In Chinatown Markets Now: Sugar Apples

Why is it called a sugar apple? Your guess is as good as mine.

Surprising things are always appearing in Chinatown markets. Sometimes, it's an obscure herb or nut from a Southeast Asian country; this last weekend it was sugar apples.

The 15-foot tree that produces this fruit is native to the Caribbean, not Asia, and it's a close cousin of the custard apple. In fact, fruits of the two trees look similar.

Muhammad Mahdi Karim
Neither is the kind of thing you want to grab and bite into. For one thing, the glossy black seeds are the size of watermelon seeds, and must be fished out before you can eat the gossamer fruit. This is one of the things that has prevented the sugar apple from becoming a popular hand fruit. The flesh, though, is sweet and creamy, and a light shade of green or yellow -- in this case, yellowish. The cost is $6 per pound, which is four or five sugar apples.

Also anomalously in Chinatown markets -- especially those on Mulberry just south of Canal right on the pavement -- is very weird purple avocados, priced at $1 to $1.50, according to size. If you love Haas avocados, you'll probably hate these, since the flesh is very pale green and watery. Still, if you can stand the lack of creaminess, you can make tons of guac for very little money. But, really, the best use of these is in a centerpiece for the dinner table, as a conversation starter.

Don't chew them -- eschew them.

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Beware, those "sugar apples" ("fruta de conde" in Brazil) look like they have been frozen (or at least look really old and way past their prime).  Much of the exotica found in Chinatown (i.e., durian, mangosteen, jackfruit, etc.) has been frozen, irradiated, or is just plain old and second rate -- in stark contrast to the usual excellence of the produce on offer in Chinatown.  None of these fruits tastes much like they are supposed to.


Thanks, Mak, it's definitely "Buyer Beware" in the street markets, but I've often found good longans and lichees there.


I quite agree, and I think that lychee season is about as good as fruit gets in New York, but I'm pretty sure that the lychees and longans are both grown relatively locally (i.e., Florida).


Is this fruit available now in chinatown?  What's the name or address of the stall?  Thanks.