I went yumberry picking for the first time this weekend. I’m sure you’re wondering what a yumberry is because it sounds like a fruit straight from Alice’s Wonderland. I actually had to look it up because I only knew the Chinese name, 杨梅 (yang mei). Yumberry is also known as the Chinese bayberry, waxberry or Chinese strawberry tree. It’s a super interesting fruit because it’s native to the Zhejiang province in China and is only in season for two weeks out of the entire year!
This past weekend, some family friends took me and my brother to Ningbo to go straight to the source and pick the freshest yumberries possible. Ningbo is about a 3-hour drive away from Shanghai. A major thanks goes out to our friends who drove us so far to share a piece of Chinese culture with us. This truly was a unique experience and I felt really lucky to not only be in China to eat yumberries, but also to actually pick them in the wild!
It’s hard to describe what a yumberry tastes like. The outside of the fruit is completely bumpy, but it has the consistency of a seedless strawberry. Inside is a pit that looks exactly like a cherry pit. In terms of its sweet and tart taste, I think the closest comparison would be pomegranate seeds. The juice definitely stains like a pomegranate and you do not want to get it on your clothes.
I learned that it takes 10 years before the trees bear fruit and you want to pick the berries early in the morning before the sun comes out. Apparently, once the sun hits the fruit, they turn red. You actually want to pick the darker, blacker yumberries, which are much sweeter. For some reason, yumberries have a natural pesticide so bugs don’t eat them AND yumberries also cure stomach ailments. My family friends from Shanghai told me that when they were younger, their parents would limit how much fruit they could eat. They were allowed to eat as many yumberries as they wanted though because it was good for their digestion.