FRUITS AND VEGETABLES IN ASIA

VEGETABLES IN ASIA

Common vegetables include spinach, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, squash, white radish, green beans, snow peas, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, ginger, onions, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beets, mushrooms, potatoes and a wide variety of Chinese vegetables.

Asparagus is considered a real delicacy and often served at fancy banquets. Cucumbers are regarded as good for digestion and avoiding constipation. Danone introduced a cucumber-flavored yogurt in China that it hopes will tap into these sentiments. Potato consumption increased 40 percent between 2002 and 2007 in a large part because of fondness for Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s French fries.

Bok choy, Chinese cabbage, was once considered exotic in the United States but now is relatively commonplace. Two primary kinds of cabbages are eaten in Japan: 1) kandama (“cold round ball”) cabbages, sold from June through February that have dense, packed leaves, taste best cooked and used in Japan in okonomiyali pancakes and an ingredient in gyoza (Chinese dumplings); and 2) spring cabbages, sold from March to May, featuring lighter, less dense heads with leaves that taste good raw and are often used in salads served with pork cutlets at restaurants.

Mung beans are added to green noodles or sprouted into bean sprouts. They are one of the easiest beans to sprout. All you have to do is soak them for a few hours, strain, cover in a cheese cloth and place in a dark space. The are generally ready two or three days later when they sprout to a length of 1 inch or 1½ inches. Before they are ready to eat they are exposed to sunlight so that chlorophyll is manufactured.

Lotus flowers are grown commercially for their roots, which are sliced and soaked in syrup. Often grown in the autumn and winter in flooded rices paddies and ponds, they are harvested in December, often when the water is quite cold, by farmers who sink to their waists in mud and water and dig and pull the roots out of the ground by hand and clean them with well water in a hose.

Bamboo Shoots

Bamboo shoots are a popular food and are often harvested by people from bamboo groves near their homes. Known in Japan as takenoko (bamboo babies), they are gathered in the early spring and dug up by hand. Bamboo shoots are added to soups and stews and is sliced and grilled on barbecues. It needs to be boiled before it can be consumed.

People hunting for bamboo shoots look for slight mounds of earth at the beginning of spring. The best ones haven’t emerged from the ground yet and it takes some probing of the ground to find them. Increasingly mild winters have moved the season up to February.

Experienced bamboo shoot hunters use a special pick-ax-like hoe to dig up the shoots and can find shoots that haven’t broken the soil surface in what seems like ordinary ground. Soil is removed from the shoot before it is dug up. A white color means the shoots have not been exposed to air, promising a bitter-free taste. The inner parts of the shoot, which are revealed after pealing away the outer layers, are the sweetest and most flavorful parts of the shoot.

Daikon (Giant White Radishes)

Large white carrot-shaped radishes, called daikon, are Japan's favorite vegetable in terms of planted acreage. Cheap and sold throughout the year, they can be truly massive---as thick and as long as a man's arm and weighing several kilograms. They are easy to grow and harvest and flourish in the winter. Many farmers plant it in the autumn and harvest in the winter or spring. It is said the best tasting are harvest at dawn in frosty mornings in January and February.

More than 100 different kinds of daikon radishes have been grown in Japan. Most are long and thick but there also round varieties. Aokubi daikon, which vary in size and thickness from a rolling pin to a bowling pin, account for 95 percent of production. The tastiest ones are said to come from the Miura Peninsula south of Tokyo where it is said that ocean breezes enrich them with minerals.

Radishes made their way to Japan from China via Korea. It is not known whether radishes originated in Asia or evolved from Mediterranean varieties that were brought eastward on the Silk Road. Radishes have been eaten for at least 5,000 years. They were among the rations eaten by the builders of the pyramids in ancient Egypt.

Daikon are used in a lot of different dishes. It is grated and minced into sauces served with fried fish; it is pickled and eaten with rice; it is cut into chunks are added to stews and things like sukiyaki. Japanese eat a lot of it. It contains a number of enzymes they are said to be good for health. One of it attractions is that it remains firm and doesn't get mushy even when it is cooked a long time

Fruits in Asia

Among the locally consumed fruits are plums, grapes, apples. limes, pineapples, oranges, bananas, tangerines, coconuts, mangos, papaya, watermelons, cantaloupes and wide variety of local fruits. In southern Southeast Asia and China you can find things like guavas, rambutans (lychee-like fruit) lychees, custard apple (zurzat), bread fruit, passion fruit, jerek (pomelo), starfruit, and smelly but delicious durians.< /p>

Citrus fruits, which includes lemons, oranges, limes and grapefruit, originated in southern China and Southeast Asia. They made their way to the Middle East and were later introduced by Arabs to Europe. The world's first sugarcane and yam evolved from wild plants found in southeast Asia.

Asian pears are round in shape, slightly smaller than a grapefruit and have a gold yellowish-brown skin. They are firmer and sweeter than American green pears and grown on trees with branches connected to trellises They are generally consumed with skin peeled off and the flesh cut into pieces that are picked up with a small fork.

All pears are believed to have originated from China. Varieties that were taken westward to Europe and were bred over the centuries and developed into modern Bartlett pears. Pears grown in Asia bloom in the spring and are pollinated by hand using a paint brush right before dawn. A plastic bag is placed around the bloom to prevent unwanted cross pollenation. The bag remains places as the fruit forms, in part to protect it from birds and insect pests.

The Chinese love to eat watermelon and watermelon seeds. Melon seeds are eaten like sunflower seed. The idea is to crack open the shell and eat the kernel inside. The Chinese are also fond of chestnuts. They roast them, eat them raw and slice them up, deep fry them and add them to dishes.

The oldest melon in China has been dated to the A.D. 4th century. The inner fruit of a melon, dated to 2,100 years ago, was found in the Shimonogo ruins n iMoriyama, Shiga Prefecture in Japan. The melon is native to Africa and came to Japan via the Middle East and India. Domesticated watermelon seeds dated to 4000 B.C. were found in the 1980s in southern Libya. Dorian Fuller of University College London told the New York Times, “The wild watermelon is a horrible, dry little gourd that grows in wadis of the northern savannahs but it has seeds you can roast up and eat.” The watermelon we eat was not developed until Roman times.

