One of the great perks of living in Thailand is the availability
of a wide variety of fruits throughout the year.
Many fruits of Thailand are exported to all parts of the world. They often carry a high price tag, as they are an exotic delicacy in the destination country. In Thailand, some of these fruits are available from street vendors at ridiculously low prices.
Banana (กล้วย | glûay)
There are many different sorts of bananas in Thailand, ranging from the small, fragrant, and sweet to large bananas with thick yellow skins. Totaling more than 20 varieties, the following bananas are the most frequently consumed:
- Gluay Hom (Fragrant Banana) is a popular everyday snack and looks similar to the banana in the picture.
- Gluay Khai (Egg Banana) is short with a golden-yellow skin when ripe. This banana is very popular dried, or in a cake or candy.
- Hom Thong (Gros Michel) is another popular banana in thailand. Medium sized, it is similar to the Cavendish, but with a finer skin. It is aromatic and sweet tasting when ripe.
The banana is called the “the fruit of the wise.” It is an ideal snack as it contains Vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, and minerals that are essential for the body.
Bananas are available in Thailand year around.
Custard Apple (น้อยหน่า | nói-nàa)
Custard Apples (also known as Sugar Apple) come in a variety of shapes: heart shaped, oblong or irregular. The size ranges from 7 to 12 cm. When ripe, the fruit is brown or yellowish, with red highlights and a varying degree of reticulation, depending on variety. The white flesh is sweet and pleasant.
The fruit is good to eat as is but also makes a sweet drink and can be used as a milk substitute.
The peak season is from April to August.
Dragon Fruit (แก้วมังกร | gâew mang-gon)
This unique looking fruit is mildly sweet with a leathery, slightly leafy skin. The flesh, which is eaten raw, is rather bland in its taste. It makes a great palate cleanser during a meal of otherwise spicy and flavorful food.
To prepare a Dragon Fruit for consumption, cut the fruit vertically into two halves. From here, either cut the halves into watermelon-like slices, or scoop out the two white fleshy halves with a tablespoon. Eating the fruit is sometimes likened to that of the kiwifruit due to a prevalence of sesame seed-sized black crunchy seeds found in the flesh of both fruits which make for a similar texture upon consumption.
The peak season is from May to October.
Durian (ทุเรียน |tóo rian)
Widely known and revered in southeast Asia as the “king of fruits”, the durian is distinctive for its large size, unique odor, and formidable thorn-covered husk. The fruit can grow as large as 30 centimetres (12 in) long and 15 centimetres (6 in) in diameter, and it typically weighs one to three kilograms (2 to 7 lb). Its shape ranges from oblong to round, the colour of its husk green to brown, and its flesh pale-yellow to red, depending on the species.
Although most fruit is perfect to bring to school to share with your Thai colleagues, it is not a good idea to bring Durian. Some call Durian “Stinky Fruit”. The edible flesh emits a distinctive odour, strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Some people regard the durian as fragrant; others find the aroma overpowering and offensive. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust. The odour has led to the fruit’s banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in southeast Asia.
The peak season is from April to August.
Guava (ฝรั่ง | fà-ràng)
Guava fruit, usually 4 to 12 cm long, are round or oval depending on the species. The outer skin may be rough, often with a bitter taste, or soft and sweet. Varying between species, the skin can be any thickness, is usually green before maturity, but becomes yellow, maroon, or green when ripe. Guava fruit generally have a pronounced and typical fragrance, similar to lemon rind but less sharp. Guava pulp may be sweet or sour, off-white to deep pink, with the seeds in the central pulp of variable number and hardness, again depending on species.
The fruit is also often prepared as a dessert. In Asia, fresh raw guava is often dipped in preserved prune powder, salt, or a sugar/chili mixture. Because of the skin’s high level of pectin, boiled guava is also extensively used to make candies, preserves, jellies, jams, marmalades, and also for juices.
In Asia, a tea is made from guava fruits and leaves and fresh guava juice is a popular drink.
Guava is available in Thailand year around.
Jackfruit (ขนุน | kà-nŏon)
Jackfruit is commonly used in South and Southeast Asian cuisines. It can be eaten unripe (young) or ripe, cooked or uncooked. It has a mild flavor and distinctive texture. The taste is similar to chestnuts.
The skin of the jackfruit is thick and prickly. The flesh of the jackfruit is starchy and fibrous. It provides food energy and is a source of dietary fibre. Varieties of jackfruit are distinguished according to the characteristics of the fruits’ flesh. The seeds of the fruit are also edible, and contain starches and dietary fibre. They may be prepared by boiling or roasting, or made into a flour.
