Kaohsiung Visit Day 11 Finale

All good things comes to an end, today is the last day of our 11 long days of backpacking travel across the different farms in Kaohsiung. We were promised an extended tour of the district, and oppose to yesterday, we will be well fed!

Breakfast started off with plain congee and numerous traditional, local unique veggies with marinated spicy daikons. 

After 11 long days, we are practically brother and sisters of another mother.

Started off by walking along a giant stretch of river bank. It was a beautiful day out and we loved it.

The river was shallow...

We spotted an eagle, which was a rare sight! I think it was picking fishes at the surface of the shallow river.

Impressive bridge it was. 

Across the bridge we arrived at a park on top of the mountain.

There's this grand temple for the great Confucius. 

Some hands on with Asian Calligraphy!

Interesting local snack we had. Fish cake soup, stir fried rice noodles, meatball in sweet and sour sauce, and finally, pork blood soup!

Then it was off to the beach, with even more food!

We even took a boat ride to the other side of the bay, to do what you wonder? TO GET MORE FOOD!!!

Deep fried stink tofu topped with Taiwanese style cabbage kimchi is to die for. And a monster bowl of freshly cut fruits on shaved ice was one of the inspirations that lead us to import fruits.

Adored watching the sunset on the boat.

A total different view from the beach.

It soon got dark and it was time to go...

Saying our good byes at the airport...

Some shots at the last look in Taiwan at the airport past security.

Taiwan, thank you. We will sure miss you.

KAOHSIUNG VISIT DAY 10

The trip is coming to an end. The tenth day in KaoHsiung is the day before my flight back home. The day did start off on a good note with a beautiful weather.

It was a lovely hostel that we stayed at last night, with cute accents in its decor, by a shallow creek that's overgrown with greens. 

It is mid February. Everywhere is blossoming. It is amazing to witness Spring happening right before my eyes and be so close to such stunning exotic flowers. Thankfully I am not allergy to pollen!

Further out the hostel, some fruit trees are being cared by the owner. Mostly mangos, too bad it was not in season and was too early to pick for tasting.

Today's task was weeding the field. It was not as interesting as the earlier days, hence no photo to show. However it was short and we got a lot more time to hang around with the owner, learning their story and their unique techniques in farming, such as fertilizing with oyster shells. It was said to grow better and prettier produce, with an added calcium content to the nutrient value.

A rare sight for the papayas we've countered all trip long. These papaya trees are grown outside of the netted house, not cut down to a person's height, it is purely grown in the most natural state in the wild as it can be, the result speaks for itself in the photos, however they were not tree-riped  yet for tasting, hence I could not tell which method was better out of the two.

We adore the pets and free run animals at the farm. Animals are friends, not foooood!

The work was done and we are headed to the famous Kaohsiung "Love River" for a relaxing cruise ride that cuts through the centre of the metro city. So glad it was a lovely day that we get to enjoy Kaohsiung at it's best.

At last, we have finally had the chance to dine properly... in the locally well known night market. In my own opinion, if you have never been to a night market in Taiwan, you have never experienced TRUE night market!!!

The last surprise of a long, long day. I present to you, the voted most beautiful skytrain station of the island country Formosa!!

KAOHSIUNG VISIT DAY 9 Part 2 (Drying Fruits)

In the afternoon of day 9 after that gigantic lunch, we moved to another facility where fresh produce by products are made. A couple days earlier we seen how a fresh jujube is made into dates, today we are getting hands on with drying red heart guavas and bananas!

We start off with the guavas. These are the red heart guavas.

The guavas goes in a machine that rolls the round fruit while washing them with clean water.

The machine is designed that a whole bucket of guavas can be dumped in the machine and it'd evenly distribute the guavas on the rollers, this way the guavas does not bump against each other causing damage, and thoroughly washed rather quickly.

Using a really sharp knife, the cleaned guavas are to be removed of its stem. Cut in quarters. 

