Thailand: Suphattra Land Orchard
I visited Thailand in April with a group of garden writers. The trip was sponsored by the Tourism Authority, but as they say on NPR, the opinions expressed are those of the author, not the underwriter.
In Rayong, Thailand, we visited the Suphattra Land Orchard, where they grow acres of amazing fruit trees. For me, the word “orchard” connotes apples and oranges, but this place was something else entirely. Imagine the gigantic Jackfruit hanging down like enormous tree testicles, or the red snake-skinned Salak fruit that comes from palm trees with needle-like spikes every few inches.
I was especially amazed by the fields of Dragon Fruit (aka Pitaya), which comes from a huge epiphytic cactus. The rows of them, climbing up metal stands, looked like a farm from another planet, and their blooms are just gorgeous.
They grow Coconut trees there, too, and we had the chance to climb a ladder and pick one. They cut it open with a machete right there, and inside is a sweet water that tastes nothing like the “coconut drink” I’d had elsewhere.
The also grow rubber trees, each with a 45 degree cut dripping white sap into a cup, which will later be refined into rubber. It’s a totally natural product, but somehow it still smells like a factory. Davin made the mistake of touching it, and his hands reeked for the rest of the day.
But by far the most notable moment was after the tour, when we stopped to eat some freshly-harvested fruit. Everything was delicious, but I was especially looking forward to trying Durian, which is a giant, spiky fruit, with a yellow filling inside. It’s not well-known in my part of the world, but in Asia it’s the “king of fruits.” Durian is loved and feared in equal measure. It’s actually banned in some places because the smell can be so offensive. So when I was offered a taste, of course I had to try.
My official review? Delicious. It was sweet and creamy – kind of like an earthy custard. But I have to admit, it had a lingering aftertaste like raw onions. We were eating it less than an hour after being harvested. I’m sure once it’s a few days away from the tree, it can become a bit more challenging.