utant fruit: Vo Trung Thanh poses with a gourd-shaped pomelo used as a good-luck offering during Tet. — File Photo
HAU GIANG — Vietnamese people often offer their ancestors pomelos that are placed on their family’s altar during Tet (Lunar New Year) holidays, which in turn will hopefully bring happiness and luck during the new year.
Vo Trung Thanh from Phu Huu Commune, Chau Thanh District, has recently achieved fame by successfully growing pomelos that are shaped like gourds.
When asked about the secret of raising such strange-shaped pomelos, Thanh says they are all Nam Roi pomelo, which are one of the most popular fruits in Viet Nam.
“I’ve just simply changed their normal shapes into gourds,” he says.
Thanh, who has been harvesting pomelos for 20 years, from time to time has found trees bearing one or two fruits with odd shapes.
“This happens because the branches of some trees have grown too close together, which prevents the fruit from growing properly,” Thanh explained.
A week before the Tet holidays in 2006, Thanh went shopping in Can Tho city and found consumers going crazy for square-shaped watermelons, and then an idea came to him.
“Why not grow unusual shaped pomelos. If I can, my pomelos will sell like hot cakes.”
Thanh nurtured the idea of growing the pomelos in his orchards that would be shaped like gourds. “For many southerners, the pomelo is an indispensable fruit for their families’ altars during the Tet holidays, and the gourd symbolises luck and peace. A pomelo that is shaped like a gourd, therefore, will be more fitting for altars on such an occasion.”
After the 2007 pomelo season began, Thanh selected 20 pairs of pomelos that were of the desired shape for his experiment. He tightly wrapped ribbons under the stem of the fruit so that the tops would not be able to develop normally. Later, Thanh designed a steel press so that he could imprint the letters for Money and Manna on the pomelos.
After experimenting with the selected fruits, only three pairs of pomelos were the desired shape, but Thanh was still encouraged by the results. His neighbours were impressed with his gourd-shaped fruits.
Inspired by his initial success, Thanh grew 400 gourd-shaped pomelo trees and 80 per cent of the fruits harvested were of the desired shape.
A pair of gourd-shaped pomelos cost between VND200,000 - 300,000 (US$10-15) while a pair of normal pomelos sells for only VND60,000 ($3). Last year, Thanh earned a profit of more than VND30 million ($1,500) after selling 170 pairs of gourd-shaped pomelos.
However, achieving his current success was not as simple as it sounds. Once, burglars broke into his garden. They stole most of his good crops and left nothing but several ugly pomelos behind in their wake.
“I only find a few fruits on each tree that are suitable enough,” Thanh says.
Thanh is now planning to grow pomelos in a variety of gourd shapes for the next Tet holidays.
“I’m also thinking about making pomelos into other shapes. What about a pomelo that looks like a cube, a bear or ginseng?”
For this year’s Tet, Thanh will showcase 600 pomelos that have been registered at the National Office of Intellectual Property of Viet Nam.
While other farmers have been affected by the declining prices of pomelos, Thanh continues to sell his products that are both gourd shaped and normal pomelos. His success has also attracted a lot of curious merchants to his orchard. Several of the merchants are anxious to see the extraordinarily shaped fruit. — VNS