Peanuts from the New World became popular in Africa and Asia. Vegetarian Buddhists and Hindus in India, Sri Lanka and China embraced peanuts as for both protein and culinary diversity. [Source: National Geographic]

Durians

Durians are an unusual fruit eaten throughout Southeast Asia and South Asia, They have a creamy texture, an ultra-sweet taste that stays on the tongue for hours and a nasty smell that can linger in the air for days. The famous botanist Alfred Russel Wallace described them as having “a rich butter-like custard...flavored with almonds...onion sauce, brown sherry, and other incongruities." Its scientific name Durio zibethinus means “a thorny fruit smelling of civet cat.” [Sources: Rabb Walsh, Natural History, September 1999; Henry Genthe, Smithsonian]

A durian taken from a tree looks like a green rugby ball covered with spikes that turn brown as the fruit ripens. After it is split open with a knife, the husk reveals five interior compartments, each filled with a edible section of fruit that surrounds a large brown seed. The soft edible sections have s glossy look, creamy texture and range in color from pink to pale yellow to orange to white.

Durians can weigh up to 40 pounds. Every year several people are killed when over-ripen versions of these fruit falls on their heads. In the forest durians are fed n by a variety of animals, including orangutans, monkeys, sun bears, mouse deer and even tigers. Some animals eat the seeds within the fruit and deposit with fertilizer.

Thought by many to have aphrodisiac qualities, it is an expensive fruit whose name in Vietnamese means "one's own sorrows." You may wonder why it is called his. The answer lies in a famous Romeo-and-Juliet-like love story. Long ago, there was a young couple that lived in a region where the druit was grown. Because of social prejudices that could not be overcome, the couple sought their own deaths in order to be faithful to each other. Their own sorrows received the population's sympathies, and the story of their tragedy has been handed down from generation to generation. To commemorate the couple, the locals have named one of their most valuable fruits sau rieng. [Source: Sawadee.com]

With a gentle cut between the edges of the outer shell, you can easily open the fruit to expose the layers of bright yellow segments of meat that make the pulp look like it is covered with a thin layer of butter.

According to hotelclub.com: Durian’s roots are unclear, but it’s believed to be indigenous to Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Borneo. Four hundred years ago, a lively durian trade existed between Lower and Upper Burma, for it was a prized food in the Royal Palace. Durian is sold at road-side stands with the fleshy parts extracted, and wrapped in cling film. Test it to make sure it’s not to firm, and not overly soft. It should feel softer than a ripe mango, but not like pudding. Durian season is around March to July, and tends to be pricier than other Southeast Asian fruits. [Source:http://www.hotelclub.com/blog/10-must-try-exotic-fruits/

“Durian is known to be high in sugar and fat, and thus is why many Southeast Asians say you shouldn’t eat it if you’re on a diet. But actually, durian is high in good fat. It’s also known to be a good blood cleanser, and to contain high levels of tryptophan, which alleviate depression and anxiety, and help insomnia. Since it is relatively high in protein, durian is thought to be a good muscle-builder. Around Asia, durian is also thought to be an aphrodisiac. [Ibid]

Website: www.durianpalace.com ; Durian OnLine.

Smell of Durian

The smell of a durian can be picked up a half mile away and has been compared with sewage, rotten eggs, rotting meat and rotten fish. One botanist described the odor as a blend of decaying onions, turpentine, garlic, Limburger cheese and a spicy resin. Others have said the smell was “an abominable stench,” “a revolting public lavatory” and “reminiscent of rotting vegetables and bad drains.” In Southeast Asia, many people say “they have taste of from heaven and the smell from hell.” Dutch colonist in the East Indies called them Stinkvrucht .

Durians are so smelly that many hotels in Southeast Asia ban them. The Mandarin Hilton in Singapore won’t allow them in the building. The Kartika Plaza hotel in Jakarta has the third floor reserved for durian eating. You never see them in restaurants. There are also rules forbidding their consumption on airlines. In Singapore, you can’t even bring them on buses or subways. Signs with the slash through a durian are everywhere.

Local people insist the strong smell indicated it is at the peak of ripeness and sweetness. Many foreigners can’t get over the smell. Some gag when they smell it. Other say its not as bad or strong as it is made out to be. The unopened fruit doesn’t smell so bad. Drop it you get a hint of the smell. Cut it open to experience the smell in its full glory.

The fruit is forbidden in hotels and public transportation in Southeast Asia. The Vietnamese writer Mai Van Tao once wrote: "The dense fragrance which spreads near and far, lingers a long time before disappearing. The strong smell can go straight to your nostrils, even though you are still several meters away from the fruit. The fragrance of Durian is a mixture of smells which come from a ripening jackfruit and that of a shaddock. It can also be compared to the strong smell of foreign-made cheese and is rich as a hen's egg. Others describe the fruit as sweet as well-kept honey. All things considered, Durian has a special tempting smell.Those who have not enjoyed the fruit before may find it hard to eat. But once they have tried it, they are likely to seek it again."

The smell of the durian is produced by the prickly outer rind. The flesh around the seeds has no smell and the taste has little connection to the smell. The odor is caused by strong-smelling sulfides and bisulfides produced by the break down of two sulfur-carrying amino acids by an enzyme that is triggered into action when the ripe fruit hits the ground. Many fruits contain similar compounds but durians possess at least 43 different ones, including ones found in onions and garlic. Not only is the smell bad it is persistent. One reason hotels insist that no durians be brought on the building is that the smell seeps into the ventilation systems and stays there.

Durian Popularity

In Thailand and Malaysia, durians are known as the king of fruit. The durian season in September and October is time of fun, prosperity and contentment. There are durian festivals and special clubs are devoted to the fruit. Growers are happy about their windfall profits. There is even a canon of poetry and riddles devoted to the fruit.

