Source: Wikipedia

When I had sugar-apple for the first time as a child, I thought it was a cool fruit! There is no other fruit like it. The flesh can be peeled off one by one with the outer scales; but when I put the flesh in the mouth, I soon discovered that there is a seed hidden in each piece of flesh. At that time, my eating technique was not good enough, so after I tried to move my lips and tongue for quite a while, there was still some pulp sticking on the seeds when I spit out. Seeing the expression of “wasting food” on the faces of the elders made me feel that eating sugar-apples is troublesome! Later, my mother didn’t buy any more sugar-apples, and that made me breathe a sigh of relief (huh!)

Sugar-apple is native to tropical America. Because the young fruit looks like an immature lychee and comes from abroad, it got the scientific name “Barbarian lychee”. In addition to being called sugar-apple, in the past it was also known as barbarian pear, Kalantou (literally meaning Sangharama’s head), Buddha head fruit and so on.

Sugar-apple was first brought to the Philippines by the Spanish, and then introduced to Taiwan by the Dutch from the Philippines around 1645. At first it was only cultivated in Tainan, and then gradually expanded to the south-central and eastern regions. At present, Taitung is the largest sugar-apple producing area in Taiwan. In 2007, there were 5,300 hectares of sugar-apple gardens in Taitung, accounting for 85% of Taiwan in total. The cultivars of sugar-apple in Taiwan include fine scales, thick scales, soft branches, Taitung №1, purple species, and Taitung №2 (large-scale cultivar). Thick scale is an earlier cultivar. Important cultivars such as soft branch, Taitung №1 and №2 have been bred from it. However, in recent years, because everyone loves to eat large ones, and its fruits are smaller, there are fewer and fewer around.. The fruit of Taitung №2 is about twice the size of Taitung №1. It was found in the orchard of Taitung farmer Mr. Huang Zhenxi in 2000. It is a very popular strain now. As for the purple cultivar, they were introduced from Thailand and there are not many people who grow them.

As for “pineapple sugar-apple”(atemoya), in 1908, the horticulturist of the US Department of Agriculture in the Miami Subtropical Plant Laboratory, P.J. Wester, he did a cross between cherimoya (A. cherimola) with sugar-apple (A. squamosa). Taiwan was first introduced by Israel in 1965. At the beginning, because the fruit matured in the summer, it was easy to crack, and the atemoya had a higher sugar content than the sugar-apple, and the fruit soon became moldy when it cracked, so the government dared not promote it! It was not until 1993 that the Taitung Agricultural Reform Farm discovered that if it was pruned in the summer (from June to September), it could be changed to produce fruit in the winter. As a result, the condition of cracked fruit was much less, and then the planting was promoted. About 2,000 hectares of atemoya were planted in Taiwan in 2012, of which 1,700 hectares are in Taitung. There are also apple sugar-apples, but because of the low yield, fewer people cultivate them; there are also sour soursops of the same genus as sugar-apples, called “anana” in Puli, with yellow flesh and yellow seeds, made into delicious sweet and sour ice cream!

Every fall, fruit farmers in Taitung began to help “artificial pollination” of sugar-apples and atemoyas. First, the farmers have to collect the pollen, and then dip the collected pollen with a soft brush, and gently brush it around the pistil two or three times. Why is it so troublesome? It turns out that although the flowers of sugar-apples are hermaphrodite, the pistils will mature before the stamens after flowering (called dichogamy). In addition, Taiwan is not the origin of sugar-apples, so it lacks insect vectors for pollination. Because sugar-apples bear aggregate fruit, so there are many pistils in a flower, which develop into a fruit after pollination. If the sugar-apple is allowed to pollinate and bear fruit by itself in Taiwan, it is inevitable that there will be unpollinated pistils, and the unpollinated pistils will not develop, which will cause the fruit to grow crookedly and look bad. In order to increase the yield and make the custard apples look good, the fruit farmers had to pollinate the sugar-apples and the atemoyas artificially. Therefore, many sugar-apple farmers will have shoulder and arm soreness in the fall. It is really difficult for them!

Both sugar-apples and atemoyas are climacteric fruits. As soon as they mature, they will start to release ethylene, which accelerates the ripening of nearby fruits; therefore, if one of the sugar-apples is found to be soft-ripe, you must eat it as soon as possible or the whole batch of fruits will rot together. What’s troublesome is that frostbite may occur as long as the sugar-apples are placed below ten degrees Celsius, so you can’t put sugar-apples in the refrigerator!

It may be that the only fruit that can be peeled off and eaten “piece by piece”, so when the pineapple “Tainong №4”, which can be peeled one by one, was cultivated, it was given the nickname “sugar-apple pineapple.” But whether it’s sugar-apple or “Pineapple sugar-apple”, in fact, they are not descendants of pineapple and sugar-apple. They are just nicknames given according to their type or flavor!

At the end of the Ming Dynasty, Mr. Shen Guangwen wrote the poem “Sugar-apples”: “The title seems to be a boast, not a speciety of the Central Plains; it is because the Palace has not been planted, and the island should only be used as a shelter.” Poet thought that it is unfair that the sugar-apple did not get to be planted in the Royal Botanic Garden (Fuli Palace) with the areca nut, lychee and longan. But what the poet doesn’t know is that only sugar-apple is a “foreigner” of these four fruits; so even if Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty wanted to grow sugar-apple when he attacked Nanyue, he couldn’t help it, because sugar-apple was not brought to Taiwan by the Dutch until the middle of the seventeenth century. ! He really thinks too much!



黑手老師、科普作者、資深書蟲 Educator, popular science writer and bookworm.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
葉綠舒 Susan Yeh

黑手老師、科普作者、資深書蟲 Educator, popular science writer and bookworm.