Tropical Fruits in Cambodia
Cambodia is a country located in tropical area of Asia, where the soil and climate are suitable for planting almost kinds of tropical fruits. Most of all fruits and vegetables are planted and harvested naturally, which are very good for health. Fruit is also a favorite of Cambodia people consuming daily as nutrition food beside main meals of rice. Through out the whole year, Cambodia always has plenty kinds of fruits in all season. The price are reasonable so that everyone can afford for fruits. Below are photos of tropical fruits growing in Cambodia, and some are really Khmer fruits which I couldn’t find the English name for them.
Jujube has its scientific name as Ziziphus Jujuba Mill. China is the homeland of jujube since more than 4000 years ago with more than 400 cultivars in its family. Now jujube has been growing in all over the world where having tropical climate.
In Cambodia, a cultivar of bigger fruits is growing as farm. But for other cultivar of smaller fruits (as in the photo above) are planted as fruit tree in home garden. Depend on cultivar, fruit can be round or elongate, the biggest size could be equal to an egg. The whitish flesh of sweet and sour flavor is covered by thin, edible skin. Inside has a hard seed. The young fresh fruit is green and turn to yellow-green as it ripens. Until the fruit is fully ripe, it has black-red color and the flesh become soft, the skin become wrinkle. Fresh mature jujube is very popular in Cambodia than other form of snacks made of jujube, because the flesh is crisp, sweet and some sour in taste.
Papaya (La hong)
Carica papaya is the scientific name of papaya and it homeland was Mexico. Papaya is a very good fruit for health as it contains many nutrition, especially, it is rich in vitamin A which is very beneficial for eyes and skin. Immature fruit has green color skin and slowly turn to yellow or orange when it ripens. Ripe papaya is eaten as fresh fruit or made into fruit juice. Green papaya is used as vegetable in cooking, for instance, papaya salad, papaya soup with pork, Papaya sour soup, Samlor Kokor (Khmer vegetable fish soup), etc. It’s also pickled for serving with grilled meat, pork rice, num pang sach (bread serve with meat) which are typical breakfast of Cambodians. Another kind of food made of green papaya is Mam La hong, it’s papaya fermented.
Sugar Apple (Plae Teab)
Rose Apple (Chumpu)
Pursat Orange (Pursat)
Grapefruit (Kroch Thlong)
Dragon Fruit (Plae Sroka Neark)
Guava (Tro Baek)
Jew Plum (Makak)
Jew Plum or Ambarella fruit or Makak in Khmer has scientific name as Spondias dulcis. The fruit is at egg size or a bit bigger, grow out in clusters of more than a dozen. The thick skin of the fruit is green when young and turn to be yellow or orange when ripe. Both young and ripe fruits are edible with different flavor. In Cambodia, the young or green Makak is always popular as snack serving with salt-added-chilly. The flesh is crisp and has yummy sour taste (as in the photo about, Makak is already taken out its skin). When it ripe, the flesh become soft and has yellow color like ripe mango, however, it has sweeter taste. Makas has one hard seed with soft thorny and growing harder after mature, but when the fruit is young, the seed is also eaten.
Pomegranate (Plae Toteum)
There are several species of Pomegranate, it’s obviously seen by the color of its inner is red or white and also the size of the fruit. Usually the pink color is more delicious. Inside the cover, there are numerous seeds that covers by juicy flesh. There is no pomegranate farm in Cambodia, so it’s always imported from China, Thailand, Korea. Cambodian plant Pomegranate as ornamental plant in home garden only.
Star Apple (Plae Teuk Dos)
There are many varieties of star apple, the purple and green are common. The fruit has got star pattern when cut into half, that’s why it’s called star apple. It also has milk-like water, so Cambodian called it milk fruit (Plae = fruit; Teuk Dos = milk). The flesh is aromatic, soft and sweet, but it has the sticky white latex on the skin layer which could stick onto your mouth. My way to eat star apple is after cut it into half, I use spoon to get it flesh.
Durian or in Khmer we call ‘Turen’ (ទុរេន), is so called as ‘The King of Fruit’ because of the popularity of this fruit by southeast Asian people. It has an extremely pungent smell and an amazing sweet taste. Some people regard durian as fragrant, while other find the smell overpowering and offensive. Thus durian has become a fruit that was not allowed to bring into hotels in the region.