Some Southeast Asian consume durian directly from the husk,. It is sometimes combined with coconut milk and sticky rice for a unique dessert or used to make ice cream or cheesecake. In Singapore and Malaysia, people are fond of a preserved form of the fruit that is even smellier than the fresh variety. Indonesians make soup sauces and relishes with them and serve them like a vegetable. The Japanese sometimes come to Southeast Asia on durian tours.

Durians said to have an intoxicating effect One should not drink alcohol with durian ir drive after eating too many of them. They are regarded as a hot fruit. After eating one people are supposed to eat mangosteens and rambutans to cool off.

Durians are thought to have originated in Sumatra or Borneo. They became a lucrative trade item about 400 years when they were a favorite of the Burmese court. The leaves and roots are consumed as remedies for fever, jaundice and worms. The fruits themselves are regarded as an aphrodisiac. . There is an expression in Southeast Asia: “when the durians come down, the sarongs go up.” Many children are reportedly born after the durian season.

In 2007 when the leaders of Singapore (Lee Hsien Loong) and Malaysia (Abdullah Badawi) got together for an informal chat and discussions at the Malaysian resort of Langkawi and has durians for desert at lunch and a snack later in the day the meeting were hailed as “durian diplomacy.” “These are good durians Abdullah joked. The fruit came from his home island of Penang.

Choosing a Durian

Durians are generally not sold in store but are purchased from street vendors. They are not cheap, often selling for $5 or more for one fruit, and are only widely available in the durian season.

Durians are sold with their stems attached to use as handles. The fruit are heavy and the spines are sharp. Customers first shake the fruit and listen for rattles which means that the seed-to-fruit ratio is too high. They then roll the fruit in their hands to gentle release the odor and from that they can determine quality. One with no smell indicates the fruit was harvested to earlyl. Those with an odor that is too garlicky are also rejected.

Durian Online advises: “If you detect a faint aroma of bittersweet butterscotch and almonds with a bouquet if wild honey and a hint of smoked oak, then you have hit the jackpot and found yourself a durian with a thick, creamy treacle-like bittersweet flesh for you to savor and enjoy.”

Foreigners and Durians

Most Westerners can never get past the smell and enjoy durians the way Southeast Asians can. By the same token many Southeast Asians can never get past the smell of some cheeses and enjoy them as Westerners do. Paul Rozin of the University of Pennsylvania, an expert on people’s eating food habits, told Natural History, “Durians and blue cheese both have a rotten smell, which is offensive to most humans. But this aversion is not innate. I believe the disgust comes for a universally acquired aversion that is probably taught in the toilet training process.” He said children are not disgusted by the own feces until they are told its disgusting.

After getting over the initial shock of the smell some Westerns fall in love with durians. The 19th century French naturalist Henri Mouhout wrote: “To enjoy it...one must have time to overcome the disgust at first inspired by its smell. On first tasting I thought it like the flesh of some animal in a state of putrefaction.” Later he became addicted to them.

The 19th-century American journalist Baynard Taylor described it as “at first the most intolerable” or all fruits and “at last, the most indispensable” and wrote:.”When it is brought you cannot sleep. Chloride of lime and disinfectants seem to be its necessary remedy. To eat it, seems to be the sacrifice of self-respect; but endure it for a while, with closed nostrils, taste it once or twice, and you will cry for durians thenceforth.”

Today, Asians find the sight of Westerners sampling durian for the first time to be amusing. Sometimes a small crowd gathers.

Durian Agriculture

Durians grown high in a tall tree that takes up to 15 years to mature before bearing fruit. The fruits come from short-lived pink or yellow flower that are pollinated by fruit bats that drink the nectar. The fruits, which an weigh average of five to 10 pounds, are not plucked from the tree. They are allowed to drop naturally to the ground when they are at the peak of ripeness. Their husk protects then as well as a coconut shell protects a coconut.

Durians tend to fall mainly at night. During the durian season nights are filled with the thud, thud, thud of falling durians. They have to be collected quickly and transported to markets and eaten within several days or the smell becomes too much even for diehard durian lovers. Falling durians also attract monkeys, elephants and wild pigs, who are as anxious to gorge on the fruit as humans.

Most of the world’s durians are grown in Thailand and southern Vietnam. In Thailand, many are grown on large plantations in the Chantaburi region. In Malaysia, they are grown in Penang. Because it is quiet difficult to get the right combination of taste and smell—some of the durian crop in Southeast Asia is harvested in the wild from well-known trees.

When a high quality durian tree is discovered it generally becomes the property of the nearest village and people come from miles around to collect fruit from it. As they eat the fruit they throw the seeds in the bush. Using this method over the centuries has created pockets of durian groves all the way from Burma to New Guinea. Seeds from superior wild trees are sold to plantations.

Getting smacked on the head with a durian in no trifling mater. It can be dangerous even fatal. Workers often wear helmets. Tourist walking in a durian area during the harvest season when they drip from trees should take care. Wild animals also help disperse the fruit. Those that eat the fruit with seeds depost the seeds with fertilizer, ideally in a place where it can sprout and grow into a tree.

Durian Marketing

There are more 300 durian cultivars. The three main ones are the fast-growing and early maturing Golden Button, the mid-season Golden Pillow and the late-maturing Matong. The latter is considered the tastiest among connoisseurs. The Golden Button is the most profitable to grow. Most of the cultivars are no longer grown and are products of unsuccessful efforts to develop tasty fruit with a long shelf life on highly productive trees.

Fresh durians have a short shelf life and usually do not make out of Southeast Asia. Frozen durians are widely available at Asian grocery stores in the United States but fresh durians are still hard to come by there. Imported durians don’t survive the required quarantine process very well and durians are not cultivate in the United States although some durian orchards have been started in Hawaii.