The quarters are sliced into thick slices about a cm wide. These will be collected and will go into the machine for the drying process.

Next up was the bananas. These simply gets peeled and goes on the rack for drying.

The dryer and the racks looks like this. It takes about 3 days for today's batch to be completed.

The final product.

Dried red heart guavas:

The dried bananas:

Dried pineapple and dried green mangoes

Dried full slice ripe mangoes

Taking a break touring around the beautiful farm.

Deep within the mountain trail, we came across a historic mansion. It was locked and looked full of story. Too bad there was no one there to tell.

A little detour on our way back to diiner.

The name of the street spells "Forever Peace" in Mandarin

Found this cute ugly little buddy waiting at our door :)

and finally, the meal to wrap up the long, long day. Thank you.

KAOHSIUNG VISIT DAY 9 (Banana)

Moving to a new place, and nearing the end to an amazing trip. Today I have moved to an area very well known for the world famous Taiwan bananas!

Waiting for me was a well prepared breakfast. 

I went crazy over this jar of spice hot pepper oil!! the best I have ever had!!!

...and of course, them bananas to wrap up breakfast.

The first stop after breakfast was to visit the storage area of the bananas. 

The bananas are stored in baskets,

 and must be precisely storaged at 18.7 Celcius.

Walking through the banana field, the bananas are wrapped in blue plastic bags for protection.

A baby banana tree can be found beside the adult banana mother tree. The farmers will let it grow until it is strong enough to be moved to a new field with all the other baby trees!

There are pipes and valves laid across the field for watering. 

Right after the adult trees that are almost ready for harvest, we came across the teenage trees.

and to our surprise, we came across a mango tree that is almost ready to harvest and let ripe!

Bananas are a heavy duty work, just look at how big it is!

The next lesson is to learn how to trim down a bunch of bananas into handle-able sizes. The trick is to use a scythe and cut a small bunch from the mother bunch, and trim off as much of the stem to as close to the fruit as possible. Without damaging the bananas of course. If the scythe sliced any one of the bananas in any way, it's value goes down as the sliced banana would be a defect.

Very soon, the bananas are trimmed to sizes we normally see in grocery stores!

Taking a break, I have the chance to witness the breed of the smallest banana in the world!

And this is the flowers of the banana before they grow in to a bunch!

Another breed of bananas was at the farm. It is locally known as the "finger banana" because the fruit grows upwards, and the shape of the banana makes it looks like a hand/palm!

This wraps up the first half of the day, and we were given a tour to a near by famous temple. It is tribute to a god that poses as a homeless man and aids the people in the most needs where society often overlooks.

be hold.... this may be the biggest lunch so far!!!

to be continued :)

KAOHSIUNG VISIT DAY 8 Part 2 (JADE LADY TOMATO)

Second part of the day is to quality check and package the tomatoes I picked this morning! Here's the machine that runs down the utterly cute and delicious jade lady tomatoes!

The tomatoes are quality checked by eye. Any of the tomatoes with splits or any sort of imperfection are picked out.

The good tomatoes proceed to roll down the machine and into new buckets, it'll be collected and be packaged later.

The tomatoes falls down at a fairly fast pace. It is a challenge and definitely a skill that needs tons of practice and hand-eye training!

It was a great day out. The owner's dog was definitely enjoying the sun while I work and work for my food and stay for today!

It is always a surprise and cute to find a little twin tomato.

The afternoon snack as a local special. It is a deep fried oyster with vegetables and batter. A juicy seafood and farmy delight!

It has been a long, long day. As soon as the packaging was done it was quickly moved to dinner time. It was an elaborate dinner with farmers I've worked for in the past couple of days. 


Kaohsiung Visit Day 8 (Jade Lady Tomato)

On the 8th day, I am prepared to work with an unique type of tomato, named the "Jade Lady" when translated literally from Mandarin to English. I have been told the Jade Lady tomato is so sweet that it'd pass as a fruit!

