At last Sunday's farmers market on Lincoln Road, our favorite vendor who bags and boxes our bounty of produce broke off a bit of something green and mysterious. It looked like something that dinosaurs would munch on or like their scales.
The piece was white and creamy in the middle, like a soft pear with the graininess of an Asian pear. It reminded us a bit of a lychee without the floral notes and had the same vessel and pull-apart, seed-heavy structure as a pomegranate.
It was a sugar-apple and it was exceptional.
These sugar walls.
Photo by Carina Ost
This fruit is less known than its other local tropical fruit competition (we are looking at you, mango mania) but it should not be ignored. The season began just two weeks ago, according to our guy at the farmer's market.
The sugar-apple also is known as an anón, because it comes from the annona squamosa tree. And other times you may hear it called a sweetsop or custard apple.
They are milky and they let you know that they are ripe by beginning to separate. So sexy. No need for fancy knife work, just easily pull apart and enjoy. The seeds are quite large, hard, and black and apparently have between 20 to 38 seeds per fruit.
This fruit of the gods doesn't come cheap; at the farmer's market they were priced at $6 per pound.
To learn more, we called the foremost experts in local fruits Robert is Here and spoke to the fortunate son, Brandon.
Robert is Here...to help
When we told him we just had a sugar apple, he responded with, "Oh, so you have had a transformative experience."
He has yet to have one this season, but thinks it will be this week or next when Robert is Here starts carrying them. He has talked to growers and is gearing up for a very good year.
"The season normally runs from August up 'til October," Brandon said. "Since they vary in size they are always sold by the pound. The thing is, that regardless of size, they always have the same number of seeds. In the smaller ones it can seem like a lot but in the larger ones, you notice it less. For the smaller ones, they run from $3-$6.50. The larger ones, the No. 1 in class will cost you up to $10.50 but they are incredible. We have green ones and purple ones. If this is a good year, which I think it will be, we can get high quality and lower cost."
They definitely have customers who wait all year for this. The fruit is a delicacy in India, and all over the world it's something that people love from their childhood. It is a star fruit (no pun intended) in many cultures and religions. According to Brandon, the calls from customers begin in July.
He describes the flavor as, "sweet like a banana or pineapple and custardy."
Although he full-on shocked us saying that there is another fruit that is even better. It is as sweet and custard like, with no grittiness and has a third of the seeds. It is called the atemoya and, yes, they will carry that as well.
Here's what you need to know about this fruit: It is a cross between a sugar-apple and a cherimoya. Two fruits that are always confused. However, cherimoyas don't grow here. The trees do but they don't flower because we aren't mountainous enough and the temperature doesn't drop at night. However, Brandon said every year since his dad began in 1959, people come convinced they have them on their trees at home. They are actually sugar apples. The main difference between the two fruits is that sugar apples have all the sweetness, seeds, and that grittiness. Cherimoyas are less sweet, more custardy, and have less seeds.
This hybrid fruit is the best of both worlds and something we can't wait to try. If it has fruit guru Brandon's seal of approval, then we are sure to love it. "It's my favorite, but it's hard because no one grew up with these. It's nothing that they got from their abuelas."
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Be patient, it is on the brink of being ripe for the taking.
Follow Carina on Twitter @CarinaOst