History of Taiwanese fruits

Photo:Government Information Office, Republic of China (Taiwan).Photography by Yu-shia Kao(高玉霞).

Taiwan is located in a subtropical zone and is well suited for the cultivation of many tropical fruits. In addition, Taiwan has mountains rising almost 4,000 meters above sea level, and the cool climate of these mountains allows Taiwan to also produce temperate-zone fruits. These unique natural geographical attributes not only give Taiwan's fruits a distinctive flavor, but also enable northern fruits such as persimmons, apples, Asian pears, and nectarines to coexist with such tropical fruits as bananas, lychees, mangoes, and pineapples on an island only 400 kilometers long. Almost all of the fruits cultivated on the island of Taiwan today originally came from somewhere else. These fruits originated in different parts of the world and arrived on the island at different times. Taiwan's location along important travel routes has given it a complex history and has also provided opportunities for exotic fruits to take root in its soil, sometimes even outshining native varieties.

When they landed at Anping in 1624, apart from wax apples, the Dutch also brought mangoes from South Asia, custard apples from South America, and pitayas (dragon fruit) from Central America. This was the beginning of fruit tree cultivation in Taiwan. When Taiwan was ruled by Koxinga (Zheng Chenggong), growing numbers of Chinese immigrants brought peach trees, which were originally native to China, along with guavas from Central America and grapes from Central Asia. During the Qing Dynasty, Chinese immigrants successively introduced pomelos, lychees, bananas, watermelons, papayas, pineapples, oranges, and starfruit. Various temperate-zone fruits, including apples, nectarines, and Asian pears, were introduced in trials conducted during the Japanese colonial period. Following World War II, Taiwan's agricultural authorities acquired new varieties on a large scale from around the world, and also developed new cultivars. This was how Taiwan acquired its current colorful profusion of fruits.

Thanks to its fertile land and warm climate, Taiwan produces abundant fruit of all types. Due to the constant turnover in fruit varieties, many types are popular for a short period of time, but afterwards vanish without a trace. Only those fruits that can maintain their popularity over the long term stand a chance of becoming classic varieties. Apart from the Madou pomelo, which is native to Taiwan and is famous throughout the island, the Kaiying pineapples introduced by the Japanese have taken over from other pineapple varieties over the course of the last century; the superlative sweet-sour flavor of this variety when it ripens in the summertime has made it a perennial favorite. While new varieties of mangoes are constantly appearing on the market in Taiwan, the "tu-she-zi" variety introduced by the Dutch from Java and the Aiwen mango introduced from Florida in 1954 have remained the most popular.

These fruits from far-off places have not only acquired a distinctive Taiwanese taste after growing in the local soil, but their flavors have also become part of the collective memories of local people.