Lifestyle



Did you manage to try some of the 20 locally produced fruits we mentioned in the Part 1 and Part 2?The following 10 fruits may not be new to your "fruit dictionary", but it does surprise many experienced fruit lovers that these fruit can be found in local farms around Hong Kong.

21. Custard Apple (番荔枝)
Also called “Sugar-pineapple” or “Sugar Apple”, it is grown from small deciduous trees of origin in South America. It is available all year round, but it is normally harvested twice a year. Its leaves are collected during summer and autumn, while its roots are collected throughout the year. Its segmented flesh is sweet, white to light yellow, and resembles and tastes like custard.

Custard apple has many varieties, with “Sakya” as one of the most popular choices. Its name is derived by the Taiwanese based on its resemblance of Sakyamuni’s head at the top. Some newer varieties can reach up to 1 pound in size and has non-segmented flesh and small seeds.

In terms of nutrition, custard apple has a higher amount of potassium than bananas and more calories than other regular tropical fruit. In Chinese medicine, its flesh, leaves and roots are all good for clearing internal heat and resolving sore toxin, but it is not good for people with kidney problems.

22. Strawberry (草莓)
Rich in vitamin C, containing whitening effects and with reducing effects of wrinkles and acne, it is the best natural beauty enhancer. At a price of roughly HKD $30/box, the organic strawberries grown in Hong Kong are especially sweet and affordable. They can be easily picked from local farms between the end of December and early summer, with ripening periods peak in March and April. But beware, not all locally grown strawberries are organic, as some pick-your-own farms in Hong Kong use pesticides and grow by transplanting seedlings from Mainland China.

For those who are health conscious, looking at the shape and texture of the strawberries is the easiest way to distinguish from organic and regular strawberries. Organic strawberries are small and heart-shaped with a sweet and sour taste. Regular strawberries from Mainland China are not heart-shaped, hard to the touch and hollow in the middle due to use of antibiotics and fertilizer.

23. Mulberry (桑椹)
An ancient fruit of Asia, it is a naturally sweet fruit that looks like blackberry. It is very juicy when fresh, and is often made into juice, fruit jam or dried treats. Their natural sweetness is simply delicious with many health benefits.

Mulberry has been used for medicinal purposes in China for thousands of years. According to traditional Chinese medicine, mulberry has slightly cold properties that can help tone the kidneys, nourish blood, quench thirst and moisten the intestines. Its nutrients, protein and antioxidants are especially beneficial for those who have premature grey hair and insomnia. However, for those who have diarrhea with spleen deficiency, they must eat with caution.

Other than the fruit itself, the entire mulberry plant has many health-promoting abilities. In traditional Chinese medicine, the mulberry leaf can expel wind and clear internal heat with abilities to stop wind-heat fever, chills and sweating. As mulberry twigs can dispel wind-dampness and clear the collateral channels, it is often used for treating spasms and rheumatic pain. Mulberry root and bark can suppress coughs and reduce wheezing. Mulberry mistletoe stems can expel wind-dampness, nourish blood and calm the womb.

24. Ping-pong or Phoenix Eye Fruit (蘋婆)
Originated in South China with a formal name “Sterculia monosperma”, it grows in evergreen trees called Noble bottle trees. Its size is as big as dove eggs, with 1 to 5 edible black seeds that taste like chestnuts after they’re peeled. When ripe, the pods wrapping the seeds will turn into a striking red color and crack open like a phoenix opening its eyes. With a ripening time usually at the end of summer, the seeds are commonly eaten plain, roasted, boiled with water and salt, or cooked with other ingredients.

In Chinese cuisine, Ping-pong seeds can be cooked in frog stew for moistening and tonification effects. They can also be served as vegetarian soup by adding lotus, lily flowers, white fungus and yams.

25. Jackfruit (菠蘿蜜)
Originated in the rainforests of India and Malaysia, it is grown in tall evergreen trees with genus of the mulberry family. It is the largest seasonal tree-born fruit that weighs as much as 20 kilograms and ripens between July and September. Fresh ripe jackfruit has a mild sweet and sour flavour, with a pleasant aroma like pineapple and caramel. Seeds from the ripe fruit are edible after being cooked in hot water.

Jackfruit is also widely used in Chinese medicine. With cooling properties, consumption of the pulp can dissolve internal heat, aid digestion and regenerate body fluids. Its seeds can help boost energy and help mothers produce more breast milk. Its milky sap is also used for relieving swelling, pain, and eczema.

