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Phuc Trach - nigts with scent of grapefruit

At the flower blooming season, its scent flies far to the mountain. “Falling petals of flowers scattering on the ground, and then dissolving into it. The scent goes deep into the ground. And the ground keeps it up. Bees and butterflies are charmed by the scent, they are crawling on the ground to find the scent”, Le Van Vy wrote about a grapefruit season of Phuc Trach.

Please come to my homeland - Phuc Trach, where there are sweet grapefruits and me waiting

1. Cam Ly, my adopted daughter, was born in Huong Trach- a commune in Huong Khe, Ha Tinhwhere there is Phuc Trach grapefruit. Phuc Trach is the name of a commune, it is also the name of a kind of nationwide well-known grapefruit. Huong Khe has 5 communes considered as the homeland of Phuc Trach grapefruit, one of them is Huong Trach. I have been there several timessometimes I was there when grapefruit flowers were blooming; sometimes I was there at harvest time. My daughter is a student of the literature faculty at Vinh University- she was so proud of her home land.

At the flower blooming season, its scent flies far to the mountain. “Falling petals of flowers scattering on the ground, and then dissolving into it. The scent goes deep into the ground. And the ground keeps it up. Bees and butterflies are charmed by the scent, they are crawling on the ground to find the scent”, Le Van Vy wrote about a grapefruit season of Phuc Trach.

Last June, I visited the place again. From the town of Can Loc- my hometown- going through the intersection of Dong Loc, going along the road 15, through Truong Bat, Phuc Dong Intersection, to HCM Road, I came to Phuc Trach. Phuc Trach is on the way to Huong Trach.

“Please come to my homeland - Phuc Trach

Where there are sweet grapefruits and me waiting!”

No one knows who made the verses, but it is the hospitality of a well-known land. Phuc Trach has a shape of a hammock: one end is on Ru Goi- a highest mountain of Tra Son Moutains; the other end is on Doong Tria- a rather high mountain of Giang Man Mountains, the other side is Huong Lien Commune. To me, Phuc Trach has a shape of a rabbit: its head on Truong Son with Ngan Sau River going through its body.

The water source of Phuc Trach comes from Ba Cam stream, the stream winding in Giang Man Mountains, West of Phuc Trach Village

The name Phuc Trac already existed before 1945, but it was not until 1972 that it become an administrative unit of commune level. Phuc Trach Village had 5 hamlets, with order from 1 to 6 as it is now in Phuc Trach Commune. Phuc Hoi - my daughter’s homeland- belongs to Huong Trach Commune. Residents from Phuc Trach and Phuc Hoi can commute to the other side through a wooden bridge similar to a monkey bridge in the Mekong Delta.

The water source of Phuc Trach comes from Ba Cam stream, the stream winding in Giang Man Mountains, West of Phuc Trach Village. The main water source for rice paddies and grape fruit gardens. Ngan Sau River, the biggest river in Huong Khe, runs through Phuc Trach Village on the East. Luckily, the river is next to the foot of Tra Son Moutain, a few kilometers away from residential areas. So it is not dangerous in flooding seasons.

I was proud of Huong Khe history. Ngo Dang Minh is a famous figure in history of the Le Dynasty. A person from Ngo Trao Nha family- the old name of my homeland. He was a general fighting with Muang Phan bandits at the border. With victories, the king gave him a number of titles. After fighting bandits, Ngo Dang Minh recruited people for village establishment. Thuong Binh, including many communes in Huong Khe, worshipped him as the God of Village. His shrine is at Truc Lam.

Huong Trach is the last commune of Huong Khe, next to Quang Binh. At the place, I remember words by Ham Nghi- the king said he preferred dying in the forest to being a king under foreign supervision. In Gia Pho, Huong Khe, there is a shrine of the patriotic king.

Huong Khe has its own legends. It is probably because people here are descendants of the King’s followers, they are all good looking, both men and women. Phuc Trach grapefruits and Khe May oranges used to be two products of offering to kings.

2. And I arrived at Cam Ly’s at last. Her father, after words of welcome, said:” Come to the new garden and see. I have 2,500 grapefruits in the first season!” His family has a garden of a few hectares. His “new garden” is a backyard. I followed him to the garden. Grapefruits clustered on each trees. To protect its quality, he wrapped each of them with friendly-environmental covers provided by an enterprise in Hanoi. The afternoon sunlight shinning on the covers as a sign of a fruitful harvest.

Phuc Trach grapefruits are famous, in some years, traders placed orders as soon as the fruits were still green

Phuc Trach grapefruits are famous. In some years, traders placed orders as soon as the fruits were still green. In some years, real Phuc Trach grapefruits were sold at VND 120,000 each. Customers can easily find Phuc Trach grapefruits sold everywhere. But they are just a Huong Khe variety grown in other regions of Nghe An. Although there are many things to be done to improve quality and value of it, there are many good news for the brand name of Phuc Trach grapefruit. The best one was the fact that EU recognized the protection of intellectual property of the brand name of Phuc Trach grapefruit- an initial success of Ha Tinh in general and Huong Khe in particular. This is also a great chance for a key provincial product to go far to the world’s market, especially in the context of the EVFTA coming into effect. There are about 3,000 hectares of grapefruits in Huong Khe, the value in 2020 reached nearly VND 800bn.

To customers, food safety is of priority these days. Huong Khe has caught up with the trend. The whole district has 70 groups growing VietGAP grapefruits on an area of 500ha (having been recognized). The products has food safety label.

A Phuc Trach grapefruit has whitish pink shrimps and sweet taste. Putting a pinch of grapefruit on the tongue, the light sweetness spreads fast in to throat, and rushes to the nervous system, bringing a very different feeling. Like the first kiss of love.

Each year, when breaths of cold winds blow, carrying the light cold of autumn… it is also a harvest season of Phuc Trach grapefruits. When I was writing about it- one of 7 precious fruits of Vietnam, a message from Cam Ly came “the grapefruit harvest season is a month ahead”.

Why is Phuc Trach grapefruit so tasty? Huong Khe has the hottest climate in Ha Tinh. The old river of Ngan Sau has built up ancient alluvium, a characteristic phosphate base, this sub-climate has a clear difference in temperature range day and night… All of them combined together to make a unique flavor for Phuc Trach grapefruits.

“Come to Huong Khe once/ You can find how deep the love is/ you can find why grapefruit flowers are white/no matter how harsh the storm was” (Tran Xuan Linh’s poem). Come to Huong Khe and find “how the scent from grapefruit flowers makes you confused” (Phan Thi Thanh Nhan’s poem). Let the scent from grapefruits whisper.

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