It goes without saying, a big breakfast is in order. Nabeyaki egg noodles in soup, pan fried gyoza, fried bread stick & eggs sandwich, and rice noodle soup with fish cake.

The Jade Lady tomato are carefully grown inside a netted house. The nets prevent the fruit from birds, insects, dusts, heat, and direct contact from the scorching sun light. The tomato stents are taller than an average adult man, it felt like we entered a forest of tomatoes.

My work for the morning was to pick the ripe tomatoes. It was also all you can eat, for quality checking purposes of course! The ripe tomatoes are easily picked; with a gentle twist of the wrist, the ripe tomato breaks off from the stem with ease.

Ruby-like tomato!

A basket full is a job well done. The picked tomato is best if the leaves are in tact!

This wraps up the morning in the netted forest of tomatoes.

As for lunch, I had to work extra for it today. I am to find pick this special edible wild herb that cannot be farmed.

What a nice day today.

The tomatoes I had picked were already transported to the other facility for quality checking and packaging. But there was a surprise!

A pet squirrel baby! This adorable thing was found fell from the tree and separated from its family. The farmer's daughter found it and they've adopted him. We've got lots of squirrels in Vancouver, never have I thought one could become a pet!

And lunch is served. Soup congee with boiled edible wild herbs and pork meat balls. It doesn't look like much but it is a tasty one of a kind and can only be found here. Farm life!

Kaohsiung Visit Day 7 (Emerald Jujubes, Pearl Guavas)

Dear fans, happy new year! If you had been following our weekly blog entries recapping my visit to Kaohsiung Taiwan, did you guess the mystery fruit at the end of last week's blog?

If you guessed Emerald Jujubes, you were right!

Taiwan news has been reporting the Emerald Jujubes price are skyrocketing due to their popularity and rareness.

On day 5 and 6 of my journey in Taiwan, I had worked with jujubes in both harvest and post harvest environments. Today I have the pleasure of learning how the jujubes were made into the much loved dates!

Upon entering the facility, I passed a wall of certificates which signifies the highest standards and pride of the bearers of Best of Kaohsiung.

This special tool was made to make cuts on the exterior of the jujube. The carefully calculated cuts will make sure the smokey flavors gets nicely absorbed at the right amount during the drying process, and shrink to the desired size.

One would simply push the cleaned jujube through the tool!

The dried jujubes (are now referred as Dates), are cooled on racks before packaging. 

Moving on to the rest of the day for more work, we are headed to the guava field to apply protective nets and plastic bags to the guava babies!

and finally, the day is done, and we walk into the sunset.

Cheers.

Kaohsiung Visit Day 7 (Pearl Guavas)

Merry Christmas everyone. Did you know being a farmer is a life time commitment and there are no vacations? One off day and it could ruin the season, or even a year of hard work. It is truly a focused and amazing dedication.

 Here we bring you blog day 7 of my trip in Taiwan.

 Moving on to a new place and face new challenges, one must start the day with grand breakfast. I had the traditional omlette pan cake with fresh green onion, fresh baked bread with moist sweet taro puree, and finished with egg pastry in the shapes of cute little animals.

 Today’s work is on the pearl guava field. Guavas are rarely heard of on the west coast. It is sweet, crisp refreshing and rich in beneficial nutrients.

 My job today is to harvest the guavas that grew to the optimum sizes inside the protection of nets and plastic bags. The guavas at this time of the year (February) can grow to as big as a softball.

 The wife of the owner showed up a little later and brought us water and to show off her cute grandson. She was not dressed for warmth, Taiwan is nowhere near like our February in Vancouver, she was dressed to protect from the scorching sun.

 A toast to job well done.

Back to the packaging line, the second half of the day will be to learn how to QC and package them appropriately.

 The guavas are loaded on this machine. The fruit will be categorized by its weight.

 The filled boxes are hauled to the next working area, but before we go on, it’s lunch time!

