Fruit: The large green fruits have thumbprint indentations and are somewhat heart-shaped. They can weigh between half a kilo and a kilo. The white flesh is sweet, juicy and has a delicious lemon tang. In the Illawarra fruits ripen from September – October.
Growth Habit: The cherimoya is a fast-growing tree reaching 5-7m in height. It’s semi-deciduous (briefly loosing its leaves) and upright in shape.
Foliage/Flowers: The cherimoya has attractive large, wide leaves 10-20 cm in length. Leaves are dark green on top and velvety green on the bottom, with noticable leaf veins. The subtle flowers are green, 2-3cm long, and hang down on short stalks. The flowers last only about two days, and open in two stages, first as female flowers for approximately 36 hours and later as male flowers. If fruit is not setting, flowers may require hand-pollination and this is best done in mid-season of bloom, over a period of two to three months in early evening.
Adaptation: Cherimoyas will tolerate a little shade but prefer a sunny position. They prefer a climate with cool nights. Protection from wind is most important as the wood is brittle and tends to split when carrying a heavy crop of fruit.
Soils : The cherimoya grows well in a wide range of soils, as long as they are well-drained. The optimum pH range is from 6.0-7.0.
Irrigation : Cherimoyas need plenty of moisture while they are growing actively, but should not be watered when they are dormant (have lost their leaves). They are susceptible to root rot in soggy soils, especially in cool weather.
Pruning : Prune during late winter to develop strong branches that can support the heavy fruit. After the first two years remove two-thirds of the previous year's growth. This will keep fruiting wood within reach of the ground. Thin out crossing branches.
Propagation : Cherimoya are best obtained as grafted plants, where selected cultivars are grafted onto cherimoya seedlings.
Pests and diseases : Susceptible to root-rot so don’t overwater especially when it’s dormant (lost it’s leaves).
Harvest: Harvest fruits when they are still hard but have started to lighten to yellow in colour. The seeds should also be starting to shake inside. The fruit softens and develops a fragrance within a few days after picking. Cool storage will increase the ripen time to 2 weeks but they don’t refrigerate well. Harvest from September – October in the Illawarra.
Varieties: Fino de Jete/White should bear without hand-pollination.