Summer's sweet harvest
YP cadet Pearl Chan
Hong Kong's climate is friendly to fruit trees, and so Hongkongers have many fruits to choose from, besides those we import. However, while imported fruit is available all year round, fruits that are native to Hong Kong and the southern mainland can be seasonal. Here are some native summer fruits and others to look out for in the coming months:
May to November
Better known as dragon fruit, the pitaya has spiky skin that looks like a dragon's. Its flesh is pale white, and it has small, black, crunchy, edible seeds. It is mildly sweet but can taste bland if unripe. Cut the fruit down the middle and scoop out the flesh, chop it into little cubes and eat it. The flowers of the pitaya plant, which belongs to the cactus family, bloom only at night and are known as moon flowers.
May to July
Plums have deep-purple skin that is thin and smooth. The seed is large, dark and not edible. The sweet flesh is juicy and a deep purple or red when ripe. Apart from being eaten whole, plums are also eaten dried as prunes, which some use as a laxative.
May to September
Peaches have fuzzy, pinkish or orangey skin. The flesh is easy to bite into and juicy when ripe. Some people like to eat a peach just as it is getting ripe, when it is less sweet but more crunchy.
July to earlyAugust
Litchis are best during the second week of July and are widely available in Hong Kong around that time. They have spiky, red skin and fleshy, jelly-like insides with a small seed. The taste is distinctive - sweet and slightly sour. In Chinese medicine, litchis are 'heaty', and eating too many can lead to a sore throat.
Late July to October
The longan is a small fruit with sandy-brown skin and soft, juicy flesh that is sweet and a little sour. The seed is large and black and gives it its name, which means dragon's eye in Chinese. It is eaten after the litchi, with a brief overlapping period, right up to the Mid-Autumn Festival. Dried, it is used in many dishes of Chinese cuisine. For instance, it can be added to hot water with dried dates to make Chinese medicinal tea.
August to October
A pomelo is about the size of a child's head. It may look like a grapefruit, but it doesn't have the strange, bittersweet taste that grapefruits have. Its skin is thick, green and inedible, even when ripe. However, the white, fibrous, second layer of skin is edible. It is a Mid-Autumn Festival dinner table staple. The fruit's name is derived from the Sha Tin village where a Ming dynasty farmer bred it. It is used in the dessert mango pomelo sago (yeung zi kam lo), invented in Hong Kong in the 1980s.
September to December
Persimmons are not quite spherical fruits with dark green leaves on top. The thin, orange skin and leaves are not usually eaten, but the rest of the fruit is up for grabs! The flesh is jelly-like, deep orange in colour and tastes tangy and sweet. There can also be stringy, fibrous bits in the flesh. The fruit has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years in China. It has auspicious qualities and is eaten throughout the autumn months. In Greek mythology, it was the fruit of the gods on Mount Olympus.