Did you know there is a tale to Chinese New Year? Well, here is the story. Once upon a time, there was a mythical monster named ‘Lin’ that came to haunt and harm people on every New Year’s Eve. Lin was enormous. It was more than forty-foot-long and shaped like a dragon. Its eyes were crystal blue, legends have it that one stared into Lin’s eyes and you will be blind forever. The beast bared shiny scale that protected it from any weapons. It had massive claws that could destroy a house in one squeeze. At first, villagers were terrified and defenseless against this mythical beast, but later discovered that the beast was afraid of a few things including the color of red, fire, and loud noises. Consequently, on New Year’s Eve the villagers would protect their houses by putting red items all over their house, and launched fireworks and bamboo crackers until the next morning to keep the monster away. Lin was petrified, and never returned to the village. This tradition continued as a festivity each year for thousands of years. It is now known to us as the celebration of Chinese New Year.
Nowadays, Chinese New Year has become the most celebrated holiday of the year in China. A variety of symbolic food items and dishes are served. Each dish is steep in traditions. Some represent good fortune and other signify homonym for a wish for the upcoming year, such as sweet rice balls that implies “a complete circle of harmony and unity within the family”. Fruits are also very popular during Chinese New Year especially as Citrus fruits as the word in Chinese for Citrus is a homophone for auspicious or lucky. Pomelo, Mandarin orange and Kumquat are favorites throughout Chinese New Year.
When it comes to gifting, Kumquat and Tangerine are very common in fruit boxes or fruit baskets because of the beautiful appearance and auspicious pronunciation.
Kumquat is a traditional citrus fruit which originated from China, it is small like a table tennis ball, covered by a shiny bright orange peel. It pronouns as ‘Ji’ in Chinese language, sounds the same as ‘Lucky’, which means the fruits can bring good luck to the family. Some people may place a pot of Kumquats in their house, or sometimes the entryway of a Chinese restaurant to bring fortune to the house and family. The more fruits on the tree, the more fortune it draws.
In the recent years, kumquat market is being dominated by Japanese kumquats. They are perfectly round and have just the right sweet-sour balance. Japanese kumquat is relatively sweeter and has a higher nutrition content than Chinese kumquat. Most of Japanese kumquats are produce from warm area like Kagoshima and Miyazaki Prefecture, there is no chemical fertilizer added into the farming process of Japanese Kumquat that it can be eaten right away safely without peeling.
But what makes it luxurious? Japanese Kumquat is farmed under greenhouse condition, it needs sufficient sunlight at most of the time, humidity, temperature and sunlight in greenhouse are strictly managed by farmers to ensure the best quality of Kumquat production. It is difficult to grow from seeds like other citrus fruits, the offspring will easily get mutated after a few generation. Japanese farmers are using vegetative propagation, such as rootstock planting and cutting, to keep them away from disability. Each of them was paid with extra care and time, Japanese Kumquat normally contains average brix level of 16, some extra sweet species can even be up to 18-20! Share those little orange fruits with friends and family would be a great joy in your life!
On the other hand, Tangerine (Jin) homophone for ‘Gold’ in Chinese. In traditional Chinese culture, wholeness and togetherness are esteemed spirits which are expressed by presenting Tangerines in its full form with its stem and leaves attached. During Chinese New Year, people put 2 or 3 Tangerines with leaves on top of red pocket or confectionary box as their relatives visit their home, which symbolizes greeting guests with an increment of fortune.
There are many types of Tangerines in the market, some with the best quality are from Japan. Dekopon is a special species in the Tangerines family, it is a cross between Kiyomi and Ponkan developed by Nagasaki Prefecture in 1972. The word ‘Deko’ means the convex shape on the top; the word ‘Pon’ took from Ponkan which the fruit derived from. The size of a Dekopon is between orange and grapefruit. It has rough easy-to-peel skin and most recognizable by the bump at the top of the fruit.
Although to some people it may not be the most appealing fruit, some US and Taiwan media have described it as ‘one of the sweetest citrus fruit in the world’. All Dekopons are tested and required to have a standard Brix level of 13 or above before being shipped to the market. Most of the fruits are farmed in greenhouses under strict farming process, its’ harvesting period between December and February – the ideal time for Chinese New Year. Giving Dekopons as CNY gift would be not only a tradition fitting choice with a twist, but also the sweetest gift to start the year.
Happy New Year!
Two major criteria come to mind when shopping for fruit: is it fresh and is it sweet?
Freshness is very hard to quantify and we doubt any fruit sellers will give you an honest answer on how many days the fruits have been on the shelves, but serious fruit lovers can use various methods like examining the appearance and firmness to tell apart fresh fruits and bad fruits. On the other hand, sweetness is much more quantifiable as we use the brix level to measure how sweet the fruit is. Brix level is simply the amount of sugar content in a fruit, so the higher the brix level the sweeter the fruit. Some farmers will set a minimum brix level standard, such as Japanese Shine Muscat at a typical brix level of 17/18. How do the farmers test the brix level?
Well, farmers will use a portable brix level checker that is rather easy to use. Cut the fruit and drip some juice on to the sensor and it will return the brix level. Farmers cannot check every fruit in their farm, so they will do random checks by area. Hence, there is a chance the fruits we get do not meet the minimum brix level standard, but generally the discrepancy is small.
Let’s do a test our fruits to see which is the sweetest. You just might be surprised.
We hope that you now have a better idea of fruit’s brix levels. Sweet fruits largely taste better but let’s not forget flavor, aroma, and juiciness are all important aspects of a good tasty fruit.