Delicious treats to get you ready for that long winter

In the nice fall weather, the amazing seasonal produce are worth a visit to the vegetable markets.

Autumn, the season of harvest, is a time for enjoying rich foods and beefing up for the upcoming cold winter. If the spring foods are all about freshness, fall produces are more heartwarming and welcoming. Besides sumptuous hairy crabs, the fertile land is ready to offer up the season’s golden produce to the dinner table.

In the nice fall weather, the amazing seasonal produce are worth a visit to the vegetable markets.


Persimmon is perhaps one of the most exciting produce of autumn that cannot be enjoyed at other times.

Known as shizi in Chinese, persimmon is a native species that’s now widely cultivated across China. The fruit was introduced to Europe in the 19th century.

Starting October, fruit vendors will be selling different kinds of persimmon of various sizes, flavors and textures.

Ox heart persimmon from Mianchi County, Henan Province is a time-honored favorite.

The excellent cultivar is large and extra juicy, the average weight of a single fruit is about 250 grams, some can reach 370 grams.

The ripe fruits can easily be split apart by hand.

The Luotian sweet persimmon grown in the Dabie Mountain, Hubei Province, is a non-astringent persimmon that contains less tannin, which means the fruit can be eaten when it’s still firm and crunchy. The fruits contain fewer seeds than typical sweet persimmons and have thinner peel.

Since 2011, Luotian County has hosted an annual sweet persimmon festival to celebrate the county’s pillar industry.

Fuping County of Shaanxi Province is another major persimmon-producing area.

The medium-sized fruits weigh 155 grams on average, while the flesh is sweet as honey and contains little fiber.

The county has been growing persimmons for 2,000 years. The ones with a pointed end is considered the best.

Crystal persimmon from Lintong, Shaanxi Province is a smaller cultivar that’s seedless and extra sweet. It’s also used to make wine and vinegar.

The unripe persimmon has a bitter and astringent taste while the ripe ones are soft and sweet. The peel of fresh persimmon is inedible because it contains the majority of the tannin in the fruit.

China produces close to half of the world’s persimmons. The fruit is eaten fresh, cooked or preserved.

Dried persimmon, or shibing, is a traditional snack that preserves the fruit for the winter. The fresh fruits are peeled, flattened and dried outdoors. The white frost covering the shibing is the natural sugar from the fruit, although be cautious of the ones with an excessive amount of frost because that can be artificial.

Ox heart persimmons are commonly used to make shibing. The Fuping persimmon is considered the best ingredient because it makes soft, smooth and glossy dried persimmons.


Persimmon is an autumn staple celebrated for its sweet flavors.

Gorgon fruit kernels

Gorgon fruit is a quite unique food from Suzhou that’s not common outside the Jiangnan region, areas south of the Yangtze River. It comes into season every fall around Mid-Autumn Festival.

Known as jitoumi or chicken head rice in Chinese, it is actually the white kernels of gorgon fruit (qianshi), an aquatic plant.

The fresh gorgon fruit kernels are expensive (about 90 yuan/US$13.8 for 400-500 grams) not only because the best season is very limited, but also because of the intensive labor required to harvest the seeds.

The farmers in Suzhou get up very early every morning and work in the water for five to six hours using a dagger-like bamboo knife to cut a hole in the center of the giant round leaf, pull the fruit out of the water and cut it from the stem. The vendors often work hours to retrieve the kernels out of the hard shells.

The simplest way to enjoy gorgon fruit kernels is to melt some rock sugar in boiling water and cook the kernels for one to two minutes. Some people prefer to add the kernels into red bean soup or white fungus soup.

Gorgon fruit kernel and shrimp stir-fry is also a popular dish for this season.


A farmer tries to pull out a fresh gorgon fruit from water.


Known as guniang in China, physalis is a small yellow berry commonly grown in northeastern China. It’s also known as lantern fruit because of its thin, paper-like husk.

The guniang is dominantly sweet in taste. The edible peel is slightly crunchy and the berries kind of explode like a juice bomb in the mouth. A lot of people have mixed feelings about this fruit because of its unique flavor.

