Food Culture, Medicinals

The Ancient Cherimoya Continues to Thrill Young and Old Alike

The Ancient Chirimoya Fruit of the Incas (Photo: Wayra)

As the seasons change, different varieties of fruit arrive in Cuzco’s markets. The market vendors put in their requests to the wholesalers to try to get a bit of an Edge with the public and different fruits appear in an ongoing round.

Although you can generally find a whole range of fruit, such as papayas—amazingly large , fat and delicious, oranges—from sweet and red to mildly acidic, bananas—large stems with rows of upward turning fruit in different colors and sizes, and the cherimoya (chirimoya to us), among others.

This last, the chirimoya has a soft pulp that delights with its unusual flavor. Many people try to describe it as a combination of other fruits, but it is its own unique flavor against which others should be compared.

People cannot resist tasting it, despite its large black seeds, when it is offered them. Children absolutely love it.

The chirimoya is native to the Andes and is called in Latin Annona cherimola. It is closely related to the papaw of North America. Although this latter was very popular to the native peoples of the vast continent of North America it is not much marketed or produced commercially today. In contrast, the chirimoya is obtaining new markets and can commonly be found in US supermarkets, although at a very expensive price.

In Cuzco, the vendors of fruit not only sit in the markets, they will go out into the streets on their tricycles to offer tastes of new fruit to the public so that they will buy the freshest and best the vendors can offer.

Chirimoya Fruit Charms Cuzco These Days (Photo: Wayra)
Chirimoya Fruit Charms Cuzco These Days (Photo: Wayra)

The chirimoya enriches us with its taste at the same time it is considered very good for our health. It is recommended for children, adults, and pregnant women, since it has lots of calcium.

You can eat it fresh or in purees or juices. It is easy to consume. You just peel back the skin or cut it open. If you wish, you can spoon out the flesh, while avoiding the large seeds.

Many of us love to have a chirimoya juice, especially in the morning. It wonderful flavor makes us happy and begins the day well. On weekends, many of us like to go to Lucre, or visit the branch of its pastry shop in Cuzco called Nevada, where we can enjoy a chirimoya mousse or a chirimoya cake.  Other times we just want chirimoya ice cream to cool our palate.

They say that this fruit was the one our ancestors liked the most. It is found represented in pottery from very early periods in Peru. Its gentle, refreshing taste has sweetened Peruvian palates for millennia.

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