The Fruit Hunter – For the love of Fruit

A Fruit Hunter someone who

“Traverse the global in search of rare white flesh mangos, succulent ice cream beans, and mind-altering miracle fruit” – Suzuki, D. [Narrator] (2013). The Nature of Things – Fruit Hunter [Motion picture]. CBC Broadcasting

If I had to identify someone in my life who I would call a Fruit Hunter, that person would be my father. But, more accurately, he is a connoisseur of fruits. What this meant was growing up I was never a stranger to seeing weird and ‘strange’ fruits. Fruits like the smelly Durians, the juicy Water Apple, the flavour confuser Ciku, and the beautiful Dragon fruit was always part of my life. Thanks to my father, I have had the opportunity to try most of the local and imported fruits around the world. This also meant that challenging myself to choose a fruit that I have never tried was a very difficult task. Although he made this task harder, luckily for me he also knew exactly where to go to find the most exotic fruits in Toronto. He pointed me to the local Chinese supermarket. Oh.

I was worried that I would have had to travel to multiple local Chinese supermarket to find all the variety of fruits available in Toronto. Fortunately for me the BestCo Food Mart by my house had a huge selection of tropical fruits. Their selection included dates, guavas, mini guavas, passion fruit, ciku, and many more.

Bestco0Bestco3 Bestco1 Bestco2

Walking through the aisles I was excited by the prospect of discovering something new, something different. Unfortunately, I slowly realized that in one way or another, I have already tried the fruits available. I ultimately decided to go with Sugar-Apples. Sugar-Apples is a fruit that I have recently fell in love with through my recent trip to Asia. I chose it because although I have enjoyed it in the past, it is still one of the weirdest fruits I know and I know very little about its history and its uses.


Sugar-Apples is the fruit of small, many branched trees called Annona Squamosa. Sugar-apples is believed to be native to West India and was bought to Central America, Peru, and Brazil. It has been cultivated and grown in many other tropical locations including Bahamas, Southern Florida, India, Malaya and south-east Asia. It is also believe to have been introduced to South Africa in the early 17th century. Sugar-apples are also called Custard Apples due to their textural resemblance to custard.1

1. Morton, J. (n.d.). Fruits of Warm Climates. Custard Apple, 80-83.

Using our in-class classification, Sugar-Apples would be classified as a Tropical Fruit because it requires a tropical climate to grow. In North America, sugar-apples are in season between August-October.2 Currently, the pricing varies from $5.99 (CAD) per lb to $4.00 per fruit (~$8.00 (CAD) per lb.)

2. Unknown. (n.d.). Fruit Seasonal Guide. Retrieved October 25, 2015.


Characteristics

An unpeeled Sugar-Apple offers no smell. Once you begin to peel the fruit, a very light fragrance is released. The fragrance is subtle similar to the fragrance produced by dry citrus ornaments but the smell hints to a sweeter fruit. This is where the ‘weird’ begins. Like a snake, the fruit has diamond shaped scales around it. The scales feel tough yet soft with the texture somewhat similar to leather. The texture of the fruit’s flesh is soft and thick. In your hands you can imagine it as a paste that can be spread over bread or stuffed into a pie. In the mouth, the flesh is soft and melts away. The texture is not completely smooth as there is a feeling of graininess. The taste is sweet but never overwhelming. Rather, in my opinion, the sweetness is subtle leaving a yearning for more. Driving you to take another bite in hopes for more of the flavour. The fruit also leaves a lasting feeling and induces salivation showcasing some umami taste. In my opinion the flavour of the fruit is a like a light vanilla ice cream. The fruit itself also contain anywhere from 50-75 seeds. Altogether, the texture, the skin, and the flavour of the fruit makes it truly unique.

Sugar-Apple PeelingSugar-Apple Peeled

Freshness

Sugar-Apples do not ripen off of the branch. This means that the fruits are harvested ripened or extremely close to ripened and delivered to the market quickly as possible. When looking for a ripen sugar-apple, you want to look for the following:

  1. The fruit is soft. The feeling should be similar to when you lightly press your fingertips together. If the fruit is hard then it indicates that it was harvested too early. (Remember Sugar-Apples do not ripen off after being harvested) If the fruit is too soft like room temperature butter then the fruit has pass its prime and beginning to rot.
  2. The colour is medium to dark green. Fruits that have too light in colour or too dark in colour indicate the fruit was harvested too early or too late.
  3. The core (image below) should be able to be removed with ease. Cracks and breaks around the core is a good sign of a ripened fruit.

Sugar-Apple Core-Freshness

Cooking the Fruit

As mentioned sugar-apples has a subtle taste. Generally speaking I believe it is best used in to flavour a dessert or as part of a drink. However, I believed can also be used as in an entrée to add sweetness. I wanted to try a more unorthodox use of the fruit. The recipe I found made use of the sugar-apple in a glaze and I proceeded to try the recipe. 3

Pork Chops With A Curry Custard Apple Glaze. (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2015, from http://www.custardapple.com.au/Savoury/pork-chops-with-a-curry-custard-apple-glaze.html

Pork Chops with a Curry Custard Apple
Portion Size: 1 Pork Chop Total Yield: 2 portions
Quantity Ingredients Procedure
2 Medium Pork Chops, Trimmed of Fat 1. Melt 30g butter in a pan. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper and cook until golden all over, 3 -4 minutes each side. Remove from heat and keep warm.
30g Butter
Salt & Pepper to taste
Curry Custard Apple Glaze 2. Wipe the pan clean with paper towels. Melt 30g butter, stir in the curry powder and ginger and cook for one minute over low heat.

3. Add the chutney, mustard and cinnamon. Turn up heat to medium and simmer gently for one minute.

4. Return the chops to the pan, add the custard apple flesh and lemon juice. Season to taste.

5. Heat through for 1 -2 minutes, being careful not to overcook the custard apple.

6. Serve on a bed of wilted spinach with steamed squash.

30g Butter
10g Hot Curry Powder
5g Fleshly Grated Ginger
1.25g Cinnamon
110g Custard Apple Flesh
Juice of ½ Lemon


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Having tried the recipe, I found that the sugar-apples flavours were too subtle for the dish. The flavour of the mango, curry and cinnamon were at the forefront while the sugar-apple played a small supporting role as an extra. In my opinion the sugar-apples could have been omitted and the dish would still be the same. I could partially place the blame on the sugar-apples I used, as they were not the sweetest. In place of the sugar-apples, I would have used honey.

Final Thoughts

I have always had an appreciation for fruits. I love the fact that there is an enormous variety of fruits available around the world and it is also mind boggling that even within the same family of fruit there are so many variations. Having said this and having completed my challenge, I can say that I have taken a lot for granted. Not only does each fruit has it own taste and flavour profile, each fruit has specific requirements for what is considered “ripe”. Knowing these you can begin to combine and create beautifully delicious dishes. I feel very fortunate that I live in a city where I can conceniently find all variety of amazing fruits. (Even if they are expensive!)