The peak Season is from April to May.
Longan (ลำไย | lam-yai)
The longan (“dragon eyes”) is so named because of the fruit’s resemblance to an eyeball when it is shelled (the black seed shows through the translucent flesh like a pupil/iris). The seed is small, round and hard.
The sweet fruit is edible, and is often used in East Asian soups, snacks, desserts, and sweet-and-sour foods, either fresh or dried, sometimes canned with syrup in supermarkets.
Dried longan are often used in Chinese cuisine and Chinese sweet dessert soups. In Chinese food therapy and herbal medicine, it is believed to have an effect on relaxation. In contrast with the fresh fruit, which is juicy and white, the flesh of dried longans is dark brown to almost black.
The peak season is from June to August.
Longkong (ลองกอง | long gong)
Longkong fruits are ovoid, roundish orbs around five centimeters in diameter, usually found in clusters of two to thirty fruits. Each round fruit is covered by yellowish, thick, leathery skin. Underneath the skin, the fruit is divided into five or six slices of translucent, juicy flesh.
The flesh is slightly acidic in taste, although ripe specimens are sweeter. Green seeds are present in abound half of the segments, usually taking up a small portion of the segment although some seeds take up the entire segment’s volume. In contrast with the sweet-sour flavor of the fruit’s flesh, the seeds are extremely bitter.
The sweet juicy flesh contains sucrose, fructose, and glucose.
The peak season is from May to September.
Lychee (ลิ้นจี่ | lín jêe)
The fruit is a drupe, 3–4 cm long and 3 cm in diameter. The outside is covered by a pink-red, roughly-textured rind that is inedible but easily removed. They are eaten in many different dessert dishes. The inside consists of a layer of sweet, translucent white flesh, rich in vitamin C, with a texture somewhat similar to that of a grape only much less moist.
The edible flesh consists of a highly developed aril enveloping the seed. The center contains a single glossy brown nut-like seed, 2 cm long and 1–1.5 cm in diameter. The seed, similar to a buckeye seed, is notpoisonous but should not be eaten. The fruit matures from July to October, about 100 days after flowering.
Peak season is from April to June.
Mango (มะม่วง | má-mûang)
A ripe mango is sweet, with a unique taste that nevertheless varies from variety to variety. The texture of the flesh varies, some having a soft, pulpy texture similar to an over-ripe plum, while others have firmer flesh like a cantaloupe or avocado. In some cases, the flesh has a fibrous texture.
Mango is delicious consumed raw. Especially in April and May, during the mango season in Thailand, mangos can be found in abundance in markets and from street vendors. Thais also love to eat unripe mangos, which are as sour as sweet mangos are sweet. To minimize the sourness of young mangos, they are eaten with a sugar/chili mixture or salt.
Pieces of mango can be mashed and used as a topping on ice cream or blended with milk and ice as milkshakes. In Thailand and other South East Asian countries, sweet glutinous rice is flavored with coconut then served with sliced mango as a dessert. Green mangoes can be used in mango salad with fish sauce and dried schrimps.
Peak season is from March to May.
Mangosteen (มังคุด | mang kóot)
Before ripening, the mangosteen shell is fibrous and firm, but becomes soft and easy to pry open when the fruit ripens. To open a mangosteen, the shell is usually scored first with a knife; one holds the fruit in both hands, prying gently along the score with the thumbs until the rind cracks. It is then easy to pull the halves apart along the crack and remove the fruit.
The fragrant edible flesh can be described as sweet and tangy, citrusy with peach flavor and texture.
Here’s a piece of information you can use to impress your friends. Count the number of petals on the bottom of the fruit, and then ask your friends, before opening the fruit “How many slices will this mangosteen contain?” – and then give your guess as the number of petals you counted. Your answer will always be correct; the number of petals at the bottom of the fruit correspond to the slices found inside.
The mangosteen is commonly known as “The Queen of fruits” in parts of southeast Asia, notably Singapore and Malaysia. It is believed to have “cooling” properties that counteract the “heatiness” of durians, the so-called “King of fruits”. The fact that the fruiting seasons of these two fruits coincide makes these titles particularly apt.
Peak season is from April to August.
Orange (ส้ม | sôm)
Thai oranges are particularly sweet and juicy, with an often greenish peel and a bright orange flesh. The segments are generally eaten fresh or squeezed for their juice. The main season is September through November, although you can find them now year around. Tangerines (som Keawwan) are also grown extensively in Thailand and eaten in the same way as the oranges.
