At the Fairy Lake Leisure Farm in Tainan, Taiwan, they have a way of making old longan trees young again. The technique is called topworking.
The technique is not really new in the Philippines. It is mentioned in agronomy courses in college but we have not seen it practiced commercially in this country.
In the upland area of Dongshan in Taiwan, longan trees have been growing there for centuries. At the briefing at Fairy Lake, we learned that at least 200 years ago, the migrants from China mainland had found longan already growing there.
And six generations of the Wu family that operates the 52-hectare Fairy Lake Leisure Farm are today devoting 30 hectares to longan, grown the natural farming way. No chemical and processed organic fertilizers are being applied yet the trees are fruiting profusely year after year, according to Strong Wu, the young, sixth generation manager of the leisure farm.
He said that there must be at least 20 strains of longan in Dongshan, Tainan and so they have selected the most desirable ones. Longan trees can really grow big and tall, making harvesting tedious. So they have been practicing topworking for which they have become experts.
The old trees are cut about two feet above the ground (or thereabouts) and then they graft unto the stump scions or small branches of selected cultivars. The topworked trees start fruiting in a couple of years and the fruits are very easy to harvest.
Strong Wu is very proud of their age-old tradition of processing their longan fruits. They have been drying their fruits the old traditional way, roasting and smoking them in a smoke house for six continuous days, using longan wood as fuel. Strong Wu emphasizes that their old traditional way of drying their longan fruits brings out the best flavor. Dried Longan is used in many Chinese food preparations.
Longan wood as fuel, you ask? Yes, the wood of the big trees that are topworked are used as fuel for drying the fruits. Three types of dried longan are made. The first kind is with the shell intact. The second is the skin removed but with the seed. Then the third is the dehydrated flesh without the seed.
Of course, fresh fruits are also sold in the market. Ex-farm, they are sold at only NT$40 which is about P65 in Philippine money. When dehydrated with shell, one kilo fetches about P200 in Philippine money. Then when it is seedless, the price goes up to the equivalent of P560 per kilo.
Aside from fruits, Fairy Lake derives income from its longan honey. Every year, they harvest about 1,800 kilos of longan-flavored honey which commands a special price in the market. One kilo fetches the equivalent of P400. Another specialty product is longan tea.
Of course, they also make money from agritourists who visit Fairy Lake for a number of reasons. The visitors go there for longan and lychee picking. For an entrance fee, visitors can pick the fruits and eat all they can in the farm
The longan picking season starts in August and will usually last up to October. Visitors will surely love to pick the fruits of the topworked trees which could be just a few feet above the ground.
LYCHEE TOO – Lychee is grown in a smaller portion of the 52-hectare leisure farm. The lychee trees are also very prolific. Many of them are also low-growing because they are also topworked. The tall branches are also cut during harvest time so that new growth that is lower will bear fruit the succeeding year. Picking will then be easier.
Lychee fruits at Fairy Lake are plump, juicy and sweet. They also have small seeds. The harvest season, however, is usually only one month and that is in the month of June.
A special coffee is also produced at Fairy Lake. The variety is called Typica which is from Ethiopia. It has a nice flavor and is one of the special products of the farm. Roasting and grinding coffee is a do-it-yourself recreational activity that visitors experience during their stay at Fairy Lake.
The farm has excellent lodging facilities and a restaurant that serves really fresh organic farm produce.