 Back to work, the QC line must invest the guavas one by one to check for scratches, cut off the stem and leaves, apply the “Best of Kaohsiung” sticker on guavas upon passing QC, then placed in new bags marking “Best of Kaohsiung”, sealed and boxed.

 Moving on, we are given a tour of the facility.

 Can you guess what these are? Hint, these are not green apples. Stay tuned, we will be revealing the answer next week!

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Kaohsiung Visit Day 6 (Emerald Jujubes Continued)

My day 6 in Kaohsiung started off with a big traditional breakfast. The feast consist of marinated fatty pork dices on top of a rice bowl, marinated boiled eggs with a soft yolk, and a real unique warm beef chunks in clear soup. The sides were freshly sliced ginger and soy sauce that freshens up the taste buds between each of the rich dishes

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 It was the second straight day to be working at the jujubes netted house. Instead of the easy jujubes pickings I did yesterday, today we came ready for heavy labor!

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 After the jujubes has been harvested, the excessive branches now have to be trimmed and cleared off the field. Everything but the main branches had to go.

 It was a whole new experience to learn what was needed done after the harvest. On the news and in the books, we are often exposed of only the preparation and the fruitful harvest, rarely do we get to see behind the scenes hardwork like today. It was beyond imagination of how much the workload puts ones body through. Not to mention, this had to be done every couple so months when the season comes to an end.

 Before

Before

 After

After

The sense of accomplishment was unreal.

The reward after a long exhausting morning, was the usual much appreciated and over the top satisfying meal!

The host was kind and surprised me with a tour to a nearby famous mountain. Decades ago back when there was still war, this mountain was used to accommodate armies, hence the holes were dug as shown here in the photos.

Every corner reveals a new scenary or a hidden natural beauty to discover. Much of the plants were never seen in my time spent in Canada. It was truly an exerience.

Lastly, upon paying my respect and prayers at the temple in the mountain, it was time for dinner and wrap up for the day.

Before I go, the tour guide said there was something even more interesting to see. I was taken into a display room and what I saw immediately was hiarlous and fascinating! It was a rock that grew "hair" over the years! Trippy.

and finally, dinner is served.

Kaohsiung Visit Day 5 (Emerald Jujubes)

Another new place to start the day. This is far away from the city, hence the old looking houses and the vivid potted plants.

It is barely 9 AM, and this farmer is already back from the jujubes farm with his morning harvest and into quality checking and sorting.

The jujubes are farmed inside a netted house, much like the papaya house. However the trees are short by nature, so I had to watch my head and backpack getting to the owner of the farm to learn about the fruit and what my job for today is.

My first look at the jujube

This oval shaped, shiny green colored fruit is the emerald jujube. It is not commonly consumed nor easy to find in Canada. We receive them in Canada in the dried state which we call dates.

The jujubes are green and cute as it can be, but the branches are full of hook-like thorns. One must be fully covered with clothes when working in the field.

The size does not determine the quality of the fruit. It depends on the variety. Some jujubes are better when they are bigger, some jujubes are actually better when they are smaller.

My job today was to pick the jujubes at the right size. Easy enough :)

The owner of the jujubes farm showing us how the stem grafting had helped develop the breed he's finally happy with.. Here you also see the trees are about a grown man's height.

The jujubes were in season. Good farming skills grows jujubes at the similar sizes all at the same time!

Giant snails shows this jujubes farm is an eco friendly environment!

Lunch is pumpkin hot pot and tomato hotpot

Kaohsiung Visit Day 4 (YuHerPao Lychee)

So. Day 4 of my trip in Kaohsiung Taiwan, is Valentines Day. I will be working with the world famous Taiwan bred YuHerPao lychee today. This fruit is known for being favored by the Emperor's concubine.

I first visited the temple at the foot of the lychee mountain.

Then I arrive at the restaurant/home of the lychee owner. They've done a wonderful job to create these garden scenes that I did not expect to see on top of the mountain!

