SOURCE: Office of Commerical Affairs, Royal Thai Embassy

November 15, 2007 12:34 ET

Six Fresh Fruits From Thailand Enter the United States for the First Time

Royal Thai Embassy Office of Commercial Affairs Provides Tastes of Thailand in Washington, DC

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - November 15, 2007) - For the first time, Thailand is importing six exotic, tropical fresh fruits into the United States -- mangosteen, rambutan, longan, lychee, mango, and pineapple.

"While many Americans may not be familiar with the Thai versions of these fruits, anyone who has spent time in Thailand know how delicious and delectable these fruits are, especially when served fresh," said Mrs. Kessiri Siripakorn, Commercial Minister of the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, DC.

Although these Thai-grown fruits have been available in canned form or served as juices for many years in the United States, this is the first time they will be available fresh.

In Southeast Asia, these fruits are valued for their flavor and nutritional qualities. For example, mangosteen is valued for its refreshing and rejuvenating properties and known as the "Queen of Fruits," perhaps because of the legend that Queen Victoria offered a knighthood to anyone who could bring her this succulent, sweet-tart fruit in pristine condition. Dr. Mehmet Oz, professor and vice chairman of surgery at Columbia University and a regular contributor to "The Oprah Show," cites mangosteen as one of the "ancient healing tools that have strong antioxidants to promote everything from sexuality to longevity."

The rambutan, often called the "hairy fruit" because of its red, hairy skin, is low in calories but high in health value. The red, rough-skinned lychee purportedly regulates the digestive system, quenches thirst, and helps people with anemia.

Thai officials have been working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to develop a procedure to assure the safety of the fruit and to prevent the transfer of pests or disease from imports to U.S.-grown produce. On June 20, APHIS announced the conditions under which the six fruits could be imported. On November 1, APHIS certified the procedure, and shipments began.

The first shipment of fresh Thai fruit arrived in the port of Los Angeles earlier this month. Fresh Thai fruit should begin appearing in grocery stores on the West Coast within the next few weeks and on the East Coast early in 2008. Much more of the fresh Thai fruit will appear in American grocery markets in the spring of 2008, as the fruits come back into season.

On November 15, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Krit Garnjana-Goonchorn introduced food and cultural writers to the tastes of these fruits, along with Hom Mali -- the unique Thai jasmine rice -- and other Thai dishes at a luncheon at Bangkok Joe's prepared by Executive Chef/Owner Aulie Bunyarataphan.

Following is a brief description of the six fruits:

Mangosteen is a small, round fruit with a thick, purple skin encasing succulent, sweet-tart white segments. This popular dessert fruit is eaten fresh from the shell. Mangosteen is high in potassium and contains vitamins B and C, calcium, magnesium, and traces of iron and zinc. The inedible purple skin, rich in antioxidants, is used to treat skin problems. Fresh Thai mangosteens are available May-October.

Rambutan, instantly recognizable by its bright red, hairy skin, is popular throughout Southeast Asia. The small, egg-shaped, white, textured flesh inside is deliciously sweet. Low in calories, rambutans contain vitamin C, carbohydrates, calcium, phosphorus, and niacin and reputedly beautify the skin. The season for fresh Thai rambutans is from April-October.

The popular longan is known as "dragon eyes" because it resembles an eye when shelled. The translucent-white, soft, sweet, and juicy flesh surrounds a large, black seed. Longan is related to the lychee, and both have been grown in Southeast Asia for 1,000 years. Longan's musky, sweet, rich fruit, enveloped in a smooth, brown, leathery skin, is enjoyed chilled as a dessert, in fruit salads, as a snack, or as a delicious addition to many dishes, including soups. Fresh Thai longans are found June-October.

Extremely sweet, but with a touch of sourness, lychees are popular for dessert. About the size of a large grape, they have a rough red skin surrounding juicy, white flesh and a smooth black seed. Generally served with ice, freshly peeled and pitted, lychees are rich in vitamins C, B1 and B2, phosphorus, niacin, and carbohydrate. In addition to being a succulent fresh fruit, lychees are popular as juices and wines and in flavored cocktails. The Thai lychee season is April-June.

Oval-shaped Thai mangoes are renowned for their juicy, aromatic, and delightfully sweet taste. Whether eaten as a dessert when they are ripe, yellow and sweet, or dipped in a sweet chili sauce when they are young, green and sour, Thai mangoes are rich in calcium, phosphorus, vitamins A and B, and beta-carotene. Thai mangoes are available November-June.

Thais enjoy the yellow, succulent, fibrous flesh of fresh pineapple as a dessert and an accompaniment to other food. When the sweet and sour pineapple tastes too tart, Thais dip sections into a dry salt and sugar mixture. Famous for their thirst-quenching properties, pineapples are rich in vitamins A and C, calcium, phosphorus, and bromelian and reportedly cool the body, fight colds, and lower blood pressure. Peak season for Thai pineapples is April-May and November-January.

This material is distributed by Global Communicators, LLC, on behalf of the Office of Commercial Affairs, Royal Thai Embassy. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice, Washington, DC.

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