Oranges are available in Thailand year around and can be purchased at any market. The oranges still on the branches (with leaves) are a great choice when available.
Papaya (มะละกอ | má-lá-gor)
The fruit is ripe when it feels soft (like a ripe avocado or a bit softer) and its skin has attained an amber to orange hue. The fruit’s taste is vaguely similar to pineapple and peach, although much milder without the tartness.
The ripe fruit is usually eaten raw, without the skin or seeds. The unripe green fruit of papaya can be eaten cooked, usually in curries, salads and stews. It also has a relatively high amount of pectin, which can be used to make jellies.
In Thailand, unripe papayas are also used to make Som Tam, a grated papaya salad, pounded with a mortar and pestle. There are three main variations: Som tam poo (ส้มตำปู) with salted black crab, and Som tam Thai (ส้มตำไทย) with peanuts, dried shrimp and palm sugar and Som tam plara (ส้มตำปลาร้า) from north eastern part of Thailand (Isan), with salted gourami fish, white eggplants, fish sauce and long bean.
Papaya is available in Thailand year around.
Pinapple (สับปะรด | sàp-bpà-rót)
Pineapple is a very popular fruit in Thailand. Pineapple is eaten fresh and is available as a juice or in juice combinations. It is used in desserts, salads, curries and in fruit cocktail. Pineapples can be bought from street vendors, who will peel and cut the fruit for your convenient consumption. While sweet, it is known for its high acid content.
The pineapple plant grows to 1.0 to 1.5 meters tall with 30 or more trough-shaped and pointed leaves 30 to 100 centimeters long, surrounding a thick stem. The fruit of a pineapple are arranged in two interlocking helices, eight in one direction, thirteen in the other; each being a Fibonacci number.
Pineapple is a good source of manganese (91 %DV in a 1 cup serving), as well as containing significant amounts of Vitamin C and Vitamin B1.
Peak season is from April to July.
Pomelo (ส้มโอ | sôm-oh)
The pomelo is a citrus fruit native to South East Asia. It is usually pale green to yellow when ripe, with sweet white (or, more rarely, pink or red) flesh and very thick spongy rind. It is the largest citrus fruit, 15-25 cm in diameter and usually weighing 1-2 kg.
The pomelo tastes like a sweet, mild grapefruit – it has very little or none of the common grapefruit’s bitterness, but the membranes of the segments are bitter and usually discarded. The peel of the pomelo is also used in cooking or candied.
Peak season is from October to December.
Rambutan (เงาะ | ngór)
The rambutan fruit is a round to oval drupe 3–6 cm (rarely to 8 cm) tall and 3-4 cm broad, borne in a loose pendant cluster of 10-20 together. The leathery skin is reddish (rarely orange or yellow), and covered with fleshy pliable spines, hence the name rambutan, derived from the Malayword rambut which means hairs. The fruit flesh, which is eaten raw, is translucent, whitish or very pale pink, with a sweet, mildly acidic flavor. The taste and texture of the flesh is often compared to Lychee.
Rambutan found in markets that is harvested as picked from their stems (pictured right, individual fruits in a pile) , is commonly ridden with bugs, prone to rot, and of relatively low viability per bunch sold, especially compared to other fruits. The best quality rambutan is generally that which is harvested still attached to the branch. This rambutan is less susceptible to rot, damage, and pests, and remains fresh for a much longer time than rambutan that has been picked from the branch.
The peak season is from April to August.
Rose Apple (ชมพู่ | chom pôo)
The Rose Apple, also known as Java Apple, is shaped like a small pear. The plant is native to Southeast Asia. Fruits are about 5 cm long with a whitish-green color, but color variations exist including red skinned fruits. The skin is thin and waxy.
Rose Apples are usually eaten fresh. They smell and taste a bit like rose water. They spoil very quickly and should therefore be consumed shortly after picking. Fruit extract can be used to make a sweet smelling rose water.
Peak season is from December to March.
Sapodilla (ละมุด | lá móot)
The fruit is a large ellipsoid berry, 4-8 cm in diameter, very much resembling a smooth-skinned potato and containing 2-5 seeds. Inside, its flesh ranges from a pale yellow to an earthy brown color with a grainy texture akin to that of a well-ripened pear. The seeds are black and resemble beans, with a hook at one end that can catch in the throat if swallowed.