Singapore durians have a good reputation because the fruit has a nice flavor and Singaporean suppliers have a good reputation for promptly filling orders. Very few of the Singapore durians, howrver, are grown in Singapore. Odorless cultivars have been developed but they have not been well received in Southeast Asia because local people there like the smell.

Mangosteen

Mangosteens are regarded by many as the most delicious of all fruit. Dome people have a deep passion for them. R.W. Apple Jr. wrote in the New York Times: “No other fruit, for me, is so thrillingly, intoxicatingly luscious, so evocative of the exotic East, with so precise a balance of acid and sugar as a ripe mangosteen...Merely typing the name makes my mouth water. Whenever in my travels I spot a mound of those precious orbs in a market place, my heart pounds.

Mangosteens are about the size of a tangerine. They have a leathery deep purple or maroon skin with moist, fragrant segments of white, fruit inside One is supposed to cool off by eating mangosteens. They have traditionally been eaten after durians, which are regarded as a hot fruit.

Thought to be native to the Sunda Islands and the Moluccas in Indonesia, the mangosteen comes from an evergreen tree. Smaller than an apple, and purple, topped by thick, shiny green leaves and a sturdy stem, the fruits are purple, creamy, described as citrus with a hint of peach. Once opened, the fruit reveals a white pulp divided into four or more segments.

According to hotelclub.com: The fruit usually ripens between May and September. It’s possible to gauge the fruit’s ripeness by the deepness of its colour (rich purple is ideal), while the shell should be slightly soft to the touch – but not overly so. The mangosteen is rich in xanthones, which are thought to help allergies, infections, cholesterol levels, inflammation, skin disorders, gastro-intestinal disorders, and fatigue. They are also extremely high in fiber, with about five grams of fiber per serving. On top of that they are rich in antioxidants, with some scientists even suggesting it can lower risk against certain human diseases, such as cancer.

Mangosteen Adulation

In his book Tropical Fruit , the British-born Malaysian writer Desmond Tate wrote: “the mangosteen is held to be the most delectable of all the tropical fruits. There is no doubt abut the luxury of its taste. It has won unstinted praise down the ages from all who have encountered it.” Gay Bilson, one of Australia’s most famous cooks said that after trying the fruit for the time she “burst into tears at the sheer perfection of it, almost pushed to mawkish poetry.” Queen Victoria reportedly offered a knighthood to anyone who could bring her a edible specimen but spoilage kept prize from being rewarded.

Some have said the flavor is like a combination of a strawberry and a grape. The great botanist and plant explorer David Fairchild wrote: “It is so delicate that it melts in the mouth like ice cream. The flavor is quite indescribably delicious. There is nothing to mar the perfection of the fruit, unless it be the that the juice from the rind forms an indelible stain on a white napkin. Even the seeds are partly or wholly lacking and when present are very thin and small.” Legend has it that Queen Victoria offered a reward of 100 pounds to anyone who would find and deliver her the fresh fruit. It’s not known where the fruit originated, but it is believe to be around Indonesia. The fruit grows wild in parts of the Malaysian forest, and has been cultivated in much of Southeast Asia. [Source:http://www.hotelclub.com/blog/10-must-try-exotic-fruits/

Mangosteen Consumption

Mangosteens are sold in large quantities for a relatively cheap price in Southeast Asia. They are woven together with braided strips of bamboo and hung from roofs. Most people eat them plain. In some places in southern Thailand they are used in vegetarian curry.

The darker the color the better the taste. Good ones should have no bare spots and should give way a little when squeezed. At the stem end are four waxy sepals, At the other end are four to eight woody lobes. The number of lobes is equal to the number of segment inside.

Mangosteens are often sold with durians and rambutans (another cool fruit). The three of them are supposed to harmonize like yin and yang. While mangosteens are often called the queen of fruits, durians are regarded as the king.

Mangosteen have a thick skin and creamy white segments on the inside. Discard the skin and enjoy the delicious unique flavor of the flesh. The name and the shape of this fruit does not look attractive to those who first see it. The fruit is a bit smaller than a tennis ball and has a dark violet rough skin. When you peel off the upper part of the fruit with a small sharp knife, you can see the transparent white pulp inside arranged in equal segments. While lifting each segment of the transparent white meat to your mouth you can imagine the light and pure refreshment that leaves a little sour taste lingering in your mouth. +++

Mangosteen Agriculture

Mangosteens are popular in Southeast Asia, particularly in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, but is commonly found as far away as Beijing The fruit is believed to have originated in Malaysia or the Sundra Islands of Indonesia. They are raised outside of Southeast Asia is in southern India, some islands in the Caribbean and Queensland in Australia.

Mangosteens come from a slow-growing evergreen tree with glossy, dark green leaves and pyramid-shaped crowns. The trees grow best in places with heavy rainfall and high humidity and can reach a height of 40 feet. Mature tress can yield up to 1,000 fruit a year. The trees can not tolerate temperatures below 40°F, which restricts their range.

Mangosteens keep better durians. They can not be legally imported into the United States. They are sometimes infested with Mediterranean fruit flies. This ban may end with a ruling by the U.S. Agricultural department allowing the sale of fruit that carry the flies if they are irradiated.

Lychees and Longan

Lychee is cultivated in the humid tropical regions for its fruit and wood. Lychees are exquisite fruits encased in brown skin which is peeled to reveal white tropical, juicy fruit. Lychees are somewhat similar to longans. Unlike the skin of the longan, which is rather smooth, the dark red skin of the litchi is rough and rippled. The meat of the litchi is also transparent white, but it is thicker and juicier than that of a longan. The litchi seed is also smaller than the longan seed. +++

Native to southern China and found in large quantities in India, Taiwan and Southeast Asia, lychees come from an evergreen tree, are rich in vitamin C and have a grape-like texture. The fruit has started making its appearance in markets worldwide, refrigerated or canned with its taste intact. [Source:http://www.hotelclub.com/blog/10-must-try-exotic-fruits/

Lychees are a sweet, plum-size fruit popular in China and Southeast Asia. They have a red, acorn-like shell and a white gelatinous flesh. They are often made into juice. Chinese like them more than oranges. One food critic called the fruit a "taut, membranous flesh which looks more like a sea creature than a fruit" and said it "slices from the shell like a hard boiled egg."

