By Ken Love


Family: Annonaceae  

Scientific name: Annona cherimola

Origin: South America




Considered to be one of the most delicious South American fruits, the cherimoya is thought to have originated in Peru and Ecuador and has been naturalized throughout the South American tropical highlands and subtropical areas.  The spreading low-branched trees can reach 30 feet in height but usually kept shorter to facilitate harvesting. Leaves on various cultivars and seedling trees are often shaped differently, they can be ovate to lanceolate or obovate or elliptical. Leaves are 3 to 10 inches in length and 2 to 5 inches wide. The fruit is also found in a wide variety of shapes and sizes with varying degrees of U-shaped smooth indentations or bumpy protuberances. Cherimoyas generally ripen 5 to 7 months after pollination. Ripe fruit can be found from 1 inch to 1-foot diameter. The fruit contains numerous black or brown seeds, which are easily separated from the pulp. Usually eaten fresh out of hand, cherimoya is also used in flans, sorbet and ice creams. The tree is believed to have first come to Hawaii in the 1790s and was observed fruiting in 1825. It was reported in 1920 that the fruit had become naturalized in Kona and Kau on the Big Island.



There are many cultivars of the fruit. A few popular types include: 'Bays', 'Whaley', 'Deliciosa', 'Chaffey', 'Booth', and 'McPherson'. In Spain, 'Pinchua' and 'Baste' are important varieties. In South America, popular cultivars include; 'Lisa',  'Impresa',  'Umbonada',  'Papilonado',  'Tuberculada' and 'Chevez'.  Varieties differ in the smoothness of skin, number and size of protrusions, amount of seeds and depressions in the skin. Trees producing seedless cherimoya fruits are sometimes reported. Seedless fruit can be induced by the repeated application of gibberellic acid.



The sub-tropical cherimoya prefers higher elevations to 5000 feet but will fruit as low as 800 feet. At lower elevations, however,  trees seem to be less productive and fruit more susceptible to insect damage. Seedling trees have been planted at lower elevations in the Kona District in hopes that a suitable selection can be found. Generally atemoya,  (A. squamosa x A. cherimola), is recommended for lower elevations. Cherimoya prefers rich loamy well-drained soil with uniform moisture. The tree does not like standing water and is drought tolerant. Orchard trees are generally spaced 20 to 25 feet apart but can be closer if intensive pruning is practiced.  Seedling and grafted trees can fruit in 2 to 4 years given proper nutrition.



Shaping of young trees is important to fruit production. Limbs need to be able to support the hefty fruit, which can weigh more than 2 pounds. Usually 2 or 3 lower limbs that are about 60 degrees from the trunk are saved. The adopted pruning style in many production areas is called the open goblet. Pruning is done during the rest period when leaves begin to fall shortly after harvest is completed.  Rapidly growing shoots are tipped to encourage flowering. A balanced fertilizer, 6-6-6, is applied quarterly. One-year old trees receive 1/2 pound yearly; 2-year-old trees receive 1 pound. An additional pound per year of growth until 5 pounds is reached is recommended.   In production orchards, various N, P, K formulas are used depending on soil nutrition. The university extension office can analyze soil and offer additional recommendations. Cherimoya usually requires extra potassium for good production, up to 10 pounds per year on mature trees.  Leaf yellowing can be an indication of the soil being to wet or to dry or caused by rapid temperature changes as well as nutrient deficiency or inadequate pH.  



Cherimoya is usually not a heavy producer in Hawaii. Flowers contain both male and female organs but mature at different times. Hand pollination or a pollination gun is used in major growing areas. Fruit produced from hand-pollinated flowers are more uniform in size. Pollination needs to be performed over a 6 to 8 hour period. Pollen is collected in the afternoon from partially opened flowers and transferred by brush to receptive stigmas the following morning. This process is usually repeated for 4 or 5 days.


A test field in South Kona showed that when the often flowering soursop tree, (A. muricata), is planted next to cherimoya, more pollinators are attracted to the area and that cherimoya will produce significantly more fruit than locations where soursop is not planted.