26. Pineapple (鳳梨/菠蘿)
A tropical fruit that is native to South America, it is cultivated from a crown cutting of the fruit that flourishes in 15 – 25 months. It is normally consumed fresh, canned, juiced and in a wide array of food dishes. In Chinese culture, pineapple is sometimes consumed with salt to reduce its astringent flavour and bring out the sweetness. It is also often stir fried with meat to obtain its high fiber content.

Fresh pineapple is known for its bromelain content, which is good for breaking down protein and putrefactive substances in the intestines. It has the best aroma and taste when it is fresh, stiff with wide bottom in yellow color and dark-green color on the top. It is best to harvest at its peak ripening, because it doesn’t contain starch that will turn to sugar for sweetening the fruit. However, at peak ripening, the texture will become tender, making it a delicate item for transportation. Because of that, most imported pineapples are harvested early when it’s still green, which is less sweet and less aromatic in taste.

27. Watermelon (西瓜)
Originally from Africa, it is one of the most popular fruit in Hong Kong during the summer months. Containing 90% water by weight, watermelon helps relieve summer heat and quench thirst. With numerous varieties, the seedless versions invented by the Japanese remains the most popular in Hong Kong. “Yellow Crimson”, a yellow-colored flesh watermelon, has also become popular locally in recent years.

Watermelon has many health benefits. Its red flesh is a significant source of lycopene that can inhibit the formation of melanin. It is commonly added in Asian cosmetic products, where the Chinese highly demand its function of fading dark spots on their skin. Watermelon is also diuretic and rich in citrulline, which can help expand blood vessels, improve blood circulation and prevent kidney and heart disease. Its citrulline content is highest in the rinds, so it is very common to include rinds in Chinese soup or turn rinds into dried, pickled or candied treats.

28. Muskmelon (香瓜)
With many cultivated varieties of muskmelons imported into Hong Kong, the most common ones are honeydew, textured cantaloupe and canary melon. Honeydew is the sweetest among all with smooth skin and flesh in pale green color. Textured cantaloupe is less sweet and has a net-liked skin with pulp in orange color. Canary melon is a yellow-colored melon that tastes like cantaloupe but with firmer and yellow flesh; it is often coined as the papaya cantaloupe in Chinese since it shaped like a medium papaya.

Other than honeydew, cantaloupe and canary melon, local farms in Hong Kong also grow other varieties including white merry melon and snow leopard honeydew melon, which has white-colored sweet flesh and skin.

29. Papaya (木瓜)
Available all year round, its supply is highest locally between May and September. Native to southern America, there are two common types: one has sweet, red-orange flesh and the other has yellow flesh. According to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department of Hong Kong, 40% of Hong Kong’s papaya plantations are cultivated using genetically modified varieties.

In Chinese culture, papaya is known for its benefits in stimulating breast milk production. It is also good for the stomach and often eaten fresh or cooked as soup or desserts.

30. Pomelo (柚)
Pomelo is a citrus fruit of an evergreen tree that is native to China, Thailand and Malaysia. Its yield and quality is best when the tree is about 40 years old. It is usually pale green to yellow when ripe, with sweet white flesh. Its ripening period is between September and October, and normally harvested when they are still green. For a softer and sweeter taste, it is best to eat them when fully ripe, usually seven to ten days after harvest. Its floral taste is also greatest when the fruit is small with thinner skin.

Pomelo is an essential festival food during the mooncake festival. A wide variety of pomelo can be found locally including “Wentan pomelo”, “Shatin pomelo”, “Pingshan pomelo”, “Sijipao pomelo” and “Dahongpao pomelo”. “Shatin pomelo” is the most famous, as it has the sweetest juice and is widely cultivated in Guangxi province.

According to Chinese medicine, it has cold properties and is used to regenerate body fluids, quench thirst and stimulate appetite. It is also good for keeping the adverse “Qi” or energy flowing, removing phlegm and relieving coughs. Its fresh fruit juice is often added to tea to lower blood sugar levels.

Keep in mind that most of these fruit are available through imports. It can be tough to differentiate between local harvest and imports. Make a reference with the Seasonal Fruit Chart below and request for the local harvest next time you visit your neighborhood fruit stands! Bon appétit !



Chinese Content is an excerpt of Ophelia Chan's book "真味良食"