Lychees are the size of a walnut and have a sweet flesh coveted by Chinese emperors, who had special courtiers that brought them to their palaces, and extolled by Tang dynasty poets. Longans are similar to lychees.

Longan are small brown skinned fruits. The inside is a juicy cream colored fruit with seed. In Vietnam longans were among the food items reserved as tributes to the Kings. The fruit is as small as the tip of a thumb. Inside the thin and light brown skin is the transparent white pulp which covers a small glossy black seed. The thicker the pulp, the juicier, more fragrant, and crisp the pulp. Longan is a protein rich fruit. It is usually used as a main ingredient, along with lotus seeds, to make sweet soup, which is considered a very good summer refreshment. The seedless longan, when dried, is also a very fine choice for connoisseurs. +++

Rambutan

Rambutans are bright red fruit, covered in soft, hairy spikes. They are somewhat similar to lychees. In some places they are so valuable that growers have to guard their trees from poachers. Rambutan means “hairy.” You have to break it open like a nut to get at the white fruit inside.

The rambutan exterior is a vibrant pink, with hints of green, with a coat of thin, long, soft spikes. Inside, the fruit is similar to a lychee, but thicker and sweeter. This fruit is native to Malaysia, and has spread throughout Southeast Asia. It grows to a limited degree in India, and parts of South America.

Rambutan fruit has a tender, translucent, white flesh with a cool sweet flavor. A rambutan tree has broad foliage and many branches. In warm areas the tree yields fruit at the beginning of the rainy season . The season lasts until the end of the rainy season (from May to October). The skin of this fruit is tough, thick and hairy. [Source: Sawadee.com +++]

When buying rambutans look for fruit that are bright in colour, with little-to-no browning at the tips of the spikes. Rambutans contain some protein and fat, as well as phosphorous, iron, calcium, and vitamin C. It is thought that the seeds, when eaten raw, can help to reduce body fat. Copper and zinc are also prominent in the fruit. Rambutans come from an evergreen tree. They are a popular garden fruit tree and one of the most famous in Southeast Asia. The fruit is juicy and commonly found in jams or available canned. [Source:http://www.hotelclub.com/blog/10-must-try-exotic-fruits/

Jackfruit

Jackfruit is the world's largest tree fruit. Native of Southeast Asia, it is brown and is covered by spikes like a durian and can weigh 60 pounds or more. A relative of the smaller breadfruit, it is produced by a tall, evergreen tree, and has a strange, musty flavor and odor like "a cross between an open grave and a sewer." The fruit breaks up into hundreds of slightly-rubbery, bright orange-yellow segments. The wood from the jackfruit trees is used in some places to make furniture.

Jackfruit flesh is eaten raw or cooked, often into a curry. Its seeds are boiled like chestnuts. The taste of the white pulp has been described a cross between a pineapple and an overripe melon. Vietnamese like to dip jackfruit into a mixture of salt, sugar and chopped chilies.

Jackfruit (Mit) is a large, green fruit with a tough, knobbly skin which reveals a yellow segmented flesh when opened. With a taste described a cross between a pineapple and an overripe melon, it It contains a lot of sugar and calories and has a taste that is naturally sweet. In Vietnam, the young jackfruit is used like a vegetable in cooking or in salad. Vietnamese like to dip jackfruit into a mixture of salt, sugar and chopped chilies.

Jackfruit grow on every part of the tree: the trunk, branches, and even on the roots. Jackfruit trees bear approximately 150 to 200 fruits per year. When the fruit are ripe, their pulp is yellow and sweet, containing a lot or little juice depending on the species. Nu jackfruits are small and come from a short tree. The flesh of ripe fruit is firmly stuck to the core; when eating a jackfruit, simply hold the core and pull it out. In the south, the to nu jackfruit harvest season starts from March to June. There are several other species of jackfruits divided into two main groups: hard jackfruits with hard and crunchy flesh, and soft jackfruits with soft flesh and a lot of juice. [Source: Sawadee.com +++]

According to hotelclub.com: Native to southwestern India, Bangladesh, Philippines and Sri Lanka, jackfruit is a common fruit for Asia and Australia. The juicy pulp around the seeds have a taste similar to pineapple, but milder. Unlike durian, jackfruit it is almost universally-liked, as it has the vague taste of cotton candy. This fruit is believed to be indigenous to the rainforests of the Western Ghats, located in India, and has long been cultivated throughout much of Southeast Asia. Apart from canned jackfruit, it is also available as sweet chips. The wood of the tree is used for making various musical instruments, while the fruit is a common ingredient for many Asian dishes. [Source:http://www.hotelclub.com/blog/10-must-try-exotic-fruits/

“Jackfruit is high in sugar (hence its candy-like taste), but also a good source of vitamins A and C. It’s also rich in dietary fibre, and antioxidant flavinoids like beta-carotene and lutein, which are known to protect against certain kinds of cancer. Like durian, jackfruit is sold extracted from its shell. When buying make sure the fruit doesn’t look limp – it should be crunchy. The fruit is in season from March to July or August. [Ibid]

Rose Apples and Star Apples

The rose apple is sweeter than an apple, and shaped like a pear. Its exterior is pinky-red, rigged, and shiny, and the fruit is crunchy. The inside is white and has a subtle, watery, and vaguely apple-like taste. Native to the East Indies and Malaysia, the rose apple has been cultivated and naturalized in many parts of Southeast Asia and India. [Source:http://www.hotelclub.com/blog/10-must-try-exotic-fruits/

According to hotelclub.com: Rose apple is known to be a helpful fruit for diabetics, since it is thought to affect the pancreas, blocking the conversion of starch into sugar. It is also known to help with diarrhea, sterility in females, and liver problems. Rose apple season varies widely, but can start as early as January, and is usually over by July. The fruit often comes pre-cut at roadside stands. Look out for bruising or browning around the edges.

