For many of us, pawpaws are the stuff of lore. The tropical fruit, so incongruous with its native Ozarks region, is magical yet elusive. The humble cherimoya, on the other hand, is astoundingly similar and likely lurking right under your nose.
What is it?
From the same family as pawpaws, cherimoyas possess an almost-identical flavor and texture. Notes of banana, mango, papaya and pineapple whirl together to form a custardy, spoonable interior, while the exterior of the cherimoya reminds me of a cross between an artichoke and crocodile scales. Pawpaws seem to be in season for five minutes, but cherimoyas are available domestically from October through late spring.
What do I do with it?
Unlike pawpaws, a darling of the foraging community, your hunt for cherimoya should only lead you as far as the nearest international market or well-stocked grocery store. Pawpaws are precious, so if you get your hands on one, it’s best to savor it raw. Cherimoya’s availability, by contrast, means you can get creative. Don’t overdo it, though, or you’ll kill the flavor and texture that set it apart. Use it raw in salads, smoothies, sorbets and cold soups, or cook it gently – as I do for this curd – to preserve its delicate flavor and keep it around for an extended length of time.