One of the lasting impressions created by my trip to Thailand during June and July, 1988, is the Thais' great love and enjoyment of fruit, a love that I would like to see created amongst all Australians. At all times of the day you will see someone eating fruit. Fruit is often served after a meal instead of a dessert.
Upon arrival in Bangkok, a preliminary impression of fruit that is in season can be gained at two large markets. Piles of neatly arranged fruit and vegetables will be seen at Klong Toey market, near the port, and the Farmers Market, Bangsue, near the famous Chatuchah Weekend Market. The visitor will be given an impression of quality and price that can be expected in other parts of Thailand.
Fruits observed, including major cultivars, their external and internal characteristics will be discussed. Interesting cultural details will be included. The Thai name, in brackets, follows the English name for each fruit.
Durian (Turian). Durians are grown in the Central Plains area and near Chantaburi (12º50'N), Eastern Thailand, in the wet humid tropics. Mon Tong, a cultivar regarded by many as the best, has a weight between 2 to 5 kgs. and is elongated with the base having a pronounced beak. A mature fruit can be determined by its odour and golden yellow-brown external appearance. Flesh is creamy yellow and sweet. Mon Tong were selling for 50 Baht per kg. Current exchange rate was $AUS 1 = 18 Baht. Other cultivars include Chanee Ganyaow, and Gob Mataow. Fruiting season is from May to August.
The Thais have given the label "King of the Fruits" to the durian.
Grape (Angune). White Malaga appears to be the main cultivar and is grown in the delta region around Bangkok (13°45'N). It is a yellow-green coloured oval fruit occurring in large bunches and is extremely sweet. Fruit is available all year, but is particularly abundant between September and April. Cardinal is another major cultivar.
Guava (Farang). Guava is grown widely in Thailand. Klom Sali is the major cultivar. It is spheroidal, about 200 to 300 grams, and is yellowish-green when mature. The flesh is white, crisp and sweet, but with a very slight sour taste. Thais usually eat guava when it is crisp rather than being eaten ripe. Commonly, they cut the fruit into slices and dip it into a sugar and chilli mixture (this is also done with green mango).
Jakfruit (Kahnune). Jakfruit is widely grown throughout Thailand. There are many cultivars and they can be separated into two main groups based on their flesh colour. The most widely grown types are the yellow flesh group, which is ovate or oblong in shape, average weight between 7 to 15 kgs., has fragrant, thick, golden-yellow flesh. The second group is the yellow-orange fleshed group which has similar characteristics to the first group, except the flesh is thinner and yellow-orange in colour. Fruit is commonly available between January to May.
Langsat (Langsat). Two types are commonly available between July and October. Langsat is spheroidal, skin colour is green in immature fruit, turning yellow when it is mature. A white and sticky sap exudes from the thin skin. The flesh is white and the green seed should not be bitten because it is bitter. It has a sweet and slightly sour taste. The second type, Long-gong, has similar characteristics to Langsat, except the skin is thicker, and it has a smaller amount of sap from the skin which is not sticky. The flesh is sweet and fragrant.
Lychee (Lin - chee). Are mainly grown in northern Thailand between Chiang Mai, Lamphun and Fang (18°47'N to 19°50'N). They are mainly found at an elevation of between 300 to 600 metres. This region has a monsoonal climate with a very distinct dry season. Lychees are also grown in an area to the north and south-west of Bangkok. This area is very humid and has a high rainfall and cultivars that will flower in the tropics are grown here. Fruit is available from April to June, and prices range from 20 to 25 Baht per kg.
The main cultivars grown in northern Thailand are
(i) Hong Huay (synonym of Tai So), an oval-shaped fruit with pinkish red skin and sweet and slightly sour taste, a regular bearer at Chang Mai.
(ii) Kim Jang - a very large globular fruit, bright red skin with a sweet taste.
(iii) Oh Hia (synonym of Haak Yip), a heart-shaped, thick-fleshed sweet fruit with a dark red skin. It is an alternate bearer at Chang Mai.
Chacopat, a very large-fruited cultivar, grown near Bangkok, were selling for 200 Baht per kg in late June.
