Vietnamese farmers win big by growing exotic plants

By Hong Chau   November 2, 2016 | 04:48 pm GMT+7

Alien agricultural products of all shapes and sizes are invading local farms.

Giant pumpkin

Le Huu Phan, a 50-year-old farmer in the Central Highlands resort town of Da Lat, started growing giant pumpkins originating from America in 2011.

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The 150-meter-square garden has orange, yellow and white pumpkins, with the largest weighing up to 80 kilograms.

Phan said that his giant pumpkins sell well. The majority of products are put on display with each one costing from VND3-4 million ($135-180). Each pumpkin crop lasts about six months and produces 10-15 of the giant fruits.

Phan’s pumpkin garden is also open to visitors. On working days, it welcomes 50 visitors on average, but at the weekend the figure climbs to 100-200.

Giant squash

Giant squashes are exclusive to Phy My District in the central province of Binh Dinh.

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Local farmer Nguyen Dinh Giao said that his garden bears 100 fruits each crop, of which the largest can weigh up to 50 kilograms.

The incredible size is attributed to special geographic conditions in the region, which has a good source of groundwater and landlocked by mountains on three sides.

“Many people have tried using our seeds to grow on their own land, but their fruits are not as big as the ones grown here," Giao said. "They blame us for giving them bad seeds.” 

According to a local official, giant squash crop is planted in the eleventh month of the lunar calendar and harvested in the third month. This is the only crop each year.

Giant squashes fetch farmers several million dong (VND1 million =  $45) from each crop, not to mention additional sums from squash juice, a specialty collected from the tree trunks.

Black tomato

Entering Vietnam in 2014, black tomatoes are now widely cultivated in Da Lat.

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Pham Thi Thanh Thuy from Duc Trong Commune said that black tomatoes used to be scarce and there weren't enough to meet the market demand, but now the situation has improved with more farmers growing them.

Like red tomatoes, their black cousins can be harvested after three months. The jet-black fruits have been proven to be healthier than their relatives as they contain an antioxidant that helps fight diabetes and obesity.

Thuy said that every tomato plant bears from 5-7 kilograms each harvest, which used to fetch around VND200,000 ($9) per kilogram. The figure has fallen to tens of thousands now due to greater supply.

Pepino melon

The pepino melon, which is presumed to be native to South America, is favored by Vietnamese consumers due to its special skin and faint aroma.

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Nguyen Dinh, who first brought the seeds to Vietnam, said that he grows pepino melons in greenhouses using high-tech methods.

He collects from 30-40 kilograms of melons each day that earn him at least VND1.8 million ($80).

The fruits are consumed mainly in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. As supplies are limited, a kilogram of pepino melons can be sold at local markets for VND200,000 ($9).

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