We went fruit picking (and eating) at the weekend in the mountains around Yúyáo – a city north of Níngbō – for yáng méi (杨梅) berries (also known as Chinese Bayberry, Japanese Bayberry, Red Bayberry, Yumberry, Waxberry, or Chinese strawberry tree).
Yáng méi is unique to Asia, and the Níngbō area is considered the birth place of the fruit, where it has been cultivated for centuries. Every year, the government of Níngbō celebrates the Yáng Méi festival from the middle of June to the beginning of July. This is due to them only having a very short growing period of just 2 weeks.
The fruit is round and dark red in colour. The size is like a big cherry and there is a pit in the middle you have to watch out for. There is nothing quite like it, saying that it looks like a blackberry or similar just doesn't explain it properly.
The flavour is a mix of a plum, strawberry and pomegranate. The best ones to pick/eat are the darkest berries as they are sweeter. If you get a fresh, perfectly ripe berry the taste just explodes in your mouth. Really juicy and tangy, but not too sour. The lighter berries have a bit of a guava taste to them. Unfortunately have a very short shelf life just like raspberries.
Yáng méi is very high in vitamin C and antioxidants. The antioxidants found in the berries have been shown to boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, help lower cholesterol levels and it is also a strong cleanser of the digestive system.
Before the weekend we had started to see the fruit being sold around town and had been unsure about them as they looked so unfamiliar but hadn't gotten around to trying them and to be honest, probably never would have! It was a very unique day out, and it was great to actually be on the mountain picking the fruit and eating them as we went.