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In Vietnam, bizarre fruits sought after as Lunar New Year presents

Saturday, February 14, 2015, 10:03 GMT+7
In Vietnam, bizarre fruits sought after as Lunar New Year presents
A box of three baby ginseng pears is seen in this photo posted on a Facebook page that sells the fruit.

The Lunar New Year, or Tet in Vietnamese, is an occasion to exchange gifts, and local consumers are willing to open their pockets for any bizarre product that can make a unique present.

The Vietnamese have a custom of buying fruit as a religious offering and ornament during the holiday, which will begin on February 19 this year.

Local farmers have thus been trying to grow fruit in unique shapes suitable for offerings over the last few years, and manage to introduce new products every Tet.

Vo Trung Thanh, chairman of a farming club in the southern province of Hau Giang, said 5,300 grapefruits shaped like a bottle gourd grown by the club members have been ordered by customers in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and the central region.

The fruits fetch between VND300,000 and VND1.2 million (US$14-56) each.

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A pair of bottle gourd grapefruits is seen in this photo posted on a Facebook page that sells the fruit.

Farmers in the Mekong Delta provinces have also harvested their first few dozen pomelos which boast the Buddha’s hands protruding on their skin

The grapefruits, which are shaped like 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.

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The Buddha's hand pomelos. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Both kinds of pomelos are sought after as Tet gifts, thanks to the good meanings they symbolize.

While the bottle gourd and Buddha’s hand grapefruits are not really strange to consumers as they appeared in the previous Tet, a new kind of bizarre fruit has emerged and won over customers this year: pears that are shaped like babies.

The pearl, allegedly stemming from Hong Kong, is called baby ginseng fruit as it resembles ginseng, which bears the shape of infants, featured in the “Journey to the West,” a 1986 Chinese TV series that is popular in Vietnam.

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Baby ginseng pears are shown in this photo posted on a Facebook page that sells the fruit.

My, who trade in the baby ginseng pearls via Facebook, told newswire Zing News she sourced the fruits from Hong Kong at around VND100,000 ($4.66) each, and sells them in Vietnam for VND500,000 ($23.3) a pair.

The fruit has jade green skin, which will turn yellow after 20-30 days. Each pearl weighs around 300g and can stay fresh for a month.

The pearl is in fact shaped similarly to the way Vietnamese farmers make the Buddha’s hand or bottle gourd pomelos, My revealed.

“Traders call them baby ginseng fruits to attract customers as they symbolizes longevity, health and immortality,” she said.

Another fruit that also symbolizes happiness, longevity and good fortune, and is thus a favorite religious offering, is the Buddha's hand, also known as finger citron.

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A plantation of Buddha's hand fruits is seen in this photo posted on a Facebook page that sells the fruit.

The unusually shaped fruit, which earns its name because it is segmented into finger-like sections, yields all year round but becomes sought-after only before Tet, as it will be a delicious religious offering during the week-long holiday.

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