Living in Hong Kong, we can enjoy delicious fruit throughout the whole year. When you go to any supermarket or wet market, it’s hard not to notice the sweet fragrance coming from the colorful fruit stands. With over 20-80 different varieties of fruit, these types of fruit have travelled thousands of miles from their original hometown and are waiting to be part of our delightful snacks.
The consistent supply of global produce has granted us a year-round supply of delicious fruit, yet it has spoiled our conscience in appreciating seasonal produce.
Fruit and produce taste best when they are in season – they are much richer in taste and often taste different from those technologically preserved flavors. Here are 10 types of fruit that are grown in Hong Kong or in neighboring areas in southern China. Ask for these produce at your local grocers during their ripe seasons and enjoy the best of the fruity flavors!
|1. Orange (柳橙)
Available all year round with peak supplies between October and April, oranges are the No. 1 selling fruit in Hong Kong. They are especially popular among older generations, because it is widely known by elders as a vitamin C source that can prevent and alleviate symptoms of cold and flu. The sales rate remains high, even though in recent years other fruit have been promoted for their health benefits. For example, guava, lemon and papaya are now also known for their high Vitamin C content.
|2. Mandarin Orange (柑 / 橘)
As one of the common citrus fruit produced in Chaozhou City or Xinhui District in southern China, mandarin orange is a variant of orange that is much smaller, tender and sweeter in taste. They are usually available around October, with peak seasons between December and Spring Festival. They are also widely available during Chinese New Year, since its pronunciation “kam” translates to gold in the Cantonese dialect.
Other than being auspicious, the dried peels of the mandarin oranges are also considered a valuable medicinal herb in Asia. The dried peels called “chen pi” contain tangeretin and nobiletin, which are citrus flavonoids known for strong properties in anti-inflammatory, blood vessel strengthening and cough reduction. They are widely used in Chinese medicine to fight off coughs, colds and asthma. Its cure is much greater when they are stored longer before being used – the older the peels, the more precious they are.
|3. Lemon (檸檬)
Containing the most Vitamin C among all citrus fruits, it is a popular fruit added to drinks (e.g. iced lemon tea) in Hong Kong. The two common varieties planted in Hong Kong are Chinese lemons and Western lemons. Chinese lemons have thick, firm skin and a long body, while Western organic lemons are much smaller in size, like the Sicilian lemons. They are usually harvested locally in August and September.
|4. Mango (芒果)
With hundred of varieties, from plum-sized fruits to those much larger in size like a small melon, mango is a seasonal fruit that has been made available all year round in southern China. Normally eaten fresh, it is one of the most trendy, nutritionally rich fruit for various Chinese cuisine, including appetizers, desserts, drinks and even savory dishes. Its level of nutrients varies depending on mango varieties, but they all contain high levels of beta-carotene that can help improve rough, flaky skin and boost immune system.
|5. Banana (香蕉)
As one of the oldest cultivated herbaceous perennial, it is a fruit native to Southeast Asia. It is also one of the largest fruit produced globally with many varieties. The most popular types grown in Hong Kong include “Plantain banana”, “Cavendish Banana”, “Lung Ya chiao”, “Thai banana”, and “Baby banana”.
In Chinese tradition, Plantain Banana is believed to have more vital energy and benefits due to its wet property, therefore it is a favourite type grown in many villages of New Territories, Hong Kong. Local farms usually harvest Plantain bananas when they are green between June and October.
In general, bananas process a cold property in Chinese medicine that is good for the stomach. It helps produce body fluids, reduce internal heat and moisten intestines. Rich in potassium, bananas can maintain the human cell functions and the body’s acid-base balance, improve cardiac function, lower blood pressure and soothe the nerves.
|6. Lychee (荔枝)
Native to southern China, it is a summer fruit that is grown on evergreen trees with no more than 10m in height. It is usually harvested between May and July. Numerous lychee cultivars are found in the Guangdong province. They are very sweet with a floral smell and are often added in many different dessert dishes.
In traditional Chinese medicine, lychee is known for its “heat” property for giving internal heat, so one should not consume this fruit excessively. It is advised not to consume more than 9 pieces daily. Its delicate whitish fresh pulp can be good for boosting energy and improving blood circulation. It can also help to strengthen the immune system and improve spleen deficiency, which causes chronic diarrhea.
|7. Longan (龍眼)
Native to China and India, Longan grows in evergreen trees with ages up to 80 – 100 years old. It is a popular summer fruit in Hong Kong with ripening periods in July and August. Most Longans in Hong Kong are imported and of a variety named “Fuyan” that is large in fruit size, with small seed and thick pulp. In local pick-your-own farms, one can also find a variety that is small in fruit size with big seeds. These small organic longans are produced from old trees with pulp that is more aromatic and refreshing in taste.
Much like the lychee, longan is thought to give internal “heat” and one should not consume it excessively. According to Chinese medicine, it can be used to enhance the heart and spleen, nourish the nerves and strengthen the body after illness. It can also be used for treating neurasthenia, forgetfulness, insomnia, heart palpitations, anemia and menorrhagia.
|8. Loquat (枇杷)
Originally from Southern China, it is available during late winter or early spring. It is commonly consumed fresh or as jam, jelly or light syrup. It is widely known for its ability to quench thirst and sooth the throat, therefore it is a popular ingredient for cough drops or syrup. Packed with beta-carotene, malic acid, citric acid, vitamin B1 and vitamin C, loquat has the ability to eliminate fatigue, prevent colds and beautify skin. It can also help remove phlegm and relieve coughs when cooked as a soup, together with Chinese almonds and fritillary bulbs. Another simple trick is to mix it in hot water with honey.
|9. Wampee (黃皮)
Native to southern China, it is formerly known as “Clausena lansium”. Grown in strongly scented evergreen trees in small grape-like clusters, wampee ripens during June and July in many Hong Kong local farms. With a flavour slightly different among the varieties, its sweet and sour flesh is commonly used in Chinese medicine. Wampee pulp can help remove phlegm and promote digestion, and can be fermented for use in strengthening the stomach. The leaves, roots and seeds of wampee also have other medicinal values, making it a highly regarded fruit.
|10. Indian gooseberry (油甘子)
Formerly known as “Phyllanthus emblica”, it grows in grape-like clusters in deciduous trees with tree heights normally 1 – 3 metres high. The berries are about 1.5 cm diameter in size and have light greenish yellow color that turns red when ripened. With a sweet and sour aftertaste, they are normally eaten fresh or as salted or preserved form.
In terms of traditional Chinese medicine, Indian gooseberry is known to have a cold property for clearing internal heat and relieving sore throat. It can help moisten lungs, stop coughs and treat diabetes. The leaves of the Indian gooseberry are also used as medicinal treatment in relieving dampness, diuretic therapy, edema and eczema. The leaves are collected during summer and early fall while the fruit is harvested during autumn and winter.
I will introduce more fruit that is grown in Hong Kong, or in neighboring areas in the southern China in <a a="" coming articles.