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Seedless cherimoyas poised to be the 'next banana'

Cherimoya or custard apple

Liudmila Chernova & Vlad Chernov/Liudmila Chernova & Vlad Chernov

If you haven't tasted a cherimoya before, you might soon get acquainted with the fruit because, according to scientists, it's poised to become the "next banana."

It's the fruit that Mark Twain once called "the most delicious fruit known to man." Now researchers from the University of California Davis and Spain's Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas have discovered they may be able to develop seedless varieties of cherimoya, or custard apples, and its cousins the sugar apple and soursop.

Doing away with its big, hard seeds could represent a huge step in developing mass markets for the fruit, the researchers say.

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"This could be the next banana - it would make it a lot more popular," Charles Gasser, professor of plant biology at UC Davis, said in a press release, noting that bananas, in their natural state, are filled with seeds, unlike the commercial varieties we commonly consume.

Cherimoyas are often described as being similar to bananas in taste too, perhaps mixed with hints of strawberry or pineapple. But would the fruit, without its seeds, taste as sweet?

Adam Gollner, the Montreal-based author of The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce and Obsession, says he personally likes the fact that cherimoyas have glossy, black seeds. However, making fruits seedless doesn't necessarily have an adverse effect on taste, he says.

"Only through human cultivation were fruits improved and selected for desirable characteristics: smaller seeds, increased flesh, and refined eating quality," Mr. Gollner wrote in an e-mail. "This discredits the assumption that wild fruits are tastiest - in truth, uncultivated varieties are often inedible."

The wild peach, for instance, is "an acrid pea-sized pellet," while untamed pineapples are full of gritty seeds, he says.

Which makes us wonder: If cherimoyas are the next banana, what "it" fruit preceded the banana?

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