Longan (Jamyai). Longans are mainly grown in northern Thailand in the Chang Mai, Lamphun and Prae districts (10 - 19°N) at an altitude of 300 m. Daw, the earliest cuitivar, ripening late June to early July, is a heavy and consistent bearer. The shape of the fruit is a flattened sphere, brown skin and sweet white flesh. See Champoo is a mid-season cultivar, available from mid-July to early August. Shape is globular, with a reddish brown skin and a sweet scented pink flesh. This cultivar is regarded as one of the best. Biew Kiew ripens late. August to early September, is globular, but the top is distorted. It has a brownish-green skin with a white, sweet and scented flesh. It is also highly regarded.
Heavy crops are obtained approximately once every three years. The 1988 season was an 'on' year. One eighty-year-old seedling tree at Lamphun south of Chang Mai, had over one tonne of fruit on it! A longan festival occurs in Lamphun during the first week of August. Tong Dum, or seedling types, were selling for 15 Baht per kg., whilst Daw was selling for 20 Baht per kg., in the local Markets.
Mango (Ma-muang). Most mango production occurs in the north and north-east, an area receiving monsoon rainfall. Some very large orchards which are geared for export production occur near Chang Mai. Fruit is available from March to June.
Keow Savoy is oblong-shaped with dark green skin. The fruit is eaten when the flesh is white and is sweet and juicy. Ngar Charng is oblong with a curved and tapering tip. The skin and flesh when ripe is a light yellow colour. Flesh is sweet and scented. Nam Dok Mai, regarded as the major cultivar, is ovate with a sharp pointed tip. When the fruit is ripe it has a golden yellow skin with a sweet, scented deep-yellow flesh. Tong Dum is ovate with a rounded tip and when ripe the skin and flesh is yellow-orange and sweet. Out of season Nam Dok Mai in late June sold for 100 Baht per kg.
Mangosteen (Mahng-hoot). Mangosteen is grown in southern and eastern Thailand. Large orchards are found in the Chantaburi region. There are no named cultivars as all trees are of seedling origin and come true-to-type. They are available from May to September and cost approximately 25 Baht per kg. in markets.
Papaya (Malagar). Widely grown throughout Thailand and available throughout the year. There are two major cultivars. Kaeg dahm is cylindrical with a pointed tip. The skin is red-orange when ripe and the flesh is red, firm and sweet. Kaeg-nuan is cylindrical with a yellow skin and sweet yellow-orange flesh when ripe. Green papaya are widely used as a vegetable.
Pummelo (Som-o). Grown in southern and eastern Thailand. Some of the main cultivars are:
(i) Khao Hom - globe-shape, yellow-green skin, white, sweet and scented flesh.
(ii) Khao Nampheung - pear-shaped, yellow-green skin, yellow-white sweet flesh.
(iii) Khao Pan - flattened globe-shape, yellow-green skin, white, sweet and slightly sour flesh.
(iv) Khao Phuang - pear-shaped with a pronounced top knot at the base, yellow-green skin, yellow-white, sweet and slightly sour flesh.
(v) Khao Thongdee - globe-shaped, dark green and smooth skin, pink, sweet and juicy flesh. Fruit is available from August to November.
Rambutan (Ngo Phruan). Mainly grown in the southern province of Suratanee and the eastern provinces, Chantaburi and Rayong. These regions are humid, high rainfall, tropical zones.
The industry is based on two cultivars:
(1) Rongrien - ovate shape, bright red colour with the end of the hairs being green. Flesh is white and sweet.
(ii) See Chompoo - ovate shape, pink colour which includes the hairs. Flesh is white and sweet.
Rambutan is trucked throughout Thailand. Average price is 8 Baht per kg.
Sapodilla (Lamood). Widely grown in Thailand, there are two major cultivars.
(i) Kra Suay - spindle-shaped, brown skin with a sweet, reddish-brown flesh.
(ii) Makok - ovate shape, brown skin with sweet, reddish-brown flesh.
Sugar Apple (Noi-na). Widely grown in the north east region, Lopburi, Saraburi and Nahom provinces. Two major types are recognized.
(1) Foi - heart-shaped, skin colour in mature fruit is green and does not come off easily, flesh is white, sweet and scented.
(ii) Nahng - heart-shaped, skin colour in mature fruit is a golden yellow and comes off easily, flesh is white, sweet and scented.
Sugar apples are selling in the markets for 15 Baht per kg.
I strongly suggest that those who are interested in growing rare fruits aim to visit Thailand. You will not only be educated about Thai horticulture, but your taste buds will be tantalised. Thai food becomes addictive, the culture is extremely interesting and Thais are friendly and peaceful people.
DATE: January 1990
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