Travels in Sinshih
Unique regional produce
White wax apples of Sinshih
The white wax apples of Sinshih District are colloquially known as the White Wax Ap- ples of Sinshih. These wax apples are small and conical, with skin that can range from milky white to emerald green. The fruits are extremely juicy and have a mild sweet fla- vor with a slightly bitter undertone. Harvesting period takes place every May to July. However, not many growers are interested in this cultivar due to the small sizes of the fruits and the lateness of the harvests. Promotion of regional cultural aspects, however, has raised the awareness of these white wax apples.
"Tou Zao Tian Zhao Wu, Hei Ciu Ci Shui Niu, Shunsu Ti Cie Chu, Houzai Jian Lian Wu" (morning is foggy, with black birds riding the water buffalo. We first harvest the eggplants and sweet potatoes, and then pick up the wax apples at the courtyard). This is a common saying in Sinshih, and described a historical scene when white wax apples were actually ubiquitous. Former District Chief Cheng Chih-Nan expressed that white wax apples used to be the perfect symbol of Sinshih area and was commonly found throughout the town. However, the trees gradually disappeared because of changes to social structure. About a decade ago, the District Office began promoting and marketing the white wax apples and has made significant commitments to rejuvenate the entire in- dustry. Recreating these wax apple orchards was no easy task as the team faced numer- ous challenges that include pestilence, typhoons, floods, and fire. This is coupled with the fact that white wax apples are slightly bitter and sour, fall off the trees easily, and are difficult to tend to. To promote the rejuvenation project, the District Office worked with the Kaohsiung District Agricultural Research and Extension Station to improve orchard management techniques. In addition to protecting the hundred-year-old trees, care was taken to preserve various landraces, reduce the sour and bitter tastes of the fruits, and enhance the sweetness and fragrance of the flavor. Few farmers participated in this pro- ject in the very beginning, but this number has risen to about two dozen today. The few remaining trees have now become productive orchards covering a total of 4 hectares with an annual yield of six thousand kilograms. As white wax apples gained fame, en- trepreneurs also saw commercial potential and created snacks such as dried white wax apple and white wax apple biscuits as well as white wax apple tea and traditional white wax apple candy. White wax apple tea was also marketed in creative packaging and proved a most popular souvenir for visitors, helping to provide added value to the bev- erage.
Sinshih's white wax apples also found ready fans overseas. Premium grade wax apples also attracted ethnic Chinese living in Japan. The third generation phase also included an innovative plan to create pencils out of wax apple wood.