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By Luciano Villar (cook)
The custard apple, originally from Peru, can be reminiscent of a pineapple because it is covered by large scales, each of which corresponds to a fruit. If it is well formed, once cut it is heart-shaped and weighs 200 to 500 grams.
Under its rough skin, the custard apple hides a juicy, sweet pulp full of valuable nutrients. Its possibilities in the kitchen invite you to discover it.
Juicy and nutritious
Cherimoya is among the fruits that provide the most energy along with banana, apple, grapes or persimmon, mainly due to its sugar content. It also has a good amount of dietary fiber. It is, however, a food with a low energy density: it provides few calories in relation to its volume, which means that it is more satisfying than other foods that provide as many or more calories. At the same time it is nutritious, since vitamins and minerals are highly concentrated in its pulp.
Cherimoya hardly provides protein and its fats, although scarce, are healthy.
As for its minerals, it contains a good amount of potassium, calcium and iron, and although in a very low proportion also zinc, iodine, copper and manganese. On the other hand, it provides abundant vitamins of group B and vitamin C.
Regular consumption of the fruit, rich in phosphorus and iron, helps to strengthen memory and exerts a tonic action that relieves decay. It stimulates the body's energy in part due to its contribution of B vitamins and potassium, which favors the transmission of the nerve impulse and normal muscular activity.
It is also suitable for those who suffer heavy digestions. Its digestive enzyme content helps better digestion. And due to its portion of soluble fiber, it helps protect the intestinal flora and regulates peristalsis and cholesterol. In addition, this fiber gives cherimoya a low glycemic index (35), which means that the assimilation of its carbohydrates and the supply of glucose to the blood is slow and progressive. For this reason, even people with type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome can regularly include portions of half a fruit in their diet.
It is also a satisfying fruit, suitable for weight control diets and as a snack between meals.
Vitamins C, E and the carotenoids it contains have a beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect on degenerative processes in the body and rheumatic, arthritic or digestive disorders.
A gem in the kitchen
The most natural gesture with a custard apple is to cut it into two halves, remove the inner stem and enjoy it by the spoonful, removing its seeds. But you can also cook its pulp in short cooking times to include it in fillings, salads, stir-fries, couscous ... Or take it as a crushed dessert, as the resulting cream is ideal for the base of a fruit salad or to bathe a muffin or sponge cake. Only two tips: remove its seeds first and sprinkle its pulp with lemon juice, as it oxidizes and darkens very quickly.
Purchase and conservation
Cherimoya is a fruit that continues to ripen after being harvested, so it is advisable to choose them when they are ripe, when their skin gives way to the touch and has begun to show brown areas, and store them at around 10ºC.