American writer Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, once stated that a cherimoya was “the most delicious fruit known to man.” Many locals tend to agree, flocking to the farmers markets for this unique winter find. Offering a flavor profile reminiscent to that of a banana, pineapple and pear, all rolled into one, this fruit is quite the culinary experience. Also referred to as a custard apple, its white flesh has a very smooth, velvety texture and juicy finish.
Thought to have originated in the countries of northern Peru and southern Ecuador, cherimoya trees are best suited for tropical regions; they tend to do well in areas that are not consistently over 90 degrees or below 32 degrees. Locally, cherimoya trees are found in the greatest concentration in Carpinteria, Santa Barbara and Goleta, and are well-suited along the coastal zones where there is a lower threat of prolonged periods of frost. Fruiting in the winter months, they began to emerge locally over the past few weeks, with the peak season running from January into late February.
Cherimoyas are a real delicacy and something everyone should experience at some point. Most people tend to slice the fruit in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon, making sure to avoid and discard the large black seeds. The flesh is delicious when mixed into yogurt, added to a smoothie, topping ice cream or used as the base of a sherbet. This week, I made some Cherimoya Pancakes. Some of the sweet flesh is mixed into the batter, while some is reserved for the topping. You may find you won’t even need to pull out the maple syrup!
Sam Edelman is general manager of the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market Association and host of “Farm to Table,” which airs live 9 a.m. Thursdays on KZSB AM 1290.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cherimoya flesh, coarsely chopped, divided into 1/2 cup portions (available from a number of local growers at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Wednesday Solvang, Thursday Carpinteria, Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Camino Real farmers markets)
1 cup milk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for skillet
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients, except for 1/2 cup cherimoya flesh, and whisk together. Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients until smooth (you can adjust the thickness of the batter by adding or subtracting milk as desired). On a lightly buttered skillet over medium heat, add 1/4 cup batter per pancake. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until tiny bubbles appear on top, then flip and cook another 1-2 minutes or until cooked through. Plate pancakes and top with a small spoonful of reserved cherimoya flesh. (You can also combine reserved cherimoya flesh with diced strawberries.)
Yield: 8-10 pancakes