,05 to 0,08 mg
Vitamin B3 – 0,5 to 0,8 mg
Carbohydrates – 23,71 g
Magnesium – 32 a 88 mg
Acides – 0,4 mg
Protein – 1 to 4,3 g
Zinc -0,2 to 2,7 mg
Potassium – 250 to 578 mg
Sodium – 4 -1 4mg
Calcium – 17 to 22 mg
Vitamin C – 22 to43 mg
Fibre – 1 to 3,2 g
Copper – 2.4mg
Soluble Solids – 22.3%
It’s fair to say that Chirimoyas are a bit like Marmite – you’ll either love them, or hate them.
For Julie, they’re just too sweet – Personally, I love them!!