The future of local green fruit worth keeping an eye on
It was in the year 1969 when His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great (Rama IX) visited Doi Pui village near Bhubing Palace in Chiang Mai. The trip was to observe the villagers’ lifestyle and well being, however, he saw how these people were struggling with poverty. With their main source of income coming from cultivating and growing opium even though picking and selling local peaches could earn just as much income. His Majesty then began a project to better the villagers’ well being by supporting Kasetsart University to conduct researches to grow and continue to nurture temperate fruit crops suitable for Thailand’s climate and geography. The project grew and continued to become the Royal Project Foundation today.
While the initial objectives were to help tribal community cut down on the destruction of natural resources such as deforestation and water/river sources, the project also expanded to eliminate opium plantation and conserve the soil to make more efficient land use. Multiple organisations and volunteers including academics joined forces to develop the plan with great progress, farmers eventually and effectively replace opium crops with various kinds of vegetation that earn them a more sustainable living.
Royal Project Market aims to offer product satisfaction and transparent information as well as much needed support for national and international market expansion. Some of the recent visions are to bring about more income and jobs for agriculturists, stimulate regional economics by passing on technological know-how and reaching all agricultural targets with the production factors to revitalise the industry altogether.
Among over 15 categories of products with a majority being fresh vegetables and beauty or spa products, Royal Project now carries at least 30 types of fruits including the coveted avocados (Boot 7, Buccaneer, Boot 8, Peterson, Pinkerton, Hall, and finally, Hass species).
Their rather neutral flavour profile allows the avocados to be paired with almost any ingredient and menu, both sweet and savoury. One of the pairings that the Royal Project Pop-Up Market proudly presented was ripe avocado chunks served with the refreshing coconut ice cream, with optional extra Japanese red bean topping.
High prices of imported avocados in Thailand (as much as B100 per fruit or more in general supermarkets) make these Royal Project avocados become favourable alternatives to those typically exported from Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico, not only in terms of cost and origin but also the taste profile, texture and ripening process.
July marks the opening of the avocado season in Thailand and the best time of the year to buy and binge on until late September, while the Hass variety season starts from August and lasts until the end of the year or longer if cooler weather prevails.
Cutting the fruit open at the exactly right moment is obviously critical because it no longer ripens after the flesh is exposed. We all know the temperamental nature of avocados, cutting too soon would be a bust and leaving them for too long would be a waste. During the ripening period, skin colour changes is the best indication for its readiness but this also differs depending on the type.
For the Royal Project avocados selection, Boot 7 is the trickiest as its skin remains green even when matures; Buccaneer changes from green to yellow; the stalk of Boot 8 changes colour instead of the skin; Peterson also turns greenish yellow; while Pinkerton and Hall switch from dark green to purplish green; and last but not least Hass goes from green to black. This also depends on the ripeness preference and what kind of menu is involved.
The quality of Thai avocado trees relies on Royal Project hill tribe growers in the north who usually raise avocados from seedlings due to insufficient planting materials. As a result, avocados planting, marketing and utilising in Thailand seems to grow on a much slower rate and are lesser-known than other tropical fruits, even though their nutritional value is not any less than international standards. There is still room to grow yet, literally.