Star Apple is known in Vietnamese as "vu sua," milk from the breast." The shape of the star apple matches the name attached to it, as does its juice which is fragrantly sweet and milky white like breast milk. The most popular way to enjoy the fruit is to eat the whole fruit. People tend to drill a small hole at the top of the fruit, lift it to their mouths, lean their heads backward, and drink the flow of the fragrant juice as a baby sucks milk from its mother's breast. One thing you should remember before taking in the juice is that you must squeeze the tough fruit until it becomes tender so that the juice mixes with the meat of the fruit to become a sweet and fragrant muddy substance that looks like breast milk. A novice will certainly peel the fruit with a sharp knife, which may cause the precious juice inside to be wasted. When using a knife to cut the fruit, it is advisable to cut the fruit into two parts before using a spoon to scoop out the pulp, bit by bit, until nothing is left. The most famous star apple orchard is located in Can Tho Province in the Mekong River Delta. The round smooth fruit are all of equal size. +++

Custard Apple

Custard apple is tough, bumpy and green on the outside, and white and thick, creamy and granular flesh on the inside, with medium-sized black seeds. It has a vaguely sweet taste and is believed to be native to the West Indies, but has been since introduced to many of the world’s tropical regions. It is common throughout most of Southeast Asia. In India, it is eaten only by the lower classes.

According to hotelclub.com: Custard apple is high in vitamins A and C, as well as magnesium, potassium, and dietary fibre. It is also rich in iron, phosphorous, calcium, and riboflavin. It is known to cure digestion issues and vertigo. The shell should be a yellow or brownish to signify the apple is ripe, and it should not be split anywhere. The fruit inside should be soft to the touch. The flesh can be scooped out of the shell and eaten as is.

Custard apple comes in two varieties in Vietnam: firm and soft. Both varieties can have various shapes, for example they can be round or oval. When a custard apples is ripe, it is easy to peel. The peel is thick, green, and covered with white or green pollen. The pulp is white or light yellow and contains many black seeds. In the south, custard apples ripen in July, but not all at the same time. Xiem custard apples are oval or heart shaped. Their peel is green with thorns, which turn black when the fruit is ripe. The fruits are generally big and can reach 1.5 kilograms. The pulp is white, hard, and a bit sour. Custard apple trees deliver fruit after three or four years of growth. A tree produces on average from 50 to 100 fruits per year. The fruits ripens on the tree and then cracks, especially during the rainy season. +++

Dragon Fruit

Dragonfruit is so named because it grows on a tree-climbing vine that resembles a cactus. It is size and shape of pineapple, with a smooth skin and white seed-laced meat with a gentle taste similar to kiwi fruit. There are two varieties of dragon fruit: one with bright red flesh and the other white. Both have tiny black seeds. Although it can be bland in flavor it makes a striking addition to a fruit platter.

Dragonfruit is wild-looking but gentle tasting. Native to Mexico and Central and South America and also known as the strawberry pear or pitaya is a fruit of several cactus species with a sweet delicate taste and creamy pulp. The most common dragon fruit is the red pitaya, but other varieties include the Costa Rica pataya and the yellow pataya. Juice or wine can be obtained from the fruit, while the flowers can be eaten or used for tea. [Source: http://www.hotelclub.com/blog/10-must-try-exotic-fruits/

Dragon fruit has a spiky, scaly vibrant pink or yellow exterior. The scales are likely what it derived its name from. Inside is either a bright purple or vivid white flesh dotted with tiny seeds, which tastes sweet when in season, and relatively bland and even sour when out-of-season. Though native to Central America, the fruit was introduced to Vietnam by the French over 100 years ago, and became one of the country’s most profitable crops. It has since spread across Southeast Asia.

According to hotelclub.com: Dragon fruit is known to improve eyesight and prevent hypertension. Its seeds (which are difficult to remove and usually eaten with the flesh) are thought to control blood glucose levels in people with a certain kind of diabetes. The purple flesh variety is high in antioxidants. The fruit is ripe when the green, spiney leaves (the spikes) turn brown and dry. It’s not advisable to eat the skin, so it’s best to buy it pre-cut and peeled. The purple flesh variety will stain clothes, so be careful.

Green dragon (Thanh Long) is the name of a newly cultivated fruit in Vietnam . It is rather big, weighs from 200 to 500 grams, and has pink or dark-red color. The ripe fruit looks like the kohlrabi cabbage and has an oval shape. When ripe, the fruit peels as easily as a banana. Its pulp is white and gelatinous. The pulp contains many seeds that cannot be extracted. The seeds taste like cactus, giving the fruit a sweet and sour taste. Before 1945, green dragon fruits were not sold in southern markets. It is said that Americans brought green dragon fruits to the south. From Phan Thiet to Nha Trang or from Ninh Hoa to Buon Ma Thuot, bushes of green dragon fruits can be seen climbing to tree trunks in gardens and even on doors. The fruit is available in markets in October, November, April, and May. It is more expensive in October and April, since there are smaller quantities available then. +++

Sweet Tamarind and Sapodilla

Sweet tamarind comes in long, brown pod form. The flesh inside is dark-coloured, chewy acidic, and, as the name implies, sweet. The flesh is wrapped around black, jewel-like seeds. This fruit is native to tropical Africa, and reached India several thousands of years ago through human transportation. It spread throughout tropical Asia, and even into China. [Source:http://www.hotelclub.com/blog/10-must-try-exotic-fruits/

According to hotelclub.com: Tamarind typically comes into season during the dry months, around December to April. Buy quite a few pods, since the yield inside is much less than it may seem on the outside. To eat, break the shell and remove the strings. Fish out the dark flesh and be sure to watch out for the hard seeds. Tamarind is a favoured snack among Asian women because it’s a fat-free, tasty snack. It is high in both vitamin B, and calcium (which is unusual for a fruit). Tamarind is used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for gastric and digestion problems. It is also thought to be a laxative, an antiseptic, antiviral, and curative for a long list of ailments.

