Posts Tagged: cherimoya
Ever tasted a cherimoya?
“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.
“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.
The researchers recently combined their expertise in an effort to show how to develop a seedless version of the Cherimoya – which Mark Twain called "the most delicious fruit known to man."
The cherimoya, also known as the custard apple, and the closely related sugar apple and soursop, all are known for having big, awkward seeds. New seedless versions of these tasty fruits would undoubtedly be much more appealing to consumers.
"This could be the next banana — it would make it a lot more popular," said Charles Gasser, a professor of molecular and cellular biology at UC Davis.
He noted that, although all commercial banana varieties are seedless, bananas in their natural state have up to a hundred seeds.
The cherimoya project began in Spain, where researchers José Hormaza, Maria Herrero and graduate student Jorge Lora at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas labs in Malaga and Zaragoza, Spain, were studying the seedless variety of sugar apple. When they looked closely at the fruit, they noticed that the ovules, which would normally form seeds, lacked an outer coat.
They looked similar to the ovules of a mutant of the lab plant Arabidopsis that was discovered by Gasser's lab at UC Davis in the late 1990s. In Arabidopsis, the defective plants do not make seeds or fruit. But the mutant sugar apple produces full-sized fruit with white, soft flesh without the large, hard seeds.
The Spanish team contacted Gasser, and Lora came to UC Davis from Malaga to work on the project in Gasser's lab. He discovered that the same gene was responsible for uncoated ovules in both the Arabidopsis and sugar apple mutants.
"This is the first characterization of a gene for seedlessness in any crop plant," Gasser said.
Although there are seedless varieties of other commercial fruit crops in the grocery story, those are usually achieved by selective breeding. And – since the plants have no seeds – they are reproduced using plant cuttings or other methods of vegetative propagation.
Gasser is hopeful that discovery of this new gene could open the way to produce seedless varieties in sugar apple, cherimoya and perhaps other fruit crops.
In addition to its implication for commercial crops, the team’s research also sheds light on the evolution of flowering plants, Gasser said. Cherimoya and sugar apple belong to the magnolid family of plants, which branched off from the other flowering plants quite early in their evolution.
"It's a link all the way back to the beginning of the angiosperms," Gasser said, referring to the large group of plants and trees characterized by having flowers and seeds.
The researchers published a paper on describing their work in the March 14 issue of the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Their research was funded by grants from the Spanish government, the European Union and the U.S. National Science Foundation.