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Chinatown Fruit Report 2014

Well, as promised, this begins the 2014 thread for reporting on fruit in Chinatown (Manhattan or Flushing, plus anywere else something odd shows up).
Only problem is I have nothing to report for today. I saw no particualr fruit of note. Of course, since I am still plying the same route I have been for the last frew months. several areas (like east of Allen) are not currently in my purview, and won't be until the beans change again (that elusive strain of rice beans I so actively seek, the ones that have the non-red adzuki's as an admixture [and which are actually capable of flowering and producing pods this far North] has currently been the one in stock by the scoop at some of the manhattan herb shops, so my route has pretty much been tied to being able to get to all of them until such time as the suppliers change again [sooner or later they always do] that's probably going to change soon though; two of them have already switched and the bin at the third is getting quite low, so that will probably flip when they refill it.) One I am no longer tied, I'll try and wander further afield and see if any of the other areas are more fruit rich.
Oh and the Lian wu seller is either no longer there or no longer has lian wu.

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  1. Have you ever seen a Korean melon (chamae) sold by those vendors?

    1 Reply
    1. re: BuildingMyBento

      Oh yeah, all the time. Those Asian type melons are really common in their season (just don't ask me what that season is as I don't care for melon, I don't pay much attention to when it is around.)

    2. Lian wu are really elusive...this is early for them, it seems more like high summer that you see them.
      Do you think the litchis are late because of the lousy winter?

      3 Replies
      1. re: buttertart

        Quite possibly. Most of the lichis that hit American markets are grown in Mexico (with Florida and California making up most of the balance) so all of the problems with limes you have been reading about in all the papers may apply to them as well. That also means that I would expect the rambutan season to be delayed or skimpy too, since they also are mostly Mexican grown.

          1. re: buttertart

            Well how do you think I feel? The Mexican problem is also affecting my acess to key limes (which while not the limes the papers are focused on, come from more or less the same places). And while the odd piece of exotic fruit is nice I don't NEED it every day, the way I do with key limes (I use up two a day in my tea) So far, my supply is reasonably stable due to a combination of buying extra when I can to squeeze and freeze, and having acess to several Bodegas, which seem to be feeling the lime pinch less than the big sellers (I suspect they may be doing a reverse of the Chinatown "cold road"; smugging limes UP from those places in S America that don't produce enough to be viable importers to the US (or be able to afford the varios fees to make the import legal.) Plus probably relying on a network of fellow Latins who may have trees on thier private properties (If a bar in California can be relying on customers to provide them with limes in exchange for cocktails, I see no reason why some of the little latin shops up here could be counting on relatives down south and thier backyard trees to keep thier supply going.) But if the problem persists (the experts keep SAYING the next harvest should correct the problem, but I am not all that convinced at this point) I may have to start getting creative.

      2. Lichis have begun showing up; most of the fruit vendors had some. Look like the pale ones with the pink blush (as opposed to the brown ones). And no, dont ask me if they were "chicken tounge" lichi's; I didn't buy any, and don't rember how those look different from the outside of the fruit.

        13 Replies
        1. re: jumpingmonk

          I know this is very mundane, but have you seen any cherries yet?

          1. re: Hickory

            Tons, mostly the dark red ones. Oddly for the second year running, a lot of them are siamese twins (two cherries coming off the same stalk, attached to each other).
            Also seem to be a lot of little mangoes, the kind that are about apricot sized.

              1. re: Hickory

                I had some very nice Rainiers about 2 weeks ago.

                1. re: buttertart

                  Rambutans have shown uo now, as have wong pei. Though the rambutan looks a little pale at the moment (mostly greenish rather than reddish) and the wong pei, sparse (but then again it always does) I haven't eaten much of the wong pei I bought yet, so I'll have to get back vis a vis what size and shape are the "sweet" ones this year.

                  1. re: jumpingmonk

                    Jumpingmonk, where did you find the wong pei?

                    1. re: ethnojunkie

                      Somewhere along Canal Street; just above Mott, I think (maybe above Mulberry). (The guy who runs the fruit stand on the corner of Grand and Bowery usually has some too, but I wasn't that far east today.)

                        1. re: ethnojunkie

                          NP. But I really reccomend waiting until I've done my taste tests before buying any. I've only eaten a few so far (basically, the ones that fell off the stalks, so I couldn't match them to a cluster [fruit from the same cluster tends to be the same in qualty) but as with previos years, some are average sour, some are fairly sweet and pleasant, and one or two are so sour they burn! I know taste sort of goes with (relative) size and shape. So just give me a day or two to work out which ones are "good" sizes and shapes this year (the one's you want to buy) and which are "bad".

                          1. re: jumpingmonk

                            Done with taste test and so far it looks like the ideal is the same as last year, round fruit, unusually large (about grape sized) are the ideal. Cant comment on long, as there were no long in the bunch I got.

                            1. re: jumpingmonk

                              EthnoJunkie, in the attached photo, the plumper of the wong pei appear to be a match for JumpingMonk's ideal. These were on offer today at a vendor's table on the south side of Canal, near Mulberry, for $10 per pound. The proprietor noted that they'll be available for two more weeks, tops.

                              Dave Cook
                              www.EatingInTranslation.com

                               
                              1. re: DaveCook

                                Are those longyan or something else?

                                1. re: buttertart

                                  Those are the wong pei that JumpingMonk and EthnoJunkie had mentioned in comments above. Among other names, they're also called wampee:

                                  http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/mo...

