Yang Mei, also called waxberry or China Bayberry, is the waxy fruit of the wax myrtle tree. They have been collected for thousands of years in China and used medicinally from the ancient time.
Yang Mei is a healthy fruit, high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, including vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin and carotene. If antioxidants had a “super hero,” it would be OPCs (Oligomeric Proantho Cyanidins), the major constituent of Yang Mei’s health benefits. OPCs are the most powerful class of free-radical-scavenging antioxidants believed to support every metabolic system in the body. Twenty times more powerful than Vitamin C and 50 times more potent than Vitamin E, Yang Mei’s OPCs have also been shown to boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, help lower LDL cholesterol levels and increase strength and elasticity of blood vessels while slowing down the collapse of collagen, keeping skin firm, smooth and wrinkle free.
Exclusively coming from Zhejiang Province (where I am)
It is Yangmei Season again.. yes.. everywhere you look in my little town there are little blue baskets filled with this tasty little fruit. They are also used in every other thing you could possibly think of… from Ice creams, juices to pies , and wine. (yes, they do have Yangmei wine)
The history of the yang mei in my province comes from as far back as 5000 bc, during the Han Dynasty. A unique fruit from only this southern region to the Yangtze River, adapting Yangmei to medication was firstly seen in Shi Liao Ben Cao, an herbal medicine book written by Meng Xian in Tang Dynasty.
Yangmei is able to stop vomiting, helpful to digestion and alcoholic drinking , quench thirst, cleanse stomach and intestines, and be efficacious to cure diarrhea”.
I have to say that the cleansing of the stomach and intestines is a fact. When I first came to China and experienced yangmei season, I was excited and thrill to be able to taste this amazing fruit. This would be my first time tasting this kind of fruit, which I had never seen before in my life.
Unfortunately, I did not know that this would also be my last time tasting the fruit. Let me explain.
One afternoon, one of my co-workers brought in a blue basket of these juicy fruits. They quickly told me the history and how famous this fruit was in our fair city and Province. I took one and the taste was a cross between a raspberry and a strawberry. Quite unlike anything I had ever tasted before. I was very tasty. So, I grabbed about 4 more. I carefully spit the seed that was in the middle into the garbage can and begin to work on my lesson plan for the next hour.
After sitting and typing for about 30 minutes or so, I felt a bubbling in my stomach.. I tried to ignore it.. since I figured it was just a little gas.. However, after about five more minute the bubbling became more of a storm .. in my stomach… I needed to get to the restroom and fast… (my stomach was meaning business)… As a side note, I usually tried never to use the bathroom at school. Due to the fact that all public restrooms in my town were basically a squatty potty… meaning it was a big hole in the floor… and you had to squat over it… But.. this day I had no choice… I needed to get into that stall.. quick and not waste any time trying to balance and not fall over when I was in position. (which, by the way, I am not sure that I use the correct position since no one really showed me.. and I usually just pray .. that I don”t get my pants wet)
After, about 30 minutes in the restroom.. I told myself.. I need to teach this class so I really have to get out of here.. so I tried to pull myself together enough to go in and complete my last class of the evening.
I was able to do it… one hour of teaching the class sitting down.. and squeezing my cheeks together. (really wasnt pretty I am sure)… finally, the class was over.. and I raced back to the bathroom. After, about 30 more minutes I came out. My co-workers has a concerned look on their face, are you okay.. they asked me.. I told them.. I am thinking that the yangmei are not good for my stomach. They then told me.. ohh.. yeah.. they are supposed to do that.. they clean your system.. I said.. NOW YOU TELL ME!... that evening I told my husband what happened.. and as he was giggling and shaking … having some sort of spasms… he gave me some Chinese medicine to stop up the issue.
The next morning… when I went to school… I informed them that I would not be eating this fruit again. They agreed and thought that would be best.
I went to my first class that happened to be a little boy around 11 years old. Bright eyed and rosy-cheeked.. he came to class hiding something behind his back… He smiled big..and said… Teacher Jo.. I have a gift for you… I said really? .. then he brought his hands from behind his back… and gave me a blue basket of yangmei... ohhhhhh... I said.. trying to smile… thank you so much... he said.. it is very famous try one… I looked at his cute little face and said… umm.. I will later, I just ate breakfast... he was like okay, okay… then we continued on with the class… I carried the fruit to my desk .. to take home to my husband, as the other teachers giggled softly to themselves.
Later that night while my husband was eating the fruit like they were the last food on earth… and I didn’t see him once go to the bathroom. I just shook my head..and thought.. why me?.
The next morning… I went to school… and as soon as I came into the office I was called into my boss’s office.. great.. what now…maybe he wanted to yell at me about the smell .. I left in the restroom a couple of days before. (I didn’t have a match or anything)
As I walked in .. he told me to sit down in front of his desk. I did and then he put a very large blue basket… (biggest one I had ever seen) in front of me.. filled to the brim with yangmei…. I swallowed loudly and said.. ohhh… thannk yoouu.. soo.. much… trying to sound thrilled. He was smiling very widely and telling me how famous this fruit was.. and that I would love eating them. I agreed then left his office with both hands carrying my large blue basket… which by the way I was beginning to hate looking at… what was with these people and this damn fruit.
When I got home.. my husband was .. laughing so hard .. he was crying and saying .. Welcome to China…(the smartass.. just has all kinds of jokes).. and began to eat them… This blue basket showed up on my desk several more times that week… until my home was filled with yangmei fruit… with my husband as happy as a child at Christmas, throwing them down his throat.
At this time.. I had met an American black guy that played the sax at the local 5 star hotel… he called us over stating that he had a gift for us… as we were preparing to go.. I told my husband Michael .. that I hope it wasn’t a blue basket.. he just giggled, rolled his eyes.. and told me to hurry up.
We go there.. and my American friend.. was talking to some others.. he was complaining about going to the bathroom .. all night… I said.. oh.. are you sick…? He said… YEAH.. SICK OF THOSE DAMN YANGMEI FRUIT… we all started laughing .. and I shared my experiences with him… he understood my pain…
He then had one of the waiters bring over a gift that was wrapped in a box. This box was way too small to contain the blue yangmei basket… I was relieved to see.
When I opened the box… I pulled out a bottle… and Inside I saw…. White Rice wine.. with a bunch of yangmei in the bottom of the bottle, that was turning the wine a pink color… Yangmei Wine…. when I saw it .. All I could do was laugh… priceless... I gave the wine to my husband… .. he just sat there with a very big smile on his face… (I had yet to see him go to the bathroom.. and with as many berries he had eaten he should have been living in there…it just wasn’t fair)
That year I got a total of 9 baskets of yangmei and 2 bottles of yangmei wine… all of which my husband ate and drank.
Now .. the Yangmei Season is upon us again… and the first basket of yangmei has shown up… I told my student… thank you so much .. but I have to decline… his face so sad.. looked and me and said whyyyy…??? it is very delicious…. ?
I told him… I know.. but.. if I eat those… I will have to teach your class from the bathroom stall….. he got the visual.. loud and clear… and said.. ahhh..okay, okay…..I know.
Bathroom fruit Season (what I now call it) lasts only about 1 or 2 months… so soon they will be gone… however… after that.. is time for the next fruit that come into season….. grapes… yep… grape season in Zhejiang Province… now that is a fruit season I can handle….bring it on.. Yuyao…
until next time…