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August 1, 2009

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Home » District » Nanhui

Datuan garden offers a lot more than just plump, juicy peaches

IT'S peach season again. That oh so sweet and juicy fruit is ripe for the picking now and it looks like a bumper harvest this summer.

From late July to early August is prime time for peaches in Shanghai. Urban dwellers can take a trip to the city's remote Datuan Town in Nanhui, Shanghai's biggest peach growing area, and pluck to their heart's content.

Peach growing in Datuan has been a tradition for two decades. Almost every family grows peaches in their backyard, no matter how big or small.

The town's Milu (literally sweet juice) peach has earned recognition nationwide for its big size, thin skin, juicy flesh and sweet taste. Datuan now boasts a peach-growing area of 133 hectares, the most in the city.

A Milu peach usually weighs 200 to 300 grams while the big ones tip the scales at more than 500 grams. Ordinary peaches weigh 100 to 200 grams on average.

Each summer around late July, Datuan's farmers set up simple stalls on roadsides and sell their peaches, which come presented for a gift, separately packaged or in bulk.

As the countryside roads are usually wider and not as busy as downtown, you can stop your car at the side and try bargaining with farmers.

A gift package of 12 big peaches sells for about 30 yuan (US$4.4), but you can talk them down to 25 yuan. If you want to buy more than three boxes, 20 yuan may also be accepted.

Don't trifle with these farmers. They are smart businessmen and they do know how to do business.

Free samples are ready and water has also been prepared for visitors to wash their hands after sampling. No matter how many you buy, from only one peach to 100 boxes, farmers will give you their business cards, which are meticulously printed.

"Just give me a call if you want to buy more and we can send them to your doorstep," one farmer says.

But if you want to have more fun and pick the peaches yourself, the Datuan Peach Garden might be an ideal place.

Its peach orchard covers more than 26 hectares, the biggest in Nanhui, and last year it was listed as one of the city's key bases of high-quality agricultural products.

These days it is packed with day-trippers wearing straw hats and long sleeves.

Reservations are required. Visitors are divided into several small groups that each includes a farmer who acts as a guide.

It's not as easy as you might imagine to pluck a peach off a tree.

Each peach is wrapped with a small grease proof paper bag to keep pests away and prevent exposure to too much sunlight.

Open the bag first to check the color of the peach. If it is white, this means the peach is ripe and you can pick it. If the peach is still green, it still needs three or four more days before it's ripe.

Do not use scissors to take the peach off a tree as it damages the tree's rhizomes, which will hurt next year's peach production. When plucking, hold the peach gently and twist slightly. The peach will come off the tree easily.

In the orchard, you can see some ripe peaches that have already dropped onto the ground.

It costs 80 yuan per person during the peach season (July and August) and the peach blossom season (March and April). The ticket includes a 2.5-kilogram gift package, unlimited peach tasting (quality guaranteed) in the appointed venues -- if your stomach is big enough -- and some farming activities.

Visitors are required to wear trousers, long-sleeve shirts and disposable gloves to avoid insect bites and skin irritation from the fuzz on peaches.

Picked peaches cost about 6 yuan per 500 grams and a 5-kilogram gift package is 60 yuan. It's a little more expensive than the "roadside peaches."

The garden also grows tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, eggplants and many other plants. Picking is welcomed.

It also has a restaurant providing a variety of authentic village dishes such as free-range chicken, pumpkin pies, wontons stuffed with wild edible herbs and fish soup with organic gourd, among others.

Datuan Peach Garden also hosts a crawfish catching festival through the end of October.

This small, red lobster is usually found in rivers and swamps. It is among the favorite dishes of Shanghai locals. Today many Shanghainese can still remember the 1970s and 1980s, when they sat for hours on riverbanks to angle crawfish.

However, crawfish are hard to find in the city's rivers nowadays. The crawfish you catch can be cooked in the garden's kitchen right away. The most popular Shanghai way to eat them is to have them boiled live in a large pot with heavy seasoning, such as salt, cayenne pepper, garlic and onions. The cooking fee is 10 yuan per 500 grams.

Each weekend, the garden holds a crawfish catching competition. The winner receives a free one-night stay in the Peach Hotel, a complex of villas that were formerly farmers' houses.

The peach garden also includes other activities such as fishing (fish caught charged at 15 yuan per 500 grams if you want to take them home), rowing (10 yuan per 30 minutes each person), golf (free), barbecue and tea tasting.

Address: 888 Dongda Rd

Tel: 5808-0078

How to get there:

A20-A2-Yeda Road-Dongda Road

A20-Nanliu Road-Nanlu Road-Dongda Road

A20-A30-Dongda Road Shanghai's 'food basket' aims to deliver high-quality produce to kitchen tables Wing Tan

With the growing demand for healthy, high-quality agricultural produce, Nanhui area, sometimes referred to as "Shanghai's food basket and market garden," implemented a series of programs over the past two years to ensure fresh, eco-friendly products are sent to the dining tables of urban dwellers.

The branding strategy and new marketing methods have been applied.

Since last year, Nanhui's 69 agricultural associations, farms and orchards have signed cooperative contracts with the city's 110 supermarkets and 1,200 food markets, including Carrefour, Wal-Mart, Metro and E-Mart.

At the same time, its agricultural products are available in the No.1 Food Store on Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall and a Nanhui fruits and vegetables counter has been set up in Wanda Plaza in Yangpu District.

Annual sales volume hit 391 million yuan (US$57.5 million) last year.

The district's Tongyao Cooperative Association of Fruits and Vegetables last year became the first "free admission'' supplier of Carrefour on the Chinese mainland.

Tongyao Cooperative sells juicy peaches and watermelons directly to citizens.

To better combine agricultural development and Nanhui's tourism resources, the district set up dozens of "field supermarkets'' at 10 of its agricultural bases, where citizens can purchase items fresh from the fields. These field supermarkets attract 1,400 people each day.

"The ultimate goal for us is to increase our farmers' and growers' annual income," says Zhang Shuilong, director of the local agricultural commission.

Modern agricultural tourism has become another highlight of Nanhui's economic development in recent years.

Its annual Peach Blossom Festival from March to April and Peach Festival in summer have been popular among urban dwellers.

This year's peach blossom festival attracted more than 1.5 million visitors, a 50 percent jump from last year. Turnover exceeded 60 million yuan, a 45 percent increase.

So far, the number of farmers' cooperative associations (groups gathering together individual farmers and growers to help solve problems) in Nanhui has increased from 218 last year to 313 with 62,000 families joining, tops among the city's suburban districts. The associations had a total of 55 million yuan in registered capital and more than 300 million yuan in total assets.

Nanhui has formed several industry groups covering fruit, vegetables, edible fungus, flowers, poultry and eggs, having gained more than 30 percent of market share in the city.

Some time-honored brands such as Honggang haricot beans dominate the market with an astonishing 95 percent share.

Peaches and watermelons are two specialties among Nanhui's agricultural produce.

At present, Nanhui's peach farms cover an area of 5,333 hectares and watermelon farming covers another 7,332 hectares.

The total annual output of peaches and watermelons amounts to 50,000 tons and 110,000 tons respectively.


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