Across from the valley, are the hills where lychee trees were planted. I am going to work over there all day long today. It was still early, it was cold and the trees and the grounds are damp. The farmers work in such conditions on a daily basis, gives me a new perspective and respect toward the dedication and hard work made toward these delicious exotic lychees.

This is Mr. Yang. the owner of the lychee hills. he will be teaching me how to do "flower thinning" to the growing lychees.

As we headed toward the other side of the hill, I came across what the owner called the "tree grapes". The grape-like fruit grows on the branch individually, instead of in a bunch like we usually see. this tree along cost $500,000 TWD!!! (approximately $17,000 CAD)

Mr. Yang is demonstrating the flower thinning process. we are doing the most economic and traditional way. basically we are combing and massaging the branches. trying to leave as little as 10 blossoms, and these 10 are going to get the most nutrients and grow into the most delicious lychees!

See below for Before vs After flower thinning

for the branches & flowers that are too high to reach, we utilize a bamboo broom to whack the trees

Don't think kids nowadays has ever sees wild butterflies this huge!

More good looking scenes from the working area.

Lunch is served. 

Since neither the lychee or the longans were in season, I had the rare chance to try out the specially dried lychee and longans from the last harvest!

 Dried YuHerPao Lychee

Dried YuHerPao Lychee

 Dried Longan

Dried Longan

Kaohsiung Visit Day 3 (Pineapples)

Last night's stay was at a traditional house which is built in a U shape where 3 sides were rooms, the opening leads into the centre/front yard where the family would hang out.

 the eldest child live on the right side the second lives on the left the middle is the shrine for the ancestors

the eldest child live on the right side
the second lives on the left
the middle is the shrine for the ancestors

Today's breakfast included freshly made omlette rolls, various sandwiches, green onion pan cakes and potato smileys!

I got to the golden diamond pineapple hills before 7 AM, and the farmer was already there ready to take us through his daily routine.

Meet Mr. Wang. Owner of the pineapple farm. He owns around a thousand hectare of land just for the pineapples!

This is the "Calcium Carbide" (電石). this is used as a catalyst to bring the pineapples up to speed at blossoming. The stone is tossed into the water. it'll produce massive amount of gas. the liquid is highly flammable! the stone will dissolve complete in the water before being sprayed to the heart of the pineapple stem.

the water boils when the Calcium carbide is thrown in. the water is warm and highly flammable. back in the really old days this chemical reaction was used to generate electricity or used as lamps using tiny amount of the chemical.

the completely dissolved solution is moved into the sprayer. toss in a few more pieces of the Calcium carbide then sealed shut. The addition of more Calcium carbide is to generate pressure using the gas in order to work the sprayer without any electrical mechanisms. wisdom from the past.

the solution being poured into the tin can.

Mr. Wang demonstrating how the sprayer works. Since pineapple belongs in the cactus family, it sleeps in the day, the pores only open and continue to grow at night. the Calcium carbide controls the pace so it can be harvested all year.

steps to fertilizing the pineapples.

1. carry the basket of fertilizers (glad it did not smell)
2. insert the funnel in between the pineapples
3. put a spoon full of fertilizer...
4. pull out the funnel and it should be covered by the soil.

voila.

Mr. Wang demonstrates how a baby pineapple is planted.

1. holes are pre-cut on the black plastic covers.
2. drill a hole, pull it towards you.
3. stick in the pineapple root, let go....
4. step around the planted area to make sure the pineapple is firmly in place.

*pineapple will grow at a slower pace if it was planted loosely.

a pineapple plant can only be harvested twice because the fruit will only get smaller each time. And must trim off the leaves because it would take too much of the nutrients from the fruit.

 Before trimming.

Before trimming.

 After trimming!

After trimming!

Beautiful View.

Following are the different growing stages of the pineapples :)

 Stage 1

Stage 1

 Stage 2

Stage 2

 Stage 3

Stage 3

 Stage 4, the pineapples are wrapped in paper bags so they do not get blown off by the strong wind.

Stage 4, the pineapples are wrapped in paper bags so they do not get blown off by the strong wind.

and finally, lunch time! Taiwan bento!

Surprise visit from Mr. Wang, he came with pineapples for us to try!

it was back to work on the hill after lunch,

then dinner!

Kaohsiung Visit Day 2 (White Water Snowflake)

It has been nice to be seeing green all day.

The very next job was to work at the "White Water Snowflake". It is a one of a kind vegetable that I have never seen, heard nor tasted before. I was told it is a very limited, water-grown green vegetable, with a crisp texture that not all the restaurants can get their hands on!

Here are photos of the pond that the white water snowflakes are grown in.

The owner greeted me, already in his frog suit, ready to show me how it is done.

The ponds are almost chest deep. I am to squat where the water almost reaches my neck for me to be able to reach down to the soil and dig up the white water snowflakes from its roots using only my hands. It is highly important not to break the vegetable from its roots, hence making it very difficult and time consuming to harvest.

The white water snowflakes gets sort into bunches, cutoff the roots, comb through the bunches and remove the older yellow ones and snap off the leaves. Finally weighted and bagged for shipping.

After a long day, it was calming and relaxing to come across colorful water fields on the way back to the farm house.

Dinner!

Kaohsiung Visit Day 2 (Papaya)

The morning of Day 2 was relaxing. Knowing there'll be a lot more work to do today in the farm, I did my best to enjoy every minute of the calmness looking out the balcony of my stay.

Breakfast included traditional congee with chunks of yam, marinated daikon in stir fried eggs, sun dried peanuts tossed in salt, preserved winter melon and spicy radish.

...and I was on my way to work for my next stay. The rural sides of Kaosiung is a lovely and friendly place. I learned that flower seeds are spreaded on fields that has past its harvest season of the year, the colorful fields are eye catching, and the flowers becomes the natural fertilizer for the next planting season. I thought the idea was brilliant!

Arriving at the papaya facility, I was greeted and immediately handed a new pair of rubber rain boots. I have been warned the field would get messy!

En route to the papaya field!

The papayas are grown in a special netted house. It limits pests, birds and wind damage, which leads to minimum pesticdes usage!

only harvest the papayas when yellow stripes appear on the skin. (minimum 3 stripes, 5 usually)

The owner told me that the flowers both female and male are on the same tree. must remove the female flowers because they would grow ugly (split) papayas. The males are the bullet shaped flowers in the photo below:

Naturally, the papaya trees grow like any trees, diagonally from the earth. But that would create much hassel for the farmers and risk to injury having to climb up the tree for the harvest. That is why when the papaya trees were still young, their trunk is slashed in half, and pushed over so they grow horizontally.

Finally, the harvested papayas are categorized by its weight :)

Kaohsiung Visit Day 1

On February 11th, 2014, I had the pleasure of visiting Kaohsiung, Taiwan as backpackers. It was a near 12 hours flight from Vancouver to Taiwan, then a 3 hour high speed bullet train from the airport to the southbound Kaohsiung.

  I arrived at my first stay just in time for lunch! A traditional Hakka style hot stew was served, along numerous side dishes made with exceptional local produce.

 Free running rooster and hen were a surprise.

  The farm house I am to stay for the next 2 days is surrounded by low rise buildings like itself, as well as the calming beautiful water fields.

  The first farm to visit, where I am to work to earn our food and stay, is a tomato farm. The Chinese chirography written on the road meant “Tomatoes on the Embankment”

 My task for the day was to hand sort the pre-picked ripe tomatoes. The tomatoes slides down the machine, quality checked by eye for defects, then sorted into boxes per weight.

 The house owner’s pet dog is “Beer”.

 Dinner bowls were left in the garden for the wandering cats

 I wrapped up the day as the jet lag kicked in.

 Good night. Taiwan.