                                  Dave Cook
                                  www.EatingInTranslation.com

        2. Jackfruit and mangosteens were plentiful this past weekend

          1. There were lian wu (good looking ones) on a stand on Canal just before Mulberry (going toward Bway) this Sunday.

            1 Reply
            1. re: buttertart

              And the litchis I got were very good (large stone, 3 lb for 10, the lady at the corner of Mulberry of course!).

            2. Update 6/4

              Lian Wu now available at one or two of the fruit carts on Mulberry, as well as at the large fruit stand on Chrystie between Grand and Hester. The latter, I'd say is the more significant, since it appears that the person who runs that stand has gotten his hands on the long slender strain of Lian Wu, which is far less common than the wide one (and in my opinion, usually far sweeter and more flvorful)

              6 Replies
              1. re: jumpingmonk

                Not really Chinatown related, but My Mom today surprised me by coming home with an orange ugli fruit; first of the season for me. (I have come to the conclusion that while, an ugli does not have to be orange to be ripe those few that actually DO have orange peels tend to be the sweetest of the uglis; taking more of their character from the Tangerine side of their ancestry than the grapefruit side (while the yellows and greens tend to be the reverse). The texture was, as usual not great ( most uglis now seem to have tough skins on the segments and large numbers of hard "hollow" cells in the wedges) but at least this one TASTED alright.

                1. re: jumpingmonk

                  When those are good, they're fabulous.

                  1. re: buttertart

                    Agreed, emphasis on WHEN. I have vague memories from my childhood (when Uglis were still a new thing on the market) when the vast majority of them were pretty good. Now however it seems that decent ones are few and far between . And even the GOOD ones now have those thick segment skins and that odd tendency to have those empty cells in one end of the fruit (on some, the empty part actually takes up almost the entirely of each segment, leaving the fruits juiceless and tasteless. I honestly think that, in their relentless desire to increase the acreage they have been allowing inferior stock to be grown and that this inferior stock is now becoming the norm.
                    Oh, and I should have mentioned that, last Wednesday, I noticed that the fruit seller on the corner of Grand and Forsyth (the one outside of the grocery store on the uptown side) had Lichis of unusually large size (approaching the coveted "apricot" range. )

                2. re: jumpingmonk

                  What time are these stands open till? I'm in town for one night and want to head down there to get lian Wu.... Will it be too late at 6pm?

                  1. re: FattyDumplin

                    I didn't see any lian wu last week, unfortunately. The stalls are open quite late.

                    1. re: buttertart

                      I THINK I saw some at that same stand, but they looked in pretty cruddy condition

                3. Was walking Canal street last week and was excited when I saw biwa...a fruit I experienced and enjoyed while living in Japan. The ones I saw did not look in great shape and they were selling for $6 per pound; I passed.

                  After some googling, I see that in Chinese, they are loquats, which I have heard of but never realized that they and biwa were the same.

                  My question to this group is when are loquats in season, what is a fair price, and where best to procure in Chinatown?

                  Thanks.

                  1. Saw some sizable longans yesterday but otherwise fruit looked much as it has previous weeks.

                    BTW, I know it's going a bit off topic but as this thread is sort of my go to for possible explanations of things I see in Chinatown stores I don't quite understand) I was wondering is someone deeper in to could help me with a minor mystery.

                    Yesterday, I spent a lot of time flitting from one herb shop/grocery to another, in a search for one that carried a "shiny" brand of black dried soybeans [without going into the intricacies [which are VERY complicated] there are basically two sorts of dried black soybeans that are usually sold in Chinatown, a smaller "shiny" kind and a larger more dull skinned one, which is commoner. I prefer the shiny kind. At one time, the available soybean packages were more or less split half and half [some packers packed shiny, some dull, but finding either wasn't all that hard] Nowadays however nearly ALL black soybeans sold are the dulls, and finding the old shiny kind is all but impossible [I did finally find a store that has some, but it was like the 20th I went to].)

                    Anyhow while wandering through all these shops, I came across one that, amongst it's offerings had something I have never seen being sold before. They had a bin (with an open sack next to it, full of what, as far as I could tell, were shark vertebrae (or shark and other large fish, my comparative anatomy isn't that good. I assume this is for some use in Traditional Chinese medicine, but what, I am clueless. I am aware that a lot of people take shark cartilage for their joints, but I have never seen anywhere offering it au natural. Plus if what you wanted was the cartilage it would seem odd to use the spinal column, since, besides the teeth, that's the only part of a shark's skeleton that is actually more or less bone. I suppose it may be like that time I saw the bags of empty abalone shells, which someone told me are also used medicinally (actually that made me wonder, since the species they take the shells from is the same one that the fish markets sell for eating, when people buy those little abalones to eat, do they dry off and save the leftover shells to save on their medicine bills? Or do some of the herb conglomerates actually BUY the leftover shells off the public/restaurants (there's a secondary marked for used cooking oil, why not one for discarded abalone shells?) )

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jumpingmonk

                      New update (long time, I know but I saw nothing much of note between the last message and now.

                      The fruit stand on Chrystie between Grand and Hester has some Mangosteens they claim to be fresh and, surprisingly (given the state of the (mangosteens in NYC usually) I think they are telling the truth. They are pliable of skin (the frozen ones are often picked a little underripe, so the skin tends to be more woody)and, more importantly, the stems are actually GREEN, not brown. Taste is more or less in the range of the frozen,(some good; some bad) maybe a tad better (but probably still no where near the range of ones picked right off the tree at peak ripness.) Now I'll see if the pass the indisputable test of not being frozen; if the pits germinate (one good thing about mangosteens, since they are all natural clones of each other, with parthenogenic seeds, I don't have to worry about getting a dud fruited one.)