Sapodilla fruit is shaped like an egg and weighs from 10 to 200 grams. Its peel is brown with tiny cracks near the stalk. The pulp, which is brown and yellow, is very juicy and smells very sweet. When it is not ripe, it is not edible because it contains a lot of sticky resin. There are two popular species of sapodilla grown in Vietnam: orange pulp and white-yellow pulp sapodilla. The orange pulp sapodilla is planted in the north on the highlands. The pulp of the white-yellow sapodilla is light yellow or yellow and the peel is green or yellow. The peel is thin; the pulp is soft and has taste of peach, banana, and apple. Sapodilla flower consecutively bloom in bunches so that it has fruits to offer throughout the year. +++

Mangoes and Green Mango

Mangoes come in many varieties. In Vietnam they are divided into several kinds, known locally as xoai cat, xoai tuong, xoai xiem and xoai ngua to cite just a few. The finest mangoes are xoai cat. This type of fruit has a bright yellow peel, a round shape, and weighs as much 0.5 kilograms. The meat is considered sweeter and more fragrant than that of other varieties. [Source: Sawadee.com +++]

The green mango is a hard, starchy, green version of a mango and is not a dessert like its sweet, yellow cousin. Instead, it is sour, and often used in main dishes and salads in Southeast Asia. The mango, and all its varieties, is native to Southeast Asia (notably Burma), and India. [Source:http://www.hotelclub.com/blog/10-must-try-exotic-fruits/

According to hotelclub.com: It’s possible to get fresh green mango from fruit stands almost any time of the year. It usually comes with salt or sugar to dip the pieces in. Look for a nice, green colour in your fruit. The unripe mango is rich in pectin, which is a soluble fiber that aids in intestinal regulation. Green mangoes are also rich in vitamin C (much more than ripe mangoes), and vitamins B1 and B2.

Persimmon

Persimmons are popular in China and Japan. In Southeast Asia they are associated most with the northern part of the region. Shiny, palm-sized, rounded orange persimmons are a surprising favourite of many visitors to Southeast Asia. They’re incredibly sweet, though best when peeled, as the skin can leave a dry, waxy residue on the tongue. Though it may be difficult to believe, the persimmon is actually a berry. [Source:http://www.hotelclub.com/blog/10-must-try-exotic-fruits/

According to hotelclub.com: Persimmons normally cost about a dollar each. Make sure the fruit is vibrant orange in colour and not bruised. It is usually stacked high at roadside stands, so be careful to pick one that won’t cause the whole stack to come tumbling down. Take special care not to eat an unripened persimmon, which is known to cause stomach problems that can require surgery. That being said, persimmons are renowned for their health benefits: they are excellent sources of fibre and vitamin A, and it is thought to have anti-cancer properties.

Vietnam has many kinds of persimmon such as my with yellow fruit and cado with small fruit. Persimmon is famous for providing a lot of sugar and vitamin A. Persimmon fruits contain as much vitamin C as oranges and tangerines, and their pulp does not have a sour taste. Persimmon can be either round or in the shape of a heart. Persimmon fruits are divided into two kinds: bitter and sweet. Bitter persimmon fruits are edible when they are green and hard, but is very sweet when the fruit is ripe. The fruit of sweet persimmon are always sweet, even when green and hard. In northern Vietnam, persimmons are grown widely; the most popular varieties include Lang persimmon in Lang Son and Hac persimmon in Hac Tri. In the south, persimmon can only be planted in the highlands of Dalat. In Oriental medicine, persimmons are considered effective in reducing high blood pressure and relieving abdominal pain. Persimmon trees can be trimmed into ornamental trees. When their leaves fall down, fruits still hang onto the branches

Papayas, Pineapples and Bananas

Pineapples are widely grown in Southeast Asia. The peak ripening time for this tropical fruit coincides with summer when the hours of sunshine are longer. People in southern Vietnam usually call this tropical fruit trai thom (fragrant fruit), based in part on the belief the sweet smell of the pineapples lingers longer than that of some other fruits, and is thus hard to forget. Pineapples are processed into different products such as canned pineapple, pineapple liquor, sweet preserved pineapple liquor, and sweet preserved pineapple. There is also a special juicy drink that exists only in pineapple growing areas. Growers press the fruit into a juice which is then mixed with the yoke of a hen's egg before being thoroughly stirred together to become a muddy drink. The drink is said to be very sweet, creamy, and nutritious.

Bananas are not only a delicious fruit when ripe. In Vietnam green bananas are also part of some dishes. Banana flower is mixed in delicious salads. Banana tree trunks, when young, can be eaten as a vegetable, and banana tree roots can be cooked with fish, or mixed in salads. Several banana varieties grow all over the country. In Vietnam Tieu bananas are the most popular kind; they are small and smell sweet when ripe. Ngu and Cau bananas are small with a thin peel. Tay bananas are short, big, and straight, and can be fried or cooked in meals. Tra Bot bananas are widely planted in the south; their peel is yellow or brown when ripe with a white pulp. When Tra Bot bananas are not ripe, they taste sour. In the Southeast, there are a lot of Bom bananas. They look like Cau bananas, but their peel is thicker and their pulp is not as sweet.

Papayas are sold all year round. Not very expensive, they have a sweet smell and are rich in various minerals and vitamins A and C. In the south, one of the popular varieties of papaya is red with a thick, fragrant pulp but not much sugar. This species is grown in the Mekong Delta region close to the Cambodian border. Another species of papaya available in the south has a yellow or orange peel. Papayas are not as abundant in the north. Because of the colder climate, fruits take a longer time to ripen.

