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Fruit Drinks of Thailand

EXOTIC FRUITS FROM which drinks are made in northern Thailand are so abundant and in such a great variety, that it would probably be impossible for a visitor to sample all of them, but they are all worth a try. Whole fruits are a primary source of food intake in Thailand, and a primary export item as well, a large variety of fruit drinks appear in the forms of pure fruit juice, concentrated fresh juice mixed with water, and are even a major ingredient in some bottled soft drinks.

Here is a quick look at the great variety of fruits in Thailand used in drinks: Bananas, Guava, Papaya, Oranges, Pineapple, Grapes, Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Coconuts, Litchi, Longan, Mangoes, Rambutan, Gooseberries, Strawberries, Rose Apples and Apples, Lime and other Citrus Fruits, and the unique and very exotic Tamarind.

Sometime in May, a proliferation of such fruits as watermelon, mangoes, lynchee and rambutan , are harvested in the greatest abundance between May and August. In addition to many others that are year-round fruits

By the time August arrives, the famous Longan (Lumyai) fruit appears, especially in Lumpoon (just south of Chiangmai), where a major yearly festival is held in honor of that fruit.

And if you are observant, you'll see much more than the fruit stands selling bunches of bananas, kilos of oranges, whole pineapples (or sliced for you if you want), and all those other fruits you probably haven't seen before. You will also see small stands along the roadside, both in the cities and in the outlying areas, with transparent tanks of variously colored liquids. What are these? They are different types of fruit juices indigenous to Thailand, and they are all great thirst-quenchers, especially in the hot months between March and July.

Let's take a closer look at a half dozen of these fruits and juices that are available for your pleasure here in the North, and some of the reasons these are important aspects of Thai life. They are not only drinks, but are much more to the Thais, and they might be to you as well.

Bananas are a basic staple in Thailand, and are indigenous to the region. The banana (Gluay in Thai) was originally recorded in the Pali Buddhist canon approximately 2,600 years ago, and is believed to have made its way from the Southeast Asian region to all other parts of the world.

Twenty-eight varieties of bananas are grown in Thailand alone, although three of these are the most common: the Harm, the Naam Wah and the Khai. As tropical fruit, the climate of Thailand is ideal for perennial growth of the banana plant, and although great quantities are exported, much of the banana harvest in Thailand is consumed locally.

There is a good reason for this. To the Thai, bananas are much like milk in the West, inasmuch as bananas have long been the main source of nutrition for a growing baby. In the process of weaning the child off the mother's breast, the Thai have traditionally used banana pulp and semiliquid mixtures.

If you are visiting Thailand, or live here, then you are probably quite familiar with the 'Banana Shake', that cool, thirst quenching beverage available almost everywhere in the country. This drink, as it is made in Thailand, consists of banana mashed to a pulp in a mortar (or an electric blender) and mixed together with either water or milk and crushed ice, with a touch of sugar. Try a glass by ordering "Gluay Bpun".

Guava Fruit, sometimes called the "tropical apple", is a big favorite in Thailand. Two types of guava are grown in the country, the hard green type and the softer, red type. The green is native to Southeast Asia, while the red is a transplant from Hawaii. The red guava is sweeter, but both types are used for fruit juices. With guava, however, a better term than juice would be 'nectar'. The consistency of the guava is much like a pear or an apple, but becomes overripe very quickly. The fruit is extremely sensitive to sunlight, and left too long in the sun, can become spoiled in one day.

In Thailand, the guava is considered to be a foreign fruit and indeed, the Thais refer to the guava fruit as "farang". The texture of the fruit is perfect for nectar drinks, and in nectar form it is thick, rich and delicious. Guava is surprisingly high in vitamin C, much more so than orange juice, and it is also high in iron and calcium. Guava nectar is often mixed with orange juice, pineapple juice, and other tropical fruit juices to make what is called a fruit punch. (Guava juice is "nahm farang")

Pineapple can be found all over the southern parts of Thailand, where the climate is really tropical all year round. However, there are also varieties of pineapple in northern Thailand, primarily around the areas of Chiangrai Province and Lampang. Not indigenous to Southeast Asia, pineapple was first found in South America and made its way to Asia via Europe. Today, however, Thailand and Malaysia are two of the largest pineapple growing countries in the world.

Pineapple is what is called a "hot fruit" this means that eating pineapple will temporarily raise your body temperature. You have noticed that if you've ever overeaten on pineapple - and most of us have at one time or another how very warm you get. As a "hot fruit", eating too much pineapple at one sitting can have negative effects on certain people, depending on their metabolism and normal fluctuations in their body temperatures. Young pineapple fruit is sometimes used for the extraction of a protein-digesting enzyme which is used as a meat tenderizer. This is not often done today, but sometime in the future, some clever scientist may develop a process for extracting this enzyme quickly, efficiently and at an affordable cost, and the result would be a new meat tenderizer. (Pineapple juice is "nahm sapalode")

Watermelon is, of course, nearly everyone's favorite. As the name suggests, it is almost all water, but it is rich in vitamin A. Watermelons are also not indigenous to Southeast Asia. They originated in tropical and subtropical Africa and slowly made their way to Thailand and other parts of Asia. In Thailand today, you can find watermelons, both the red and yellow varieties, almost everywhere. You can buy half of a watermelon, uncut or cut for you, at very modest prices.

Try a "watermelon shake", made of crushed ice, slices of watermelon and a touch of sugar, mixed together in a blender. Or how about this one? A watermelon shake made with crushed ice and either milk or cream (coconut cream is best). Watermelon and ice cream . . absolutely delicious! (Watermelon juice is "nahm taeng mooh")

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