Farmers in Mekong Delta provinces have just harvested their first dozens of pomelos which boast the Buddha’s hands protruding on their skin after three years of experimentation, and plan to produce some thousands of them for Tet (Vietnam’s Lunar New Year).
According to Vo Trung Thanh, head of the Phu Tan Specially-Shaped Pomelo Club based in Hau Giang Province’s Chau Thanh District, his group has harvested 33 “le cat tuong” (lucky ceremony) pomelos, as they are named.
The grapefruits, which are shaped as a jar and weigh from 800 grams to less than one kilogram, have two visually protruding human hands on their skin and edible flesh.
The hands are thought to be those of the Buddha.
Thanh added his club inked a deal with Hanoi-based Nguyen Gia Co. in September 2011 to produce the unique pomelos.
They selected around 160 hectares of soil in Hau Giang, Soc Trang, Vinh Long, and Tra Vinh Provinces to churn out their first batch.
Thanh said molding is the most technically challenging part.
Growers originally made molds from flexible plastic, but the plastic molds failed to bring out the desired product.
After multiple changes, Thanh’s group came up with 3D plastic molds, which are air-tight and effectively keep fruit-eating worms and insects away.
To produce such a “lucky” pomelo, the farmers first choose a healthy “nam roi” grapefruit – one of the country’s most-grown variety.
When the fruit is between 1.5 and two months old, the mold is attached to it.
After some 3.5 to four months, the fruit begins to take shape and is ready for harvest.
Gia Nguyen Co. has managed to get an exclusive patent license for its unique fruit.
Thanh added the specially-shaped fruits have generated profits five times higher than what normal “nam roi” pomelos can yield.
Around 50 garden owners in the four provinces are now producing the fruit. Nguyen Gia Co. expects to turn out roughly 3,000 such pomelos at affordable prices for Tet, which is some three months away.
In recent years, Vietnamese farmers have produced several kinds of specially-shaped fruits, including square watermelons, watermelons shaped as old-style gold bars, and pomelos as “ho lo” (a jar-like wood water container).
Pomelo is one of the most popular fruits chosen by Vietnamese people to make votive offerings to their ancestors and display in their homes during Tet, which is the most important celebration in Vietnamese culture.