Visiting Vietnam

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I spent five weeks travelling the length and breadth of the country and arrived mid Oct. which is considered the off-season and is the cooler time to visit with Feb-Mar the optimum.  Watermelons are grown on a raised bed with plastic just as strawberries are grown here. There are two types of coconut: the land type and one that grows in water. They use the fronds from the water type to make thatching for their roof which will last 5-6 years. I visited a coconut candy factory which was very interesting. Nothing is wasted of the coconut. The candy tastes like a soft caramel. I bought some to bring back for you to try but when I was getting a bus back to Saigon from the Mekong, I declined the seat in the back as the mini-bus was full so they put the two passengers that were in the front seat into the back and I was given their seats. I was so embarrassed to put them out of their seat that I shared the caramels around. I had already been in a situation in the north-west where there were 21 of us on a 9 seater! I never saw any orange citrus – they suffer from Greening disease so don’t change colour. Pineapple 20 cents, Dragon Fruit 50 cents; 10 bananas for a $1.00; Pummelo 50 cents – $1.00; Rambutans 30 cents kg. Now these are the prices the Vietnamese pay – not what they charge foreigners! I bought a kg of Mangosteen for $3.00 and most had to be thrown away. I’ve since learnt from Asher that when you buy Mangosteen, you must pick them yourself and the outside of the fruit has to be soft when you squeeze them and mine were rock hard! There are a lot of low-lying islands in the Mekong delta (reminds me of Venice – much flooding during the rainy season) and I thought there would have been midges everywhere but no sign of them.  They use open irrigation canals about 5 metres apart and a metre deep with Longans the main fruit grown in the area I visited. The trees are grown quite close perhaps 2-3 metres apart and have been cinctured many times and you’ll see where they’ve taken out one main branch. The bees I saw to pollinate their trees are of the non-stinging type but look very different to our native bees. Fish are raised in the canals so that would avoid mosquito larvae. In other larger fish pond areas, their method of collection is a battery pack on their back and two rods in the water to stun the fish. Rubbish bins don’t appear to be used for waste collection and the curious thing for me was that I never saw any ants/flies swarm onto the rubbish.

Cassava must be processed to remove naturally occurring toxins and reduce spoilage. It is milled into a flour. They also slice it up and dry it by the side of the road in great quantities and feed it to their pigs.

At the Sofri Research Station they hang 2 strands of video tape around the trees but put it up only during fruiting time as they don’t want the birds/bats to get use to it. They don’t know why it works but it does. They told me that you will have more of a problem with birds/bats in a small backyard situation but farmers there found that when they have a large number of fruit trees, they don’t seem to get the problem.

Pitaya are grown on square concrete posts 1½ mtrs above ground, 25cms thick, 3 mtrs apart and cuttings are grown on all four sides and then taped to the post. With this particular variety when they reach the top, they just trail down. There are no wires between the posts for them to climb along.

Sapodillas are ripe when you scratch the skin and it appears brown – this technique avoids the grainy/gritty texture and won’t harm the fruit. It’s nice blended with crushed ice as a juice.

Pollination   The ornamental betalnut is used for pollination in the orchard as it attracts the stingless native bees.

Carambola   loves water

Guava     There are 21 different varieties. They just use plastic bags (any colour) around the fruit to keep out fruit fly because there’s no spray that is effective however this year they are trialing baits.

Longans   They girdle only one variety of Longan ie ringbark 1cm all the way around the branch and remove the bark after the flush of new leaves are nearly mature – the Du Yabour variety. (the skin of the fruit is brown in colour) There are tropical and sub-tropical Longans and the sub-tropicals will never ever flower in tropical conditions. If you want them to flower, you have to apply Potassium Chlorite KCL03 and this is applied when the new leaves are fully mature – 30gms per metre for radius or 15gms per of the canopy. After fruiting, all varieties are pruned.

Mangoes  There are 130 varieties of Mangoes and they can manipulate the tree to produce flowering at any time of the year. To induce flowering from the vegetative state to reproductive growth, they water stress and use chemical fertiliser. We stop fertiliser or use just a minor dose of nitrogen to make the roots weaker. If this does not produce results, then we cincture the trunk. Sheryl What stage of plant growth do you cincture?  A. After fruiting we promote new growth to get new flushing, then we consider when we want the fruit and from that point we count back to the time we apply this technique and it’s used 6-7 months before we want to have fruit. Sheryl So you cincture the trunk 30cm from the ground ie 2-3 months before flowering and Coaltar is used as a growth retardant in conjunction with this process and is applied directly on the tree trunk. Our Mangoes give 2 crops per year – one main crop and then a minor crop.

Pineapple The farmer prefers to grow the very sweet slightly serrated leafed Queen variety because it’s easier to grow and sells well. The other smooth leaf variety with a few slight serrations around the tip is Cayenne but is not as sweet and is used for canning and juicing.