The weather is warming up and fruit season is upon us! One great thing about living in China is access to all the fresh fruit you can dream of – and many you wouldn’t even think of. Perusing the fruit stalls can be a bit intimidating if your prior experience is limited to the basics of Western grocery stores. Sure, China has your usual apples, oranges, and pears, but why not take advantage of its more fun and exotic options? Read on for some of the most unique, best tasting fruit China has to offer. Fruit salad will never be the same again!
1) Yangmei 杨梅
A native fruit of the Yangtze River Delta region, you’ll find these knobby little balls sold all over China at fruit stalls or hawked on the streets. About the size of a golf ball, Yangmei is also sometimes referred to as a “Chinese bayberry” and is typically a deep, ruby red (although technically you can find varieties that range from dark purple to white). Either way, the taste is intense and not for everyone - immediately sweet, but with a surprisingly tart follow up. Just be careful of the pit – it is quite large, about half the size of the actual fruit, and can be an unpleasant surprise if you’re not expecting it!
2) Durian 榴莲
A fruit that needs no introduction, chances are you’ve heard of – or at least smelled – this spiky, greenish brown “treat.” Usually hailing from Hainan or Hong Kong, durians are quite large in size. You can either purchase the whole fruit or packaged slices of it on the street. Once you get rid of the unwelcoming rind, the flesh has an oddly creamy texture to it. Taste, however, is often forgotten in favour of smell when talking about the durian, and for good reason. At times described as “smelly feet” or “body odor,” the stench can be overwhelming (in areas where durian is popular, you will often find signs in hotels and on public transportation vehicles declaring them “durian-free” zones). Luckily, its actual flavour is not quite so severe, but people still often prefer to eat the fruit mixed in a pastry or otherwise diluted.
3) Dragon Fruit 火龙果
Easily one of the most distinctive fruits on display in Chinese stalls, dragon fruit has a beautiful green and pink flesh layered almost like an artichoke (only much, much bigger). For having such a bright and colorful skin, it is a bit shocking to find that inside lies snow white flesh with poppyseed-sized black seeds. Dragon fruit comes from a cactus but is free of any thorns, which makes it much easier to eat! It is a bit ironic that, for all its beauty and eye-catching good looks, this fruit doesn’t actually have a whole lot of flavour to it. Mildly sweet, it is high in vitamin C and fiber, which makes it a healthy (if not overly exciting) option.
4) Longan 龙眼
A cousin to the ever-popular lychee, longans taste very similar – both are incredibly sweet. Peel off the rough brown shell to reveal the soft white innards – just be careful of the seed. Although dried longans, which are much darker in colour, are often used in soup, most often you will see them at the fruit stands or canned in their own juices. Largely grown in the Guangdong and Guangxi area, these juicy fruits are supposed to aid in relaxation, so it might not hurt to keep a couple of kilos around the house!
Also known as “shaddock,” you’ll probably hear Chinese refer to this simply as “grapefruit” – and the grapefruit we think of in the West as “Western grapefruit” (confusing, I know). Don’t be fooled, however, as pomelos are much sweeter than their oft bitter Western counterparts. Of course, this all depends on whether or not you buy a ripe one. Pick ones that are heavy and have a soft area in the bottom but are otherwise fairly firm. Yellow or green in colour, these small volleyball-sized fruits should be peeled to reveal an inner, white peel. This peel can then be opened and the actual fruit sucked out.
6) Winter Jujube 冬枣
Often referred to as “Chinese dates,” you’ll often find the dried variety in convenience stores. Dried winter jujubes tend to have a crispy, almost stale texture to them, so I personally recommend eating these guys fresh. About the size of a walnut, these red and green fruits are mildly sweet and highly addictive – just watch out for the seed in the center. If you need any other incentive other than their delicious taste, winter jujubes are also beneficial to your health, in particular your stomach, lungs, kidneys, and circulatory system.
Looking a bit like fancified plums, mangosteens are gorgeous on the inside and the outside. Dark, rich purple with jaunty caps of green on top, peel or bite into one to reveal the naturally sectioned white flesh that vaguely resembles grapefruit slices. The fruit itself is extremely juicy, making this one of the messier fruits to eat on the go, but its sweetness and softness make it worth the hassle. If you’re willing to eat the rind along with the inner fruit, you’ll be helping yourself prevent the effects of aging and cancer. Not bad for a simple fruit.
8) Hawthorn Berries 山楂
You’re more likely to see these berries strung along on a bamboo skewer than at the fruit stands, but they’re delicious and nutritious all the same. A traditional Beijing snack, although you can certainly find them all over China, the hawthorn berries (technically known as “haws”) are coated in liquid sugar that hardens into a crispy shell. In the winter time, you can also find a variation on this minus the skewers, plus an extra dusting of powdery sugar that make these downright addictive. Hawthorn berries have long been known to strengthen the cardiovascular system, and are used in traditional Chinese medicine (without the sugar, of course) as an aid for digestion to this day.
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Keywords: weird fruit China Chinese fruit unique fruit China guide to China’s fruit
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China has incredible fruit! Especially Guangxi. One way to tell when the mangosteens are at their optimum ripeness is when the 'cap' can be easily twisted off, thus exposing the white fruits inside. But I don't think I'd eat the rind. Very bitter!
May 13, 2011 09:23 Report Abuse
I quite liked the crushed sugar cane[ hardly a fruit]
Finding vendors who juice some of these fruits is worthwhile. I'm a lychee fan, but the window of opportunity is limited for them as in my own country, Australia, where most of these fruits are also grown.
Dragon eyes are a good substitute for Lychees. Imagine my surprise when I found I was growing them, as yet without fruit. Here dragon eyes grow on Longan trees.
May 01, 2011 05:17 Report Abuse
Replying to my own post from way back, the above fruits are wonderful but not "weird". I grow more than 50% of them in my sub tropical garden, but protect them against frost. The rest [ like mangosteen, Randall you dont eat the rind] are common in the Australian tropics. Lychees are my favourite fruit with Dragon eyes a good substitute. I grow both.
Aug 20, 2013 08:21 Report Abuse