An estimated 1000 varieties of wild and cultivated tropical and sub-tropical fruits are found growing in Thailand. Of these, more than 100 varieties are grown primarily for local, non-commercial uses. Some are known and grown in several tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, but for many their growth and utilization is confined to Thailand and the Southeast Asian region. Only a limited amount of scattered literature exists for these species, some of which are on the verge of extinction.
The objective of this publication is to put on record current knowledge on the common names, centers or origin, botany, agronomy, uses, and development prospects of 35 species of under-utilized tropical fruits of Thailand. Eight species are seen to have some potential for future commercial development; nineteen species are thought to have development potential primarily for home garden use, while the remaining eight species do not appear to have any current development potential for economic uses.
Realistically, it is unlikely that any of the edible fruits described in this publication will find their way to the world's supermarket shelves. Fresh, and even locally processed fruits of these species tend, at present, to cater for localized markets and taste preferences, even though several are highly nutritious. Many are primarily utilized in cooking to flavour local dishes. Nearly all have claimed ethnomedical properties for the treatment or relief of complaints ranging from diabetes to the common cold. One, 'Luk nieng', is downright dangerous if the seed is consumed in excess as it causes djenkolism. In addition, several of these species are hardy and may well have value as rootstock for related commercial species.
All the species described herein have Thai names and are known by the majority of ordinary Thai citizens and as such are part of Thailand's heritage. Despite this, little if any research has been carried out to assess their potential value as food, medicinal and genetic resources.
I hope, therefore, that this publication will be useful in raising interest in these under-utilized tropical fruits of Thailand among researchers, conservationists, students, extension officers, growers and entrepreneurs. Finally, I recommend this publication to all those in the public and private sectors concerned not only with commercial development, but also with the conservation of national and regional bio-diversity.
Assistant Director-General and FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific