The first batch of the Black Pearl (黑珍珠) strain of wax apples -- which are originally from the Malay peninsula but have been genetically improved in Taiwan -- were airlifted yesterday to Canada as part of the fruit's experimental entry into the North American market.
Black Pearl wax apples, which are grown mainly in Taiwan's southernmost county of Pingtung, get their name from their shiny dark-red color. They also taste sweeter than ordinary wax apples, are larger in size and have an improved texture -- which makes the strain a "pearl among fruits," according to those who named it.
Black Pearl wax apples command much higher prices than other strains -- around NT$200 (US$5.7) per kilogram compared to just NT$30 per kilogram for ordinary wax apples.
The Canada-bound wax apples, packed into small paper cartons that contain five or six fruits each, mark the first time that this kind of fruit has been exported to Canada.
Similar shipments are expected to be airlifted to Singapore shortly as part of an overseas sales campaign recently launched by the Taiwan Wax Apple Sales Strategic Alliance (台灣蓮霧產業聯盟) under technical guidance from the Kaohsiung District Agricultural Improvement Station (KDAIS, 高雄區農業改良場).
According to Lee Hsien-teh from the KDAIS, Taiwan's wax apples are priced high because of their good quality -- they are also a labor-intensive variety and require a slow growth rate and organic fertilizer to ensure good taste and texture
Of the roughly 8,300 hectares of wax apple orchards nationwide, about 7,000 hectares are in Pingtung County.
In Liukuei, Kaohsiung County, an even newer species of wax apple, the "black diamond" has been developed. However, the "black diamond," which is even larger than the "black pearl," is being produced in very low numbers, insufficient for even domestic consumption.