The flavor is exceptionally sweet and very tasty, with what can be described as a malty flavor. The unripe fruit is hard to the touch and contains high amounts of saponin, which has astringent properties similar to tannin, drying out the mouth.
Star Fruit (มะเฟือง | má-feuang)
The Star Fruit is shaped like a five-pointed star, hence its name. It best consumed when ripe, when they are yellow with a light shade of green. It will also have brown ridges at the five edges and feel firm. An overripe fruit will be yellow with brown spots.
The fruit is entirely edible, including the slightly waxy skin. When fully ripe, it is sweet with a hint of sour and extremely juicy. The taste is difficult to compare, but it has been likened to a mix of papaya, orange and grapefruit all at once. It is often consumed with salt or a sugar/chili mixture.
Star fruit is rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, and low in sugar, sodium and acid. Star fruit is a potent source of antioxidants.
Tamarind (มะขาม | má-kăam)
Tamarind is very popular in Thailand and can be purchased in markets and from street vendors. The hard green pulp of a young fruit is very sour and acidic, so much it cannot be consumed directly, but is often used as a component of savory dishes. The ripened fruit is edible, as it becomes less sour and somewhat sweeter, but still very acidic.
In Thailand, there is a carefully cultivated sweet variety with little to no tartness grown specifically to be eaten as a fresh fruit. It is also sometimes eaten preserved in sugar with chili as a candy. Pad Thai, a Thai dish popular with Europeans and Americans, often includes tamarind for its tart/sweet taste (with lime juice added for sourness and fish sauce added for saltiness). A tamarind-based sweet-and-sour sauce served over deep-fried fish is also a common dish in Central Thailand.
The peak season is from late December to February.
Tangerine (ส้มเขียวหวาน |sôm kĭeow wăan)
The Thai Tangerine is a very sweet (sometimes slightly sour) variety of citrus fruit. It is readily available from street vendors and in market. It is eaten raw, just like an orange, used as ingredient for tasty desserts, or consumed as a healthy juice, containing lots of Vitamin-C.
The peak season is from October to Feburary.
Watermelon (แตงโม | dtaeng moh)
The watermelon fruit has a smooth exterior rind (green, yellow, and sometimes white) and a juicy, sweet, usually red, but sometimes orange, yellow, or pink interior flesh.
Fresh watermelon may be eaten in a variety of ways and is also often used to flavor summer drinks and smoothies. It is readily available from street vendors, perfectly cut into bite-size pieces with most of the seeds already removed.
Watermelon contains about six percent sugar by weight, the rest being mostly water. As with many other fruits, it is a source of vitamin C. It is not a significant source of other vitamins and minerals unless one eats several kilograms per day.
Watermelons can be found in Thailand year around.
Young Coconut (มะพร้าว | má-práao)
Coconuts are very popular in Thailand. They are used for cooking and often consumed as a drink. The fresh coconuts provide a refreshing alternative to sugared sodas or coffee and tea (which in Thailand often is very sugary as well).
Here is a small selection of coconut-based snacks you can get from street vendors in Thailand:
- Young coconut (maprao awn) are readily available from street vendors and cost about 10 to 20 baht per piece. The vendor typically provides you with a straw and spoon. Some restaurants also carry them.
- Roasted coconut (maprao pao) is also sold in markets and by vendors. These are small white coconuts roasted for a while, which makes for a sweeter juice and loosens the flesh.
- Coconut-rice grilled hotcakes (kanom krok) are a cupcake-like snack. It is sold by street vendors, who make them by adding small amounts of sugar to a coconut/rice batter. They are then cooked in what looks like a waffle maker, which produces about 40 little hotcakes.
- Grilled coconut cakes (kanom paeng jee) are small, very sweet desserts made with shredded coconut. They are sold by street vendors as well. 10 Baht will get you a few small cakes.
Coconut (and coconut milk) is also used in many Thai soups and curries.
Coconut is available in Thailand year around.
Zalacca (สละ | sà-là)
The Zalacca fruit grows in clusters at the base of a palm, and are also known as Snake Fruit due to the reddish-brown scaly skin. They are about the size and shape of a ripe fig, with a distinct tip. The pulp is edible.
The fruit can be peeled by pinching the tip which should cause the skin to slough off so it can be pulled away. The fruit inside consists of three lobes, each containing a large inedibleseed. The lobes resemble, and have the consistency of, large peeled garlic cloves.
The taste is usually sweet and acidic, but its apple-like texture can vary from very dry and crumbly to moist and crunchy.
The peak season is from April to August.