Durian used to be grown with seeds of trees bearing superior quality fruit, but modern technology in planting has changed to be propagated by grafting. It’s a strictly tropical tree and would stop growing when the temperature drops below 22ºC. It’s a seasonal fruit, the season of durian in Cambodia is between May to July. Durian trees are large, growing to 25-50 meters high depend on species. The leaves are evergreen elliptic to oblong and 10-18cm long. The flower grow out as clusters with 3-30 flowers together on large branches directly on the trunk. Durian trees become mature and bear fruit after 4-5 years. After pollination, the fruit need three months to grow. It shapes oblong or round with numerous sharp thorns on the husk, which can cause drawing blood. The color of the husk can be green or brown, depend on species.
Durian are left to fall from its tree as this is a sign that it is ripe. So wear a hardhat when you entering durian farm to avoid serious injury cause by falling durian. However, with grafting durian trees are not growing too high. So the fruits are cut from the tree and allow ripen while waiting to be sold. The durian that fall off the tree continues to ripen for two or four days, but after that it’s considered overripe.
In Cambodia, Kampot is considered home of durian. There is a traffic circle in Kep town, Kampot provincial, built with sculpture of many kinds of tropical fruits in Kampot. And durian is the biggest. However, in Kampong Cham province also have got the suitable soil and climate condition for durian plantation. Kampot durian is mot famous due to its natural smell and flavor with cultivation area of 750 hectares, mainly in Teuk Chhu district. One hectare can grow 100 trees with 30-50 fruits harvested every season. The Kampot durian is small compare to Kampong Cham durian, one fruit weight from 2kg-6kg. The cover is brown when ripe, its flesh is pale yellow and soft. The taste is special with richly creamy and very sweet. Kampong Cham durian are bigger in fruit, up to 8kg per fruit. The color of the husk is green, the flesh is bright yellow, crisper (less soft), and less creamy. I usually can eat a lot of Kampong Cham durian then Kampot durian, because it’s less creamy and less sweet.
Kampot durian are sold to country wide and also exported to Vietnam. During the harvest time, 1kg cost around 6,000 – 8,000 Riels. Would like to buy durian? It’s easy! It can be found in every market and roadside. During August there are less durian from Kampot but still has a lot from Kampong Cham. Anyway the price at this time is up to 12,000 Riels to 15,000 Riels per kilogram.
How to choose a good durian fruit
A big, solid stem is a sign of freshness. So when buying durian in a whole fruit, must examine the quality of the stem. Or you can shake the fruit whether you can hear the sound of the seeds moving inside, it’s the sign that the durian is very ripe.
The flesh of durian can be eaten raw and used to flavour a wide variety of savory and sweet edibles. In Cambodia, durian are mainly eat fresh as fruit. And there is a kind of dessert called ‘Bay dom nerb turen’, it’s sticky rice with durian paste. Beside these, there are durian ice-cream, durian cracker, durian mooncake, durian milkshakes, etc. The seeds can also be eaten when cooked, tastes like yam, but stickier.
Some health benefit of durian
Durian contains high level of sugar, good source of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, a good source of raw fat. It also contains high level of iron which helps the white blood cells in our body make specific chemicals process that kill off the yeast infections. Amino acid, Vitamin B, C and E are also found in durian. Especially Tryptophan, a kind of amino acids, which help maintain serotonin level in the body. People with low serotonin levels tend to have short tempers and suffer from depression. Recent researches have claimed that durian can help lower cholesterol and cleanse the blood, cure jaundice and alleviate fevers.
Pineapple is growing abudantly in all over country of Cambodia. In Khmer we call pineapple as ‘Mnors’. The famous one is Honey pineapple ‘Mnors teuk khmom’, in which there are two various kinds.
Honey pineapple growing in Steung Treng province is a kind of pineapple bearing bigger fruits, large stripes and more flesh with a strong and sweet taste. This kind of species is from Laos and it has been giving good harvest when growing in red soil of Steung Treng province, each fruit can be weight up to 8kg.
As I was driving a cross a local market last weekend, I have noticed there were many sugar apples selling. Then it remind me that now is the seasonal of sugar apple in Cambodia. Sugar apple also named sweetsop, or custard apple. Its scientific name is Anonna Squamosa. Sugar apple has a Khmer name called Plae Teab (ផ្លែទៀប).