Thailand has ideal growing conditions throughout the year for fruit crops. An estimated 1000 varieties of wild and cultivated tropical and sub-tropical fruits are found growing locally under various systems, including natural growth in the forests, unattended growth in the villages, and cultivated growth in home gardens and commercial plantations. Of these more than 100 varieties are grown for local uses.
Unfortunately, only a limited amount of literature exists on many fruit species that are either being neglected or are under-utilized. Although the useful PROSEA publication "Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 2" on edible fruits and nuts has compiled many species that are found growing in Thailand on a non-commercial scale, a number of species worthy of mention were not included. Some of these species are on the brink of becoming extinct, and if they are not to be lost forever they should be recorded in the hope that they may catch the attention of those persons in the public and private sectors concerned not only with commercial development, but also with the conservation of national and regional bio-diversity.
It is with this aim in mind that this report on under-utilized tropical fruits of Thailand has been compiled from various sources. Some 35 species of under-utilized tropical fruits have been identified, described and grouped under three major headings as follows:
Species with potential for commercial developmentMany of the under-utilized tropical fruit species mentioned here are not indigenous to Thailand. Some of them were introduced many centuries ago and have acclimatized to Thai conditions. All of them have Thai names and are known by most ordinary Thai citizens and as such are part of Thailand's heritage. It is hoped, therefore, that the information contained in this report will at least prove useful to conservationists and others dedicated to preserving bio-diversity, for without their help some of the species mentioned here may soon be extinct.
This group comprises species of tropical and sub-tropical fruits that are not presently grown on a real commercial scale, but may have good potential for commercial development if subjected to more research on marketing and post-harvest storage. Almost all of the fruit species in this group are currently cultivated in small-scale mixed orchards and are usually grown together with other economic crops. They are also commonly found growing in home gardens and the fruits from some species are sold at local markets when in season.
Species with possible development potential for home garden use
This group includes species that may have some potential of being developed for home garden use. The prospects for bringing fruits from this category into Thailand's markets may be faced with difficulties. However, they may prove to be valuable genetic resources for future research. In this respect, research on utilization and nutritional value of these fruits should be undertaken in order to select suitable species for cultivation.
Species without current development potential for economic uses
This group includes species that, at the present time, do not have any potential for being developed commercially. Most of these species are found growing naturally in the forests or growing unattended in wasteland. Some are found growing along roadsides. Currently, the only value of the fruit species in this group is due to their use by local villagers as traditional medicine, or for other necessities. This in itself indicates that they may have value as genetic resources for further scientific investigation.