No matter where you are in the world, the motto is to always ‘eat what’s in season’; Thailand and fruit are no exception. Thailand has some fantastic fruits to try right now. As you explore local markets, you will constantly see a vast array of tropical fruits, yet you can always tell what is at the height of the season when you travel the streets and see particular fruits for sale from the back of a pick up or a pop up street stall.
Highlighted here are 5 fruits that are in season right now; suggestions on eating them as well as their nutritional and health benefits.
In Thailand, seasonal fruits are also used in a number of savoury dishes, like curries and stir fries. With the flavour profile of Thai food being hot, salty, sweet & sour, the combination of fruit makes some savoury dishes surprisingly wonderful. For example, the internationally famous dish of Som Tam, which uses green papaya or green mango, is one of Thailand’s most popular dishes.
This round pale orange/yellow fruit is truly delicious. The inside flesh contains a seed and is soft and creamy, however the interior, just below the skin, is also delicious and slightly crunchy. Both parts can be used in a Som Tam or eat with a sweet chilli sauce. The flesh is also used in various Thai curries and stir fries such as Pad Gra Thon.
Health & Nutrition: Santol is rich in Vitamin C and fiber, helping to promote proper cell metabolism and strengthen and protect the immune system against cardiovascular disease. It also contains 'quercetin' which is a powerful antioxidant for boosting your immune system. It can also help to improve food digestion and nutrient absorption.
High in anti-oxidants, the 'dragon's eye' is a small tan coloured fruit, with its sweet and juicy interior, is similar to a Lychee. Just squeeze the shell to expose the interior and its ready to eat. You will see this fruit commonly used in herbal drinks or eaten with sticky rice and coconut cream.
Health & Nutrition: Longan is another fruit extremely high in Vitamin C, with 100g grams supplying 140% of the required daily intake. It is an excellent energy enhancer and is an outstanding Qi tonic which raises long term energy. It helps to improve blood circulation and increases the iron assimilation in human body. This in turn prevents the occurrence of anaemia. It is also highly recommended as an anti-depressant, lowering irritability and reducing fatigue. Longan have been used to treat neurasthenic neurosis and insomnia.
Inside the spiky, brittle exterior you will find morsels of fruit that give a sweet ‘n’ sour sensation in the mouth. One of various fruits that have many nutritional benefits, it is fantastic fresh, or mixed with iced syrup as a refreshing end to a meal.
Health & Nutrition: Being a vitamin-dense fruit, Sala also contains high levels of Beta-Carotene, a powerful antioxidant, that works well to prevent cardiovascular disease, strokes, and even cancer. Because of its high nutritional value, Sala is called a ‘memory fruit’. High levels of potassium and pectin present in Sala help to improve cognitive functions and enhance memory. The skin of the fruit, when made into a tea, can help in cell regeneration in the pancreas to help control diabetes. It also contains pterostilbene, a blood glucose lowering agent that also helps in controlling diabetes.
What can you say about the undisputed ‘Queen of Fruits‘ in Thailand? They are in season now and are quite delicious. Look for fruit that is bright, dark purple in colour with smooth skin. Try for the bigger ones, as it allows you to peel off the top and scoop out the centre of its moist, juicy flesh. Whilst this fruit is delicious as it is, you can also find it in a spicy salad or with deep fried fish like - Pla Tod Rad Mang Khoot.
Health & Nutrition: Mangosteen contains a class of naturally occurring polyphenol compounds known as xanthones. Xanthones and their derivatives have been shown to have several benefits, including anti-inflammatory, preventing cardiovascular diseases. These antioxidants also assist cells damaged by free radicals, can help slow down ageing and ward off degenerative diseases and physical and mental deterioration. It is also high in minerals like copper, manganese, potassium and magnesium. Potassium provides protection against strokes and coronary heart disease.
The largest of the tree-borne fruits and rich in nutrients, the meaty-fleshed Jackfruit is very popular. When seen whole, some confuse it for Durian, though this green, prickly-skinned fruit is much larger. You will find fruit vendors carving up segments for ease of sale. Great on its own as a fruit, it is also used when young in a northern style curry, Gaeng Kha Noon.
Health & Nutrition: Being a rich source of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, carbohydrate, electrolytes, fiber, fat and protein, jackfruit fruit also contains no cholesterol or saturated fats. It is a great source of Vitamin C and antioxidants, which can help strengthen your immune system. Jackfruit has antioxidants, phytonutrients and flavonoid that provide protection from cancer. The antioxidants in jackfruit help protect the body from free radicals. It is loaded with carbohydrates and calories and is a rich source of simple sugars like fructose and sucrose, which can give instant energy.
Also in season at the moment is the most talked about fruit in Thailand; Durian, the ‘King of Fruits’. Known for its distinctive large size, strong odour, and formidable thorn-covered husk, some people regard the durian as having a pleasantly sweet fragrance; to others, the aroma is repugnant, reminding them of raw sewage. Its smell tends to linger for several days. This has led to it being banned from many hotels and public transport throughout SE Asia.
Rose and Custard Apples are also in season, plus the ever-popular Rambutan, with it’s spiky red and yellow skin.
Finally, throughout the year you will find fruit in abundance. When next you are at your favourite Som Tam vendor, look to see what fruit is displayed. Rather than having Som Tam with green papaya or mango, try it with one of the other fruits on display that are just as delicious.