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Cixi Red Bayberry
2019-08-28Text Size: A A A

Red bayberry is another local specialty of Ningbo. Red bayberries of Ningbo can be dated to 7000 years ago. Findings at the Hemudu Culture Site showed that the ancestors started to eat wild red bayberries. The planting of red bayberries can be traced back to the Han Dynasty (about 2000 years ago). Many literary figures in the Han, Song and Ming dynasties ever eulogized the red bayberries of Mingzhou (Ningbo). According to the Universal Annals of Zhejiang Province, the best red bayberry is in Yuyao and the second best in Xiaoshan.

Red bayberry trees blossom in March or April and the fruit turns mature in May or June. The flowers are always in full bloom at midnight and wither at daybreak, thus making it difficult for people to appreciate the beauty of the flowers.

Folklore goes that the red bayberry was turned from a beautiful woman, a fairy of fruits, who married a hunter but was killed by a demon. That is why the bayberry tastes sweet and a little bit sour, the locals would say. She wanted to leave sweetness to people and make people remember the bitterness of having to be separated from her beloved husband at the same time."

With soft and fine flesh, the bayberry fruit looks like pearls with luster of agate. Since ancient times, it has been long eulogized by poets and writers.

The red bayberry of Ningbo has been an upper-class fruit. The hilly land from Linghu of Cixi and Mazhu of Yuhao has been the major producing area. There are four types of bayberries, white, pink, red and black, each having a different taste.

The fruit contains abundant sugar, fruit acid, V-C, V-B and Fe. "It can quench thirst, harmonize organs, clean intestines and stomach and get rid of vexation", says the Compendium of Materia Medica. It can be made into bayberry preserves, drinks and wine. It is believed that red bayberry can resolve fatigue and summer heat and prevent from wind chill.

Red bayberry has served as a homesick reminder since ancient times. Poets often wrote about it and artists made drawings about it. Once when Yao Yan, an artist in the Ming Dynasty, was eating red bayberries at home, a friend of his visited him and asked for a painting of bay berries. Yao just kept eating and threw the pits on the mosquito net which left the net dotted with stains. After that he took out his brush and made the net a beautiful painting of red bayberries. Overseas Ningboese often cherished the red bayberries as gifts, for they reminded them of their homeland.

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