Once again, Kaset fair blossomed brightly
The just-ended horticultural show had all the ingredients _ fruit, food, native products, books, gardening equipment, the latest in agricultural machinery, as well as educational displays _ that have made the event something of an annual traditional
The national agricultural fair annually held at Kasetsart University, commonly known as the Kaset Fair, has become synonymous with sweet tamarind. Every year, tonnes of Phetchabun's most famous product occupy a whole block and this year's fair, held from Jan 31 and wrapping up yesterday, was no exception.
To entice buyers, the friendly vendors, most of whom have their own plantations, tried to outdo one another in offering a taste of their wares to passers-by for free. Prospective buyers could make the rounds before deciding to buy, not that it mattered much for the fruits all tasted the same. For Bangkokians who simply love sweet tamarind, the fair provided an opportunity to stock up on it without having to go all the way to Phetchabun.
Other agricultural crops that have become very much a part of the fair are native garlic and shallots from Si Sa Ket. Native garlic is much smaller than that imported from China and Taiwan, but many Thais prefer it as it is more aromatic.
I visited the fair twice, and judging from the crowds even on weekdays, it is here to stay for many years to come. Its popularity could be because there is something for everyone _ fruit, food, native products, books, gardening equipment and the latest in agricultural machinery, as well as educational displays.
The fair, however, is more associated with plants and this year the Kaset Fair certainly lived up to its reputation. Orchids were plentiful and cheap. Several varieties of Aerides, Ascocentrum, Dendrobium, Renanthera and Rhynchostylis were available in bottles, ready to be transplanted into individual pots. Propagated by tissue culture, these would take at least three years, or probably even more, to bloom, depending on the species, but at 250 baht a bottle containing 35-40 plantlets, each plant was only about seven baht. Growers who did not want to wait that long could choose between plants already big enough to bloom within a year, or those already in bloom. The former were three for a hundred baht, while the latter were 70 to 150 baht each.
The common varieties of orchids were cheap, not because they were less beautiful than the others but because they were easy to grow and had been around for some time.
For homeowners who wanted to make their homes come alive with colourful flowers, potted orchids were not only cheaper than cut flowers but also longer lasting. Gardening hobbyists should start with these varieties and go to the more expensive and sophisticated species as they gain more experience.
Of all orchids, species in the genus Dendrobium are the easiest to grow, as they flower often and the flowers last for several weeks. What's more important, they can be grown in Bangkok's climate. I could not say the same for the delicate Paphiopedilum imports from Taiwan, which made their debut at the fair.
There were many different species of ornamental plants for both beginners and seasoned growers alike. Many fair growers fell under the spell of flowerings plants such as Adenium hybrids, gardenias, hibiscus and roses, while others went for plants that don't need flowers in order to be attractive, such as ferns, bromeliads, aglaonema hybrids, croton and caladium.
Every year, the Kaset Fair is awaited for the many different kinds of grafted fruit trees that it offers and this year's fair did not disappoint. Marian plum, known in Thai as mayom chit, with fruit the size of a chicken egg, has been around for years but it was still among the best sellers. There were mulberries this year but I did not notice edible fig.
Fruit trees can be propagated by seed but the resulting plants are sometimes not