Other Fruit

Carambola or Star fruit (Khe) come in the colors yellow, orange or green. Cut into cross sections to reveal its star shape. Eaten raw and finely sliced, the young star fruit has an acidic taste and is often served on a Vietnamese vegetable platter along with unripe, sliced banana.

Soursop (zurkal,, sirsak) is a fibrous fruit with s a warty, green-skinned fruit that cover a soft, juicy white pulp. You can peel it or slice it into segments. Soursop is shaped like a human heart and has a a tart, slightly lemony, custard-banana flavor. Some say they taste like mangosteens.

Woodapples are a tasty fruit inside a wood-like shell. Water apples are a pink bell-shaped fruit with a refreshing flesh. Salak is small and ear shaped and has brown snakeskin covering and tastes like a cross between an apple and a walnut. Peal of the skin to get at the fruit. each segment contains a large, brown seed.

Sawo is a brown-skin fruit that looks like a potato and has a honey-flavored flesh. Bitter melons from Southeast Asia are made into drinks and cooked and stuffed like peppers. Lamoht resemble big kiwis. Other fruits found in Southeast Asia include guanabanas, uvilla, Malay apples, pulasans and cherry-size plums.

Kumquats are popular in many parts of Asia. Chinese call them "golden oranges." More than 70 percent of China's citrus crop are mandarin oranges, which are smaller than regular oranges and have a thick easy-to-peel skin. Native to China, kumquats or cumquats are small edible fruits resembling oranges that grow in a tree related to the Citrus. As with most of the fruits in the Citrus family, the kumquats are eaten raw. They are often used in marmalade and jelly but also in alcoholic drinks such as liquor. The Taiwanese add it to their teas, while others boil it and use it as a remedy for sore throats. [Source:http://www.hotelclub.com/blog/10-must-try-exotic-fruits/

Palms

20120525-Palm_oil_production_in_Jukwa_Village Ghana.jpg
Palm oil production in
Jukwa Village Ghana
Next to grains and other grasses, palms are regarded as the most useful of all plants. They yield coconuts, palm oil, sugar, dates and materials that are used to make houses, boats, baskets, furniture and other things.

Some palms yield palm hearts, the tender, inner section or buds of the baby palm tree. Each palm tree has a single bud in the heart of the crown of the leaves that heart that can only be harvested if the palm is cut down. These buds are delicacies in Argentina and used in a curies and salads (sometimes called "millionaire's salads" because of the expense incurred by cutting down the tree). In some places it is called "cabbage" and is used as a salad vegetable. In other places it is pickled.

Palms grow primarily in tropical areas but are also found in the highlands of the Himalayas and the Andes, in mangrove swamps and in the desert. Members of a diverse plant group that also includes grasses and orchids, they range in height from six inches to 200 feet. Some palms are trees. Some are bushes. Rattan palms, which grow as a vine, can reach lengths of 600 feet or more.

Palm trees do not branch. They generate all their growth from a huge bud at the apex of the tree, which is called the palm heart. It produces leaf after leaf as the plant grows. The palm heart is often very tasty and animals like to eat it. If something happens to it the plant can die. Many palms have sharp spines for protection.

20120525-palm oil Oilpalm_malaysia.jpg
Palm oil palm in Malaysia
Palm trunk have a pith center but no bark or growth rings. Leaves called fonds fan out from a crown at the top. Some leaves are 30 to 45 feet long and 4 to 8 feet wide. African raffia palms have the world’s largest leaves, reaching 75 feet in length.

Palms bear flowers and fruit. The fruits have hard kernels containing tiny germs. Some kernels, such as dates, are surrounded by a fleshy pulp. The world’s largest seed, a double coconut from the Seychelles, comes from a palm. Most palms begin flowering when they five or six and mature when they are 10 to 15 years old. Some palms live 150 years or more.

PC is a disease that has devastated African oil palms in Columbia. PC stands for the Spanish words for “bud rot.” The disease is caused by a microorganism called phytophthora that attacks the soft growth matrix of the palm and this in turn attracts insects called palm weevils that bore into the tree, killing it. In recent years the PC microorganism has mutated into strains that spread much faster than before and can not be controlled by conventional means.

Toddies

20120525-Toddy_tapper_andhra.jpg
Toddy tapper
Toddies and hot toddies are rich and refreshing drinks made with sweet sap tapped straight from the stems and flowers of a mature toddy palms. The sap can be drunk fresh or it can be boiled down to form a kind of brown sugar called jaggery, a key ingredient in many Southeast and South Asian sweets. The "hot toddy" originally came from Burma.

Toddy liquid left to ferment for a several hours becomes toddy wine, which sells for about 25 cents a bottle and according to some tastes like Milk of Magnesia. It takes two bottles to get a decent buzz. These have to be consumed more or less right after they are purchased, after several hours toddy wine turns to sour toddy mush.

Palm wine---which in turn can be distilled into a potent spirit widely consumed in West Africa, Sri Lanka, India and Southeast Asia---comes from a palm tree as toddy. Toddy trees are prevented from bearing fruit by binding the open flowers and bending them over. The sap is extracted initially after three weeks and collected every month or so. A good toddy tree can yield 270 liters of sap a year.

Toddy Tappers

Toddy sap is collected once every three weeks or so by agile toddy tappers who climb the trees to collect the sap and sometimes move from tree to tree on lines like tight walkers, using a pair of ropes---one to walk on and the other to hold with their hands for balance.

To begin the tapping process a toddy tapper climbs a tree and beats the round fruit on the tree with a stick and later takes in stems and flowers of the tree to withdraw the sap. After that toddy tappers go from flower to flower every morning and evening with little pots.

Typically toddy tappers climb their trees with pot in the evening, tapping the tree overnight, and collect the pot the next day in a process not unlike collecting maple syrup, earning about $3.00 a day from collecting the tap from 16 trees. A good tapper can get a month's worth of sap from one flower. After the sap is collected it is boiled until it thickens and crystallizes into golf-ball-size lumps. Yeast is added to make inexpensive wine that is ready in a few hours to drink.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2014

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