Eat, Pick and See

There’s nothing like Getting out of the city and into the wild. Everything’s better at the source, but especially fruits and vegetables.

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Though normally framed as the world’s factory, Dongguan actually boasts quite a few sprawling orchards around the city. Besides, the lychee fields, which attract tens of thousands of lychee lovers each year, various other fruits and vegetables are cultivated all around Dongguan. Strawberries, dragon fruit, grapes, papayas, okra, corn and rice can all be found within the confines of the city. These seasonal fruits and vegetables are available all year ‘round to be picked right from the branches (note: what’s available does change according to month).

In the last couple of years, the government has been promoting diverse ecotourism in the city’s less developed areas, such as Machong, Wangniudun, Shatian and Zhongtang. Every year, private orchards, family farms and agricultural companies gain considerable subsidies to support this tourism. Today, picking fresh fruits and vegetables has become a healthy and environmental option for workers and families to get away from the honking and bustling urban life and return to nature for a few hours.

An easy mistake to make when picking the unlimited attractive fruits is, inevitably, collecting too much. That is, unless you are going to make jam.

The time for fruits lasts the entire year. From November to March, strawberries wax all red and juicy. From March to April, purple mulberries greet you with the soothing spring breeze. Guava grows succulent from April to July. Two kinds of grapes flourish in May/June and October/ November. Starting from June, it’s time to devour lychee, the delicacy of Lingnan (South China) for a month or so, and it’s followed by the sweetest longan in July and August. Dragon fruits boast a long harvest season from June to December. Papaya is usually available during all four seasons, along with a variety of vegetables, such as cherry tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, melon and corn.

One of the closest—and most idyllic—destinations near the city center, is the Dongguan Banana Vegetables institute. It provides a broad selection of choices and a tranquil environment. Located in Wanjiang, it’s a banana research, experimental and demonstrative base. Nurturing over 100 kinds of bananas, as well as strawberries, mulberries, grapes and vegetables, the scope is huge and it’s very good if you like fruit.

Walking along the concrete trail from the main gate, rows of mature and newly sprouting plants—like tomatoes, green beans and baby eggplants—line up on both sides of the path. A stand offering baskets and knives is set up there, as well. All the way to the end, but before the greenhouses, blood red strawberries spring out from the blue plastic protection, now lazily resting under the warm sun.

An easy mistake to make when picking the unlimited attractive fruits is, inevitably, collecting too much. That is, unless you are going to make jam. The rule is that you must pay for what you pick. We can’t suggest that you try to sneakily eat as much as you can while you pick, but it will probably decrease the desire to pick those extra ones to some extent.

After an hour or two snacking on fresh produce and harvesting, it’s time to explore the rest of the center. Continuing the stroll, a small pond will eventually appear on the left. In the modest body of water, two islands house hundreds of water birds that seem to continuously fly in and out of the trees, singing joyously and skillfully snatching fish from the water.

Following the path around to the far side of the pond will eventually bring you to a small pavilion at the water’s edge. It’s here—with the soothing sounds of nature and your freshly picked delights—that you’ve reached the frontier of paradise. All that’s left is to close your eyes and dream of staying here forever.

Prices:
Strawberries 50 RMB/kilo (available through March)
Mulberries 60 RMB/kilo (available through April)
Vegetables from 6 to 20 RMB/kilo

Transport:
By car: The location shows up in most maps and GPS.
By taxi: Show东莞万江香蕉蔬菜研究所 to the driver
By public transit: Take the bus 53 and go all the way to the last stop “Xinhe Hengjiao (新和横滘).” Then walk back about 250 meters and turn left under the overpass, keep walking about 250 meters and arrive.

More options:

Jingu Ecological Agriculture 金谷现代生态农业观光园
Grapes, dragon fruits, figs, rice, vegetables, strawberry.
Address: Chiling Community, Houjie 厚街镇赤岭西环路段
Phone: 136 6298 6360

Four Season orchard 四季果园
Cherry, dragon fruits, starfruits, guava, wax apple
Address: Inside Dongkeng Agricultural Garden 东坑农业园内
Phone: 137 2844 8262

Fu Zhi Kou Agricultural Technology Company 东莞市福之口农业科技有限公司
Grapes, dragon fruits, starwberry, cherry tomatos, bananas, jujube, sugar cane, sweet potato. As well as BBQ and restaurants.
Address: Liyu Island, Shipai 石排镇田边村鲤鱼洲(东江大道石排路段), 需要在渡口坐渡轮前往,渡船早上7:30-晚上9:00可用,渡口设有停车场
Phone: 136 8681 9101

Jinfeng Ecological Agriculture Company 金峰生态农业有限公司
Papaya, wax apple, mango, grape, dragon fruits, cherry tomatoes.
Address: Inside the Jinfeng Ecological Garden, Tiechang Village, Qingxi
Phone: 136 4280 1223, 769 8736 0328

Aunt Zhang Agricultural Garden 章姨农业生态园
Countryside restaurants, fishing, BBQ, experiencing rice harvest. Dragon fruits, guava.
Address: Machong Ave. 麻涌大道旁 (水乡大道麻涌立交往漳澎村方向100米处)
Phone: 138 0963 3485

Bee Kingdom 蜜蜂王国
Bee products and bee culture
Address: Shipai Village, Wangniudun 望牛墩镇石排村
Phone: 136 5008 3595,769 2241 5885

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