In Hawaii, cherimoya is often grafted on cherimoya seedlings or other annonaceous fruit like soursop; (A. muricata), pond apple; (A. glabra) and custard apple; (A. reticulata). The sugar apple, (A. squamosa) is used as a rootstock in other locations where the fruit grows but has not adapted well to Hawaii. Airlayers and cuttings are not very successful ways to propagate the tree. Seeds can remain viable for up to 2 years. Soursop rootstock is commonly used in the Kona district, often with one soursop vertical remaining so that the tree will produce both types of fruit.


Pests and Diseases

The annona seed wasp, (Bephratelloides cubensis), first reported in Hawaii in 1986, has caused extensive damage to both commercial and back yard growers on Oahu and the Big Island. The insect tunnels through the fruit after devouring the seed as larvae.  The emergence holes on the developing and ripening fruit cause rapid decay and easy access for ants and other insects attracted to the fruit. Infested fruit needs to be removed from the orchard to prevent breeding grounds and re-infestation. Using protective wrapping, (fruit bags), after fruit set will also prevent damage from the insect.


The cherimoya is also susceptible to anthracnose (Colletotrichum gloeosporioides) that appears as dark spots, which can produce pink spores. Black canker (Phomopsis anonacearum) that appears as hard or cracked purple spots on the surface is also a problem

Botryodiplodia rot (Botryodiplodia theobroma) causes the flesh to become brown and corky. These diseases can be minimized with good field sanitation practices and approved fungicides.



Harvesting and Yield

Yields vary greatly depending on pollination practices. Five-year old trees that have not been artificially pollinated can produce 25 or more fruit per season. Thirty-year old trees in Italy have produced up to 300 fruit. Hand pollination tests in New Zealand produced up to 100 fruit per tree.


Timing of harvest is crucial and care must be taken with harvested fruit. If picked to early, the fruit will not ripen properly and become “mealy”. Overripe fruit can split insuring rapid decay.


Cost of Production

The project five cherimoya trees produced an average annual marketable yield of 30.0 pounds. The average market price was $3.50 per pound, and therefore the trees generated a gross revenue of $525.00 for the year. Growing costs (fertilization, irrigation, pruning and all weed and pest control) amounted to $79.15, and harvesting costs (picking, packing and delivery to market) totaled $238.35. (All labor to grow and harvest the cherimoyas was assumed to be paid at an hourly wage rate of $16.00, including withholding, FICA and benefits.) Thus, the total annual operating costs, sometimes referred to as “variable costs,” were $286.65. The gross margin (gross revenue minus all operating costs) was $238.35.


The cherimoya gross margin is the amount of money available to pay all the ownership costs associated with the cherimoya enterprise. Ownership costs, sometimes referred to as “fixed costs,” include the value of land used (rent or rent equivalent or mortgage and property taxes), the value of the capital investment (such as the tree establishment cost and buildings and vehicles), the value of the management, and the value of any unpaid labor. (All paid labor is already included in the gross margin.) Ownership costs, unlike operating costs, will vary substantially from farm to farm and will depend largely on how the farming operation is financed and on economies of scale. Each grower will have to calculate his total farm ownership costs and then allocate an appropriate portion of these costs to each enterprise on the farm. Now the profitability of the cherimoya enterprise can be determined by subtracting the cherimoya enterprise’s share of the total ownership costs from the gross margin for cherimoyas.


The cost and return data are what was obtained from the 12 Trees Project site and other locations.  Yields and costs were based on optimal growing conditions for one or more trees at various locations; different results will be obtained under different growing conditions.  The prices used were actually obtained in 2005 and 2006. There is no guarantee that these prices will continue, especially if production increases significantly.  These costs and returns are simply a starting point for growers to make their own estimates.


Packaging, Pricing and Marketing   

Harvested fruit for wholesale markets are generally sized and packaged in single layers to prevent bruising. Ripe fruit should be kept at 32 to 41 ľF. Stores selling unripe cherimoya often put them in chilled sections of the produce department, which will prevent the fruit from ripening. Unripe fruit should not be chilled and kept at 68 to 73 ľF.  It can be stored at 50 to 55 ľF with 90 to 95% relative humidity for 2 to 3 weeks. In Hawaii, cherimoya is sold by weight with 2005 wholesale prices ranging from $1.50 to $2.50 per pound. Retail farmer’s market prices can be as high as $5.95 a pound.  In some retail locations individual fruit are placed inside foam netting to prevent bruising.



