Last year, I wrote a short blog with pictures about How to Eat Dragon Fruit. It proved to be quite popular with people searching on Google. The bright pink fruit is not native to Thailand and can be found in other regions of the world. I enjoy eating this fruit though in the supermarkets of Bangkok it can be expensive at about 40 to 60 baht a kilo depending on the time of year. The main season is May to October when you will find it at a cheaper price.
One of the main growing regions for dragon fruit in Thailand is Chanthaburi where I am now. We were driving down the road yesterday when I spotted this dragon fruit orachard. The fruit doesn’t grow on a tree but on a cactus that likes to grow up a wall or a pillar as in this picture.
The cactus has a bright yellow flower that I am told only fully flowers at night-time. By morning it starts to wilt as you can see here. This then develops into the green fruit which you can see in the picture below. Finally it turns red when it is nearly ready to harvest. In town I saw them selling this fruit for 10-15 baht a kilo.
I haven’t made an effort to grow one yet though I will try when I get back. There are apparently two options. One is to grow from a cutting of the cactus. The second way is to use the black seeds inside the fruit. It should be fairly easy to find this plant in town but I will also try growing from seed. Check out our Thai Food Forums for updates and also the latest pictures of my effort to grow pineapple and lemon grass.
The peak season for Mangosteen in Thailand is between May and June. This is a good time as the price is relatively cheap at only 20-25 baht a kilos. Which is less than US$1. The mangosteen starts of being green and then turns deep purple as it ripens. It is about the size of a small apple. However, you cannot eat it in the same way nor do you peel it like an orange. The easiest way is to careful cut around the diameter with a sharp knife, being careful not to pierce the fruit inside. Then you just twist the two sides apart. Inside you can see the white succulent fruit. It looks a bit like cloves of garlic but of course much softer. The number of segments vary. You can always find out how many there are inside before cutting it open. Just count the number of petals on the bottom of the mangosteen. Having six small segments is better than four fat segments. This is because the bigger ones are more likely to contain a seed which you shouldn’t eat. The taste of the mangosteen is sweet though it can be a little sour if you bite into the seed by mistake.
Some people believe that the thick skin has medicinal uses. In Thailand, there is a popular soap made from mangosteen skin that is good for skin infections. There is also a tea that is supposed to help diarrhea and bladder infections. Other laboratory tests have shown that the skin may have anti-cancer benefits as well as being anti-inflammatory and antifungal. However, be very careful when you cut open the mangosteen. The skin contains a dye that is difficult to wash out of your clothes. Like an apple, once cut open, you should eat within five minutes as it will start to discolour. The next time you have an opportunity, try some mangosteen. You won’t be disappointed.
Thai name: มังคุค
The rambutan is one of my favurite fruit that can be bought in Thailand. It is actually grown all over South-East Asia but here it grows in places like Chantaburi, Rayong and Trad in the East. It is a very distinctive looking fruit with its hairy outer skin. There are two varieties you can buy here: Rong Rien and Si Chompoo. The latter one is in the bottom right of this picture with the pink hairs. The taste is sweet and very succulent. It has a high sugar content as well as Vitamin C. It is also quite cheap. I bought these for 20 baht a kilogram. Or it is 45 baht for a can which also has syrup.
To prepare rambutan for eating is very easy. If I am outside, I might use my fingernail to make a small cut in the skin. Then holding each end, slightly squeeze and twist. At home you should probably use a sharp knife to make the cut. You don’t need to cut all around as the skin comes off easily. For presentation, it is best to only take off one half like in this picture. However, don’t cut the fruit in half like I did in the top right of this picture. I just did that to show you the seed. This is not edible and some people say it can be poisonous. Though you can apparently eat if it is roasted. It is a narcotic though. Often when I eat rambutan the seed will stick to the flesh. So I have to eat around it. However, when I buy rambutan when I go down to Rayong for a beach holiday, the seed comes out easily. This is because it is freshly picked from the tree. The ones we get in Bangkok are beginning to be too ripe. If the hairs change to black then it is starting to go off. Once it is cut open, I keep it in a container in the fridge for 3 or 4 days.
Thai name: เงาะ
Another one of those unusual fruits that you can buy while on holiday in Thailand is the Star Fruit, otherwise known as Carambola. It is oval-shaped and has 3 to 5 ridges along its length. It is light green in colour but turns yellow when it ripens. When cut in cross section it provides you with a star shape, hence the name. The fruit is easy to prepare. You need to cut off the tough ridges with a peeler and then slice off each end. Then cut into slices. The thickness is up to you. Other than the ridges, the skin is alright to eat. There are some seeds inside which should be removed first. It is nice and juicy and is probably best served chilled. Though if you put it in the refrigerator you need to cover it. The fruit is a good source of Vitamin C and has less than 30 calories per fruit. At my local supermarket it is a little expensive at 65 baht per kilo. This is about US$2. You will probably find it cheaper down the market. Try something different the next time you are in Thailand.
Thai name: มะเฟือง (ma-feuang)
When travelling in exotic countries, the food and fruit is often the highlight. But, quite often, what you see can invariably be misleading. Take the Dragon Fruit as an example. The skin is bright pink in colour with green petal like stalks, for want of a better word. I had no idea what to expect when I first ate this fruit. Compared to other fruit, this one is quite easy to prepare. When it is slightly soft when you squeeze it, use a sharp knife and cut it in half from end to end. The version I had today had a white flesh though you can also get a red version. You can now peal the skin using the knife, or do what I did and just used a spoon to scoop it out. The skin itself is not edible so just make sure it is all removed. Then cut it up into cubes. I find it tastes best if it is chilled first.
The taste is almost sweet though it doesn’t contain many calories. The small black seeds are slightly crunchy and remind me of kiwi fruit. These are excellent source of fibre. It is a bit like eating a soft melon though with a higher water content. But the taste is quite bland. I think it would be better mixed with other fruit in a salad or made into a drink. The fruit contains large amounts of Potassium and Calcium and also Vitamin C. They are grown all over Thailand, though more commonly in Chantaburi. The main season is May to October though you can buy at other times. They are not native to Thailand and you can buy all around the world. But, they are pretty cheap here. The ones I bought in the supermarket cost me 29 baht a kilo. So, these two cost me 12 baht each which is about 35 Cents. It belongs to the Cactus family and apparently is fairly easy to grow yourself from the seeds. I might give that a go and tell you about it later if I have any success.
Name in Thai: แก้วมังกร (gaew mang-gorn)