Buy at the right time, and your fruit will be forever sweet.
Last Updated: October 16.2014
- An enormous variety of fruit is grown in Vietnam, following distinct regional seasons
- Buy at supermarkets to avoid low-quality imported fruitA
- Check the attached charts to select the best season to buy fruit and how to assess quality
As a tropical country, Vietnam is home to an enormous range of fruit, and from north to south, the colours of flowering and fruiting trees are visible almost everywhere. Here in the south with its more developed agriculture, the sheer variety of fruit is particularly evident. For fruit lovers domiciled in Ho Chi Minh City, spoilt for choice as they are, the only really important question that remains about what goes on the fruit platter is when to buy.
‘Tis the Season
There are two distinct seasons in the south of Vietnam – rainy and dry. Fruiting plants that evolved in this region reflect this pattern in their life cycle, and orchardists have learnt to take advantage of this. During peak times, not an inch of available land is left devoid of a fruit tree, and the national distribution of fruit goes into regular frenzies. The same is true in the north, where seasons are more varied – technically, they have all four – although in the central areas fruit growing is hampered by annual saltwater flooding.
It hasn’t always been so well-organised: to adapt to increasing export demand, GAP (Good Agricultural Practice) standards have been gradually introduced to help farmers improve their planting techniques, resulting in a greatly increased supply and more reliable quality. This is an important improvement considering the competition – lax import procedures have occasionally been held responsible for cheap, poor-quality foreign products being introduced on the Vietnamese fruit market. Many Vietnamese people trust only local fruit even if the prices are higher, but with so much fruit traded at open markets, it’s not always possible to tell the difference.
Many Westerners prefer to shop for fruit at reputable supermarkets (such as Metro, Big C, and Co-op Mart) to avoid purchasing low-quality health-hazards – at the same time, there’s no denying that for most people the variety, freshness, and relative inexpensiveness of the fruit on sale at the market make the risks worthwhile. It also depends on the kind of fruit – some are best purchased from supermarkets where quality checks are usually made prior to putting them on the shelves, while others are best picked up at the street markets where they won’t have dried out under the supermarket air conditioning. They are multiple factors in the selection process – check our individual groceries articles for more details about specific fruits.
Of course, to shop smart, you’ll need to know when you can expect to buy the best fruit, and what prices you can expect to pay when the fruit you’re looking for is in season. Try referring to the following chart for more information:
Prices are usually 10% higher during the Tet holidays.
|Avocado||In season between May and September, but fairly easy to find all year round in HCMC. The skin should be a deep green and smooth. It’s best to choose heavy fruit that has a little give when squeezed.|
|Banana||With an astonishing number of varieties, bananas are grown all-year-round. Buy bright yellow fruit, and once dark spots start to appear, use within 2 days.|
|Coconut||Available all year in many varieties. Dua Xiem is a type of coconut famous for its sweet juice. Dua Xiem is typically used only for drinking in Vietnam – using it for cooking is considered wasteful.|
|Custard Apple (Sweetsop)||Harvested throughout the rainy season, especially in the months leading up to October. Ripe custard apples are easy to peel. If the skin has lots of black spots, it should be eaten within 1-2 days. Squeeze it slightly to make sure it’s not too firm, or if it’s covered with dark spots, it's no good. Good ones should not be too firm and have a very good smell.|
|Dragonfruit||Considered to be in season in the summer months between June and August, but available all year in HCMC. Look for oblong fruit with perky, smooth spines. The skin should be a vibrant pinkish-red with few visible blemishes.|
|Durian||May and June are the peak of the season. Choose one with a fresh-looking stem and a long-lasting sweet fragrance. Scrape a coin across the spikes to see if the skin sounds crunchy.|
|Grapes||Usually harvested between August and September. Choose bunches with large, firm berries. Avoid buying berries that have been removed from the stem, as well as those that are wrinkled, sticky, or leaking juice, as they are usually overripe and won’t taste good.|
|Guava||Can be found all year round, but especially from June to October.|
|Jackfruit||This particularly aromatic fruit can be found all year round, but the picking season traditionally falls in July to August every year. Buy the yellow flesh from the middle, already removed from the skin and separated into parts. Select jackfruit pockets with a strong yellow colour.|
|Longan||Generally best between August and September. Choosing good longan largely depends on the type.|
|Lychees||Lychees have a very short season from Lunar April to May. Mostly grown in the highlands, they are usually dried and canned rather than eaten fresh. Buy lychees with a red peel without any bruising.|
|Mandarin||In season from October–February. The fruit’s skin should look stretchy and glossy, and when you squeeze them they should feel soft and resilient.|
|Mango||In season from January to September. Good mangoes have a tight and bright peel that’s yellow without any dark spots.|
|Mangosteen||Growing from mid-April to June. The more leaves it has, the less seeds it tends to have inside. Somewhat hard to choose; avoid those with very soft skin, which indicates rotting. If there are any obvious squishy calluses on the exterior, there will almost certainly be bruising on the meat inside.|
|Papaya||Available all year. The best-tasting fresh papayas are yellowish with green spots. Select long, heavy, and ripe ones|
|Persimmon||Ripe in time for the mid-Autumn Festival (September-October). Look for a deep, rich colour. Avoid overly hard or squishy fruit.|
|Pineapple||Harvested throughout the year. Focus on the colour (the brighter, the sweeter); scent; and stem (don’t select pineapples with dried brown stems or wilted leaves)|
|Pomelo||The season falls between August and September, but residents of Saigon can enjoy them throughout the year. Check the weight of the fruit first by flipping it to see if it’s firm and heavy; this means the fruit is juicy. The skin should also be fresh, perfectly ripe without scars.|
|Rambutan||Usually best from April to June and October to February. Choose the fresh fruit, with a crisp green-yellowish or green-red peel.|
|Sapodilla||In season from March to May and from September to October. Look for oblong fruit with brown skin that’s starting to turn yellow and orange. Make sure that the skin is intact – there should be no cracks, bruises, or wrinkles on the surface.|
|Soursop||Grown all year round. Somewhat larger than the custard apple, a good fruit should be green, have a good smell, and not be too soft when handled.|
|Starfruit||In season from February to March and also August to October, but generally available throughout the year. The yellower the fruit, the riper and sweeter it will be. Focus on selecting those with a well-proportioned star shape that are light green in colour. A good starfruit feels fresh and has plump appearance without any blight or decay.|
|Vietnamese Orange||Available throughout the year but in season from October to November. Look for a bright peel without blemishes, ideally with a green-yellowish hue and the leaves still attached. It should yield slightly to a gentle squeeze.|
|Watermelon||Best enjoyed during the dry season from December to April. Good watermelons have a round shape and a bright green peel. Flick it to get a feel for the way it sounds - it should resonate with a firm heaviness. The stem should be deep-set.|