Eating Thai fruit demands serious effort but delivers sublime reward

Many delicious species in Thailand, “the Great Power nation of fruit,” require laborious peeling and careful chewing. Then there’s the sticky fingers and occasional disappointment.

All across Bangkok, fruit juice is dripping off chins, dribbling down arms and splashing onto the city’s sidewalks.

This is peak fruit season in Thailand, when the rising mercury concentrates the sugars in the tropical bounty that is native to Southeast Asia.

The region’s fruits are like no other. There is a fruit encased in prickly armour that smells of a deep, dank rot. There is a fruit that emits a sticky sap when peeled and another that stains fingernails mauve for those craving its succulent flesh.

And there is the rambutan, which means “hairy thing” in Malay. With its crimson skin studded with green feelers, the egg-sized fruit bears more than a passing resemblance to a coronavirus. It is yummy.

With pandemic travel bans in place, Thailand’s economic mainstay, tourism, has been battered. The country of 70 million has had to rely more on exports of its agricultural products, and a national fruit lobby group predicts that overseas fruit shipments will increase by at least 10 per cent this year, despite the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has called Thailand “the Great Power nation of fruit.”

Last year, the country ranked as the world’s sixth biggest fruit exporter.

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