Late November around Hangzhou is known for its kaleidoscope of colors. Gingko, maple, and phoenix trees paint the city a mix of yellow, orange, red, crimson and gold.
The sight of the colorful leaves against a clear blue sky is one of great charms of Zhejiang Province.
This is also the harvest time for persimmons and mandarins. These popular local fruits have found favor with foodies because of their savory taste and nutrition.
Now, fiery persimmons hang from trees in courtyards, and vibrant yellow mandarin oranges also wait for plucking. This beautiful combination of colors only lasts a couple of weeks or so, and the succulent fruits must be harvested before the arrival of a cold wave.
Shanghai Daily recommends a couple of places to pick juicy persimmons and mandarins. Besides, visitors can experience rural life and sample authentic delicacies in family-run eateries.
Red persimmons herald the advent of cold weather. In China, their planting history could date to more than a millennium, when people generally dried fruits as food for a chilly winter.
The sweet-tasting fruits helped replenish energy when food was scarce and livened up bland diets. Today, preserved persimmon is still popular with gastronomes for its aromatic, al dente mouth feel.
In Zhejiang, the yummiest preserved persimmons are produced in Dongping Village of Quzhou city.
This mountainous hamlet dates to the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) when a royal family fled there to escape persecution.
Centuries-old maple and persimmon trees flank a stone road, which has 1,118 steps and acts as the only path linking the village with the outside world.
The hidden location brings difficulties in developing modern agriculture, but the natural beauty and fruit trees enchant streams of city folk.
Over the past year, locals have given the village a facelift, upgraded infrastructure, rejuvenated an ancestral hall and set up family-run guesthouses.
In late autumn when the persimmons ripen, visitors flock there to pick fruits and make preserved pulp. The fruit is broken in half and then dried in the sun for several days, leaving only the pulp.
At harvest time, every corner of the village is covered with dried persimmons, like a red carpet.
The demand for Dongping persimmons is far beyond supply and that results in fiery bidding. Two years ago, a tourist spent 138,000 yuan (US$ 20,790) buying around 100 fruits from the oldest persimmon tree.
In Hangzhou, the most succulent persimmons are in the Xixi Wetland National Park, which holds a persimmon festival every autumn. It boasts more than 4,000 trees, which were cultivated over 100 years ago.
Throughout the centuries, plucking persimmons has evolved into a tradition. In recent years, local authorities have hosted parent-and-kid activities to help make the fruits a new calling card for the wetlands.
In Hangzhou, there are three varieties of persimmon: Gudang, Huozhu and Fangding. They feature pulpy, juicy and sweet.
How to get to Dongping Village: Changchun-Shenzhen Expressway — Hangzhou-Xin’anjiang-Jingdezhen Expressway — get off from Shangfang Exit
How to get to Xixi Wetland: Wenyi Rd — Gucui Rd — Wen’er Rd
Huangshanwu Village in Haiyan County boasts an abundance of mandarin orange trees that produce plentiful juicy fruits. The hamlet is at the northernmost part of China’s mandarin planting area with more than 700 years of growing history. Local mandarins taste sweeter than those from elsewhere due to the warm climate and abundant rainfall.
Every year, the local government hosts a series of activities including orange picking, a family-run guesthouse promotion and local delicacy feasts. Visitors can pick fruits from local orchards and buy them at a lower price than in the markets.
After picking mandarins, you can bike around the nearby Nanbei Lake, catch sunrises or sunsets, go for a hike, try rock climbing or visit temples. The lake claims to be the “only scenic site in the country that has hills, the sea and a lake.” The huge site covers 45 square kilometers north of Hangzhou Bay.
Family-run guesthouses provide homey accommodation and yummy food. Local delicacies include fish and shrimp from the lake, abalone from the sea, as well as chicken and lamb.
How to get there: Hangpu Expressway — get off at Nanbei Lake Exit