Fruits on sale in a market.
Fresh fruits are a part of everyday life for Thais, who probably consume more fresh fruit than most nationalities. Given the year-round availability of a wide variety of succulent fruits, who can blame them? For working people, fruits are usually purchased from a cart at lunchtime for an afternoon snack. Fruit carts will station themselves outside any collection of offices throughout the kingdom. The typical cart has a long perspex box with internal partitions dividing it into four to six compartments. Each compartment will be stocked with a different fruit. Pineapple, guava and papaya are quite common, along with whatever else may be plentiful at the moment, such as rose apples, green mangoes, watermelon or pomelo. After lunch, the carts may move on to a local school, where the sweet yet healthy snack is quite popular among children.
Many fruits are available all year round, and the seasons vary for those fruits that do ripen at only a certain time of year. Fruits are almost always eaten fresh, with little or no preparation other than peeling. Many fruits are eaten with a bit of salt, sugar or ground dried chilli – and often all three mixed together. Fruits are also used in cooked foods, such as spicy curries, but there are few 'dessert' recipes that make use of fruit in the western style of pies and pastries. Of course, many fruits are also enjoyed as fresh juices, often squeezed and served right on the street.
Most every fresh market will usually have several fruit stalls where fresh whole fruits can be purchased. In most markets, fruit stalls will sell a wide selection of whatever fruits are available. The stall owners will purchase their selection from the wholesale market. In Chiang Mai, the main wholesale market of northern Thailand is the Muang Mai (literally, 'new city') market. The market lies along the banks of the Ping River around the northern edge of the city center. Near the river are large tented stalls where you'll find watermelons, pineapples and also durian when it is in season. Shop-houses facing the river display boxes and plastic bags full of oranges. Further away from the river are shops selling spices, apples and pears imported from China, as well as other seasonal fruits and vegetables.