Coming from Europe, June is strawberry season for me… so how happy was I to read that May-June is also the season for Chinese strawberries?! Well, not everything that goes by the same name is the same fruit in East and West.
The Chinese strawberry looks different – it is also called Waxberry, Yumberry or Yang Mei. It is the fruit of the wax myrtle tree – and while it looks like a berry, with lots of seeds on the outside, there is actually a seed inside.
But I am jumping too far ahead! At the moment, almost every fruit stall in the wet markets is selling a basket of ripe berries, in deep red to purple hue, for around 10 HKD. Usually the vendors do not know what the fruit is called in English, but once I point at the basket, they all smile and tell me it is a good choice and a healthy fruit. The fruits are touted for their ability to help alleviate pain and also for their ability to help prevent wrinkles and keep skin looking young – at least that’s what they say in China. And apparently they can be very cleansing… so don’t eat too many in one go!
The Waxberry is round, with an edible skin (it looks a little like a lychee from the distance, but once you get closer you can tell it is more like a raspberry or blackberry). The flesh inside is soft and overtly succulent with a ruby color slightly lighter than that of its exterior. Its flesh has a sweet tart flavour, a bit like a mix between a pomegranate, raspberry and kiwi, and contains a singular hard seed in the center of the fruit.
When you buy them, just make sure you really wash them well – they have lots of tiny pockets that small insects can get trapped in. Also it’s hard to tell if they have been sprayed with pesticides. So I just used a bath of white vinegar (1/3) and hot water (2/3) and soaked the berries in it, before washing them once more in hot water.