Yesterday, I went shopping in Fortaleza's central food market, called Mercado São Sebastião. I took some photos, and a also shot a couple of short videos - I hope to have those in the blog early next week. In the meantime, here's a little mystery about a exotic fruit called the "ata."
When I was walking through the aisles of fruit and vegetable vendors, I noticed a fruit for sale that I hadn't seen before in Fortaleza. It looked familiar, but it wasn't quite right. I asked a vendor what the name was, and he replied ata. It looked like this:
A little internet research was all it took to identify this unknown fruit. I first checked Google images for photos of cherimoyas to make sure it wasn't a cherimoya. Here's a sample cherimoya photo:
It clearly wasn't a cherimoya, thourgh there did seem to be some sort of family resemblance. I decided next to check the internet for this mystery fruit under the name the vendor had given me - ata. Searching the English web revealed nothing, nor did searching ata in the Portuguese Wikipedia. I looked for ata on the Brazilian site Toda Fruta, which has a list of all cultivated fruits in Brazil - nothing there. Then I limited my search to Brazilian and Portuguese language sites and found something. On the Brazilian equivalent of "Yahoo answers" I found this question: "Ata, Fruta-do-Conde, Nona - which is the correct name for this fruit?" Someone answered that all three names refer to the same fruit, but each is used in a different partsof Brazil. Fruta-do-conde is used in the south of Brazil, ata in the Northeast (where I live), and in Sao Paulo, they call the fruit pinha.
For the solution to the mystery, click on "read more" below...
Armed with some new search terms, fruta-do-conde and pinha, I went back to the internet. And I finally found the answer (almost). A search on Portuguese Wikipedia for pinha led me to an entry for fruta-pinha. That entry included this lovely botanical print, which certainly looked like the ata I had purchased at the market.
I learned from this entry that fruta-pinha and fruta-do-conde are not the same fruit, although they're very close. The botanical name for fruta-pinha is "annona squamosa" and that for fruta-do-conde is "annona coriacea." Incidentally, by checking the botanical name "annona squamosa" in the English language wikipedia, I discovered that the nomenclature for this fruit is equally complicated in English. It's known variously in the Caribbean and Central America as "sugar-apple", "sweetsop", and "custard-apple."
It was only when I went to the entry for "annona coriacea" that I finally was able to identify what my ata really was, however. On that page, there's a photo of an "annona coriacea" and an "annona squamosa" side by side. The "annona squamosa" is on the right. That's my ata!
So, an ata and a fruta-pinha are the same thing, and they are called "sugar-apple", "sweetsop" etc. in English. Fruta-do-conde is a close relative, but not identical.
In a future post, I'll try to critique the taste and flavor of this fruit. Stay tuned...