Life Life

27/01/2022 - 08:26

Winter tangerines...

Hong Dieu tangerine is an ancient tree variety whose fruit value and quality has been proven over the years when grown in Luong Quan (Thuy Bieu, Hue City).

Mrs. Dang Thi Than cherishing the precious tangerines

Precious tree amid the specialty area

On a winter day, only when sitting in the garden house of Thuy Bieu, sipping fresh and delicious Hong Dieu tangerine segments just picked from the branches could we realize the source of the soil, of the alluvial seeds saved for millions of years on the rocky mountain of the upstream Truong Son, drifting into the Huong River to reinforce Luong Quan Beach.

Asked about Hong Dieu tangerine variety, Mr. Vo Tran Tuan Hung, Chairman of the Farmers' Association of Thuy Bieu Ward told me the "resume" of the precious tree variety grown for generations in Luong Quan. In charge of agriculture for years, he reached many places, but never has he seen any tangerine variety that produces such delicious fruit!

Mr. Le Hong Quan (Luong Quan residential area, Thuy Bieu Ward) still keeps more than 50 tangerine trees in his orchard. On the last days of the year, tangerines about to be in season are ripe with bright yellow on the trees. Sitting and chatting, he sometimes received calls from “regular customers" from afar, who inquired about the situation of tangerine crop, and then ordered a few kilograms as Tet (Lunar New Year) gifts.

Mr. Quan said this tangerine variety has been grown since time immemorial. When growing up, he saw that the tree was as tall as a person's head, yielding fruit in countless seasons. The story goes in his family that his great-grandfather, who worked as a medical mandarin in the Nguyen Dynasty, brought this tangerine variety from the North to Hue to grow for nearly a hundred years. The top tangerine trees have been preserved so far thanks to the family’s care.

Hong Dieu tangerines in Thuy Bieu with delicious and sweet characteristics

Hong Dieu tangerine trees blossom until they are harvested for a full year. Tangerines are ripe on Tet (Lunar New Year), so they are often bought and ordered by diners as gifts. This precious tree variety is only suitable for alluvial soil like Thuy Bieu. In a bumper year, the output reached 100kg per tree, his family earned about 30 million VND.

Despite the ripeness in early season, the peel of Hong Dieu tangerines in Quan’s orchard gets dark yellow. The tangerine has few pips, thin peel, and succulent segments with deep red and sweet fragrance. Enjoying the flavor of precious tangerine variety on the winter days in Thuy Bieu orchard house, I suddenly realized that nature has endowed this land with "alluvial seeds" that cannot be found everywhere!

Pouring a fragrant cup of tangerine wine Mr. Quan said that only distinguished guests are invited to a cup of aged wine during Tet. Hong Dieu serves not only as fruit in the home orchard but also as limitation to the wine concentration during fermentation.

Every Tet, the tangerine-growing households in Luong Quan have a small jar of wine with seeds of Flacourtia jangomas, which is also a tree grown in the orchard. The seeds are aged for about 20 days until fermentation. Afterwards, the householder halves about 2 tangerines and drops them into the soaking jar to limit the wine concentration.

Mr. Dang Van Thon, a tangerine grower in Luong Quan told me he is not afraid of being … stolen when planting Hong Dieu tangerine trees because the fragrance will spread far away if the bark is scratched upon falling or being peeled off.

“The family has about 40 trees in the orchard and the alluvial ground. For the people here, the tangerine tree is not only a fruit tree but also a family treasure. On Tet, putting tangerines on the ancestral altar is also a tribute to the forebears who left such a precious tree variety to the family," shared Mr. Thon.

In Thuy Bieu people’s memory, in the heyday of Hong Dieu tangerines, when Tet came, the growers picked tangerines, washed them, put them into baskets and took them to Dong Ba Market to sell. Each grower here had 40-50 trees in their home orchard; they cared for tangerines, maintained the top varieties and only sold at home when customers came to buy.

"Dream" of tangerine orchard on alluvial ground

In order to "conserve" Hong Dieu tangerine variety, which bears delicious fruits on Tet , Luong Quan villagers have to take care of it like a specialty tree variety of the area every year. Interspersed in grapefruit orchards, between the two tangerine trees is a manure pit for people to improve land. The hole both drains water for trees to avoid waterlogging and composts trees all year round for roots to reach.

To be able to grow this precious tangerine variety, more than anyone else, Thuy Bieu people always grasp its "hard-to-grow” characteristics: In each season in blossom, a lot of fruits are produced, but the dropping rate is also high after each early rain. The trunk is too small to bear when the tree is laden with fruits.

Luong Quan people have come up with a unique way to support tangerine trees. Each pole is independently used to support each branch; the branches must not overlap because the contact of branches often causes fungal diseases. In recent years, to develop this tangerine variety, the people have provined, propagated and planted seedlings on Luong Quan alluvial ground - the planning area for growing grapefruit trees.

Hong Dieu tangerine trees so far have been grown only in Thuy Bieu, with a small area. Despite their deliciousness, little is known of them. If planned to grow in high, silt-rich land like in the alluvial area along the Huong River, this tangerine tree variety will have conditions for being developed, conserved and restored in the long run.

According to Mr. Vo Tran Tuan Hung, Chairman of the Farmers' Association of Thuy Bieu Ward, knowing that it is a rare fruit tree, the top tree, along with grapefruit trees, the locality always creates favorable conditions for the people to scale up, develop the precious tree variety and promote products. Currently, in the ward, about 20 households still grow Hong Dieu tangerine trees, nearly 50 of which have also been piloted on the alluvial ground.

In spite of the small growing area predominantly with the top trees retained from time immemorial, this tangerine tree variety brings high economic efficiency to the people. It is a precious "gift" for visitors from afar to Hue upon the arrival of Tet.

Story and photos: Ha Nguyen