It’s rich in vitamin C and carotene as well as amino acids and minerals. It does contain high level of sugar. In traditional Chinese medicine, guniang is used to clear the heat and relieve cough.

The fruit can be eaten fresh or be made into fruit preserves, jams and even wine.

The majority of the guniang berries seen in the market are yellow, but the red variety (physalis alkekengi) is also very nutritious and delicious.

Right now, the price for 500 grams of guniang is around 10 yuan, which is a lot of berries because of its light weight.

Li Anlan / SHINE

Guniang berries are dominantly sweet in taste.

Sweet potatoes and taro

Available all year round, sweet potato seems to be a bit boring compared with the produce above, but it’s one of the fall staples.

There are several kinds of popular sweet potatoes in China. In Shanghai, the ones with red or orange flesh is the most common. These sweet potatoes are softer, more moist and sweeter.

Hot candied sweet potato is a classic Chinese dessert dish that’s commonly made with this cultivar together with rock sugar.

In northern provinces, the sweet potato cultivars with white or light-yellow flesh are more common. These sweet potatoes are less sweet and moist. It’s commonly steamed, roasted or added into congee.

Purple sweet potato is a visually attractive cultivar that’s sweet with moderate moisture. It remains mostly purple when cooked but can turn blue sometimes. A popular dish is purple sweet potato and white fungus soup which can be served hot or cold.

Chestnut sweet potato is a newer cultivar that’s much smaller in size. It has thin peel and the right amount of sweetness. The flesh is quite yellow and resembles the chestnut. Fuping County is one of the production areas.

Taro is another anticipated fall produce. Known as yunai, the sweet taro can be eaten as a vegetable, a staple or a dessert.

The taro and scallion stir-fry is a must-have dish in Jiangnan region. The sweet and soft taro is infused with the rich flavors of the scallion oil.

Recipe: taro and scallion stir-fry

Servings: 2-3


6-7 small taros

About 10 green scallions

Salt and cooking oil


1. Peel the taros and cut them into chunks.

2. Add cooking oil in the pan, lightly stir-fry the taros.

3. Add water to cover half of the taros and salt to taste. Cover and cook till the taros become soft.

4. Turn up to reduce the remaining water, then add the chopped scallion and toss well.

Osmanthus flower

The osmanthus flower is regarded as one of the messengers of fall, as the clusters of golden yellow flowers ascend to the branches to fill the streets with fascinating fragrance.

To preserve the aroma of osmanthus flowers, sugared osmanthus flower can be prepared easily at home by layering the flowers with granulated sugar in sealed glass jars. Over time, the flower and sugar will blend together. The sauce can be made with honey as well to create a syrup.

The Chinese have been using osmanthus in cooking since ancient times.

The flowers are added in sweet dishes including cakes, congees and soups, among which the lotus root stuffed with glutinous rice and sugared osmanthus flower, the osmanthus jelly and the osmanthus almond bean curd are popular favorites. Osmanthus flowers are also used to make tea blends and wine, which are very fragrant and easy to drink with health benefits.

Ti Gong

Winter osmanthus wine.

Here are some spots to view osmanthus in Shanghai:

Jinshan Osmanthus Garden is the largest in the city, with more than 6,000 osmanthus trees.

Address: Xingta Village, Fengjing Town, Jinshan District

Guilin Park in Xuhui was once the private residence of Huang Jinrong, the notorious head of the “Green Gang.” Now, visitors can enjoy 23 species of osmanthus flowers while sipping tea in the garden.

Address: 188 Caobao Rd

Oriental Land has a 3.4-kilometer osmanthus boulevard that’s surrounded by 8,000 osmanthus trees. A few dozen of the trees are more than 100 years old.

Address: 6888 Huqingping Rd, Qingpu District

Shanghai Botanical Garden is home to more than 500 osmanthus trees. Before October 31, there’s the opportunity to see both osmanthus and chrysanthemum flowers at the same time.

Address: 1111 Longwu Rd

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