Life Life

05/10/2022 - 07:05

Thanh tra pomelo season in Hue

No one knows of the ancient origin of this sweet fruit which was predestined to call Hue, the ancient capital, its home. But clearly, thanh tra pomelo has been existing here, in the spirit of the earth and the people, of the rivers and mountains, as a wonder of a gift bestowed from mother nature.

Despite being from Hue, sometimes even I am bewildered by the things I enjoy from the mother nature of the Huong River and Mount Ngu Binh. Maybe it's because a part of me, half of me, was born and raised in the wild highland mountains, where I got used to the smell of rain and sun, the smell of coffee in the wind. Maybe that's why, even though I have been wandering for nearly twenty years living in Hue, I am still like a lost person longing to find the source of my father's homeland.

Frankly, had I not been able to enjoy the four seasons with familiar homegrown specialties such as thanh tra pomelo or sweet little lotus seeds that are still in late season, I would not have been able to understand the depth of Hue from the fruit that is both homely and elegant.

Hue natives or non-natives who live in Hue both look forward to the thanh tra pomelo season, which comes after the lotus season, from May to mid-July (Lunar calendar). Just two or three months is enough to enjoy the taste of the wonderful sweet fruit. Thanh tra pomelo has a distinctive shape and can be large or, sometimes, small enough to fit in the palm. 

I don't know why I like the feeling of peeling off the thick skin and the thin layers underneath, splitting them into segments, and then plate them in a circle to show off the plump beauty of the pomelo flesh.

It's not that the fresher the fruit skin is, the more plump the flesh will be. In fact, after many years of enjoying this fruit, I realize that thanh tra pomelo which has been picked for a few days gets even more succulent and sweet even if its skin has turned yellow like autumn leaves.

At the beginning of the harvest season, thanh tra pomelo is flooded all over the markets: from big markets to small ones, from Dong Ba wholesale market to An Cuu and Ben Ngu riverside markets. In the outskirts of the city, thanh tra pomelos are piled up as if showing off a beautiful gift unique to this land. Food connoisseurs who love to explore can go to the gardens in Thuy Bieu in the southwest of Hue city.

I don't know how many seasons of thanh tra pomelo have passed, but I am still eagerly waiting to bring home dozens of fruits each time. This year's thanh tra pomelo season, I heard my parents in the Central Highlands, six hundred miles from Hue, telling me that seeing Hue's thanh tra gardens on TV makes them crave for it. Early tomorrow, I will go to the big market or small market to buy a few dozen fruits and send them to my parents, both as an offer to my ancestors on the full moon day, and for my parents to enjoy a taste of their homeland.

Just yesterday, a close friend from my university days came to visit. He brought a dozen of thanh tra pomelo and said, "I’ve just visited my parents-in-law’s garden. They grow the trees for shade and to enjoy the fruits instead of selling them. So, I brought some for you to try." Who would’ve guessed that this fruit has also become such a loving connection.

Recently, there was a thanh tra pomelo festival, my foody friend even went to the garden to enjoy a product made from thanh tra pomelo and was curious, "I don't know what the aftertaste of thanh tra pomelo wine would be like? Is it enough for a wandering soul to stop and enjoy the wine under the moon?"

The thanh tra pomelo season is coming to an end. My greedy self still wants to visit the market and buy a dozen more even though there are already some rolling around in the corner of my house. I know that the fruit can be kept for a long time to enjoy on hot sunny days. However, eating produce in season, according to the laws of nature, is enough to be happy and healthy in this daily life.

Story: Tran Bang Khue