Food Uses and Nutrition


Nutritional Information-

100 grams of edible portion   


Water                          68-79.39 g

Energy kcal                  74-110 kcal 

Protein                        1.54-1.65g        

Total lipid (fat)            0.13-    0.62g  

Ash                              0.64-0.67g      

Carbohydrate, by difference    17.70-28.8g

Fiber, total dietary        2.3g      

Sucrose                      1.30g    


Calcium, Ca                8-9 mg

Iron, Fe                       0.25-0.30 mg              

Magnesium, Mg          16 mg             

Phosphorus, P            24-26 mg                    

Potassium, K              269 mg                       

Sodium, Na                4 mg     

Zinc, Zn                      0.18 mg                      

Copper, Cu                 0.073 mg          

Manganese, Mn           0.083 mg                      


Vitamin C,                   11.5-12.2 mg              

Thiamin                      0.091-0.112 mg                      

Riboflavin                   0.112-0.119 mg          

Niacin                         0.574-1.02 mg            

Pantothenic acid (B5)  0.237 mg                    

Vitamin B-6                0.212   mg        

Folate, total                 18 mcg  


Possible toxins- Seeds contain several alkaloids; anonaine, liriodenine, and lanuginosine and should be considered poisonous. In some locations they are crushed and used as insecticide.



Cherimoya Mousse

By Christina Pettersen. Hawaii Community College




6 T butter

4 T sugar

3 egg yolks

1/2-cup cherimoya puree


Combine all ingredients in a double boiler and cook until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain through a sieve and cool.


1-cup heavy whipping cream

1 env. Gelatin


Whip heavy cream to soft peaks, reserving 2 T for gelatin.


Mix gelatin with 2 T water to soften. Let sit for 3 minutes. Melt gelatin in a pan and stir in reserved cream. Beat curd until light. Drizzle melted gelatin into whipped cream and continue to beat to firm peaks.


Stir 1/3 of whipped cream into cherimoya curd.

Fold in remaining whipped cream.

Chill until served.


Garnish with candied figs.







The 12 Trees Project

Is funded by the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (WSARE) USDA-CSREES competitive grants program.  54 Hawaii Island chefs, fruit buyers and growers were invited to select the types of fruit they would like to see commercially available, based on their desire to utilize the fruit in culinary applications. In selecting the final 12 fruits, considerations were given to seasonality and harvest times so that the availability of harvested fruit and on-farm labor needs were spread out over the year.

Fruit trees were planted and brought into production at a demonstration orchard at the Kona Pacific Farmers Cooperative on Napoopoo Road in the South Kona District. During the course of the three-year project, fruit from this orchard, as well as additional fruit purchased from area farmers, were donated to the West Hawaii Community College culinary school. Culinary student chefs developed recipes to be published on the project web site <> and in a book in the final year of the project. Members of the cooperative as well as members of the Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers - West Hawaii association and any other interested growers were encouraged to plant these trees. The goals of this project were to increase profitable agricultural diversification and to develop a consistently high quality, year-around supply of tropical fruit for local markets.


References and Further Reading


Nakasone H.Y. and Paull R. E. 1998. Tropical Fruits CAB International, pp 45-75


George A.P. and Nissen R.J. In Coronel, R.E. & Verheij, E.W.M. (Eds.): Plant Resources of South-East Asia. No. 2: Edible fruits and nuts. Prosea Foundation, Bogor, Indonesia. pp. 71-75.


Morton, Julia F., 1987. Fruits of Warm Climates


Popenoe W. 1920. Manual of Tropical and Subtropical Fruits. The Macmillan Company pp. 161-177


Kennard W.C. and Winters H.F., 1960. Some Fruits and Nuts of the Tropics, ARS Publication #801 pp 20-22


Yonemoto, J.Y. 1995. Production of seedless cherimoya. Calif. Cherimoya Assoc. Newsletter (Spring 1995). pp 7-12.


Richardson A.C. and Anderson P.A. 1995. Flowering Date Affects Hand Pollination of Cherimoya, The Horticulture and Food Research Institute of New Zealand Ltd

Kerikeri Research Centre PO Box 23 Kerikeri New Zealand


Internet References


Hawaii Areawide Fruit Fly Pest Management Program (HAW-FLYPM)


Western SARE

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education



The author is grateful to Drs. R. Bowen, B. Brunner, K Fleming, R. Paull and F. Zee for their valuable contributions to this manuscript.