Riverside County
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Riverside County

Fruit that 'tastes like heaven'

Ever tasted a cherimoya?

This cherimoya variety is called El Bumpo. (Photo by Tammy Majcherek)
Upon first taste, many Californians often argue whether cherimoya tastes like a combination of pear, banana, lemon or other familiar fruits. But Isabel Barkman, UC Master Gardener who grew up eating the subtropical fruit in her native Chile, says that’s not quite right.

“I say it tastes like heaven. The cherimoya tastes like cherimoya. It’s creamy. It’s incredible. Nothing tastes like it,” she said.

On Saturday, she helped organize a tasting of 15 varieties of cherimoya at the UC South Coast Research and Extension Center. About 120 local residents, UC Master Gardeners and members of California Rare Fruit Growers attended. Though “heaven” wasn’t an option, participants were given a scale of 1 to 5 to rate the cherimoya varieties based on exterior attractiveness, texture, flavor and overall quality.

Tammy Majcherek, who works at UC South Coast Research and Extension Center and was in charge of the tasting event, explained that the evaluations will help gardeners and homeowners better know how different varieties grow locally, before they consider planting their own.

The center has small orchards of both cherimoya and persimmon that aren’t being used for research projects, but staff members want to continue maintaining the trees and share them with the public, one way or another.

“Because of budget cuts, we've been trying to figure out ways to keep these collections going or to re-propagate some of the best," Majcherek said. "One of the things that we’re in the midst of planning is an urban horticulture extension project with a demonstration orchard, where the public can come and see the various types of trees that they could grow in this area."

Of the 100 or so cherimoya trees currently planted at the center, the best varieties would be included in the public demonstration orchard – and the results of the taste testing will eventually help staff members select which trees to plant.

The 15 varieties at the tasting were Big Sister, Booth, Chaffey, Deliciosa, Ecuador, El Bumpo, Fino de Jete, Ludica, Nata, Orton, Oxhart, Pierce, Santa Rosa, Selma and Whaley.

There were 15 varieties of cherimoya at the UC South Coast Research and Extension Center tasting. (Photo by Tammy Majcherek)
Though the data from the taste testing haven’t been tabulated yet, Barkman has her own favorites among the varieties.

“I really love the Big Sister variety because the tree is kind of small and is a heavy producer,” she said. “We had a fruit from Big Sister that was the size of my whole head.”

She said that El Bumpo also produces large fruits. The varieties Fino de Jete and Nata can have excellent flavor, and this year Pierce fruits likely had the highest brix, signifying high sugar levels.

Behind the scenes, preparations for the event included harvesting the fruit more than a week ahead of time so that it would ripen.

“We picked 15 varieties the week before, and it was very stressful. Every day I was there wondering, are they going to be ripe? Are they going to be perfect for Saturday? What if they're too hard? What if they're too soft?” Barkman said. “When the cherimoya ripens, you have about two days to eat it because it will go bad really, really quickly.”

Fortunately the fruit were ripe for Saturday’s event, and extra fruit were available for participants to take home to ripen and share.

Majcherek explained this was the first time the center has organized a tasting event for the cherimoya. She was surprised that so many of the participants already knew about the fruit.

“I think they were mostly coming to the tasting just for the love of cherimoya,” she said. “I had no idea that there was such an interest.”

She plans to hold another tasting event for cherimoya next year, as well as a second tasting event for persimmons in the fall.

For more information, UC Cooperative Extension Ventura County has a page about growing cherimoya commercially and the UC Davis Postharvest Technology Center has recommendations for maintaining postharvest quality of cherimoyas too.

Information about future tastings will be posted to the UC South Coast Research and Extension Center website.

Tammy Majcherek, center, welcomes visitors to the UC South Coast Research and Extension Center for the cherimoya tasting. (Photo by Kent Marshall)

One participant tested the brix levels of the different cherimoya varieties. (Photo by Kent Marshall)

Participants were invited to take extra cherimoya home to share. (Photo by Tammy Majcherek)
Posted on Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 7:29 AM


This story brought back memories of enjoying this so very delicious fruit while growing up in Colombia! Looking at the pics, I could close my eyes and recall vividly the wonderful taste of this fruit we don't get to enjoy in the USA. I see it sometimes in markets, but the cost is prohibitive! I'd love to attend the next cherimoya tasting!!!!

Posted by Myriam on February 28, 2012 at 1:43 PM

There's just something special about cherimoya, isn't there? Thanks for the comment, Myriam!  
I know that there are some farmers in California who grow and sell cherimoya, so it is possible to get local fruits too. But I've heard it can be an expensive fruit to grow because the trees are often hand-pollinated. So it's a treat indeed! Hope you can attend the next tasting.

Reply by Brenda Dawson on February 28, 2012 at 5:15 PM

Where can I see the tabulated results of this event?

Posted by Harry Young on August 7, 2013 at 12:16 PM

will there be another tasting coming up?? My daughter (2 years old ) & I are addicted to this fruit & I would love to learn more about it !  
thanks !

Posted by Leonie on March 24, 2014 at 11:18 AM

Thanks for your interest! For upcoming events and more information, I would say the best place to check is probably http://ucanr.edu/sites/screc/.  
Looks to me like there isn't a final date set for this summer's tasting yet, but you may want to check back as the days get warmer.

Posted by Brenda Dawson on March 25, 2014 at 10:54 AM

The cherimoya tasting events are held in February. Unfortunately this year's event has passed,hopefully you all can join us next year. The top three rated varieties this year were as follows:  
South Coast REC 2014 Cherimoya Blind Tasting Top Three Varieties  
(Rank) Texture Flavor Overall  
1 Lucida El Bumpo Lucida  
2 Deliciosa Selma El Bumpo  
3 Selma Lucida Selma  
If you are in the area, be sure to attend the UC ANR Urban Landscape and Garden Education Expo on September 27th being held at the UC ANR South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine, CA where there will be a tasting of the various fruits grown at the Center and available at that time of year. As posted previously, go to http://ucanr.edu/sites/screc/ for more information regarding this and other public events held at the UC ANR South Coast REC.

Posted by Tammy Majcherek on March 26, 2014 at 8:04 PM

Hi Tammy  
I am fascinated with cherimoya fruit. The 3 varieties you have mentioned Lucida El Bumpo Lucida, Deliciosa Selma El Bumpo and Selma Lucida Selma.  
I would like to buy seeds to plant. Would you please give us direction where to buy the seeds?  
Thanks a lot.  

Posted by Nikki Madrilejos on November 9, 2015 at 12:36 AM

Have you done this year's event (2016) already? If not, how can I join?

Posted by Rachnee Keirsey on December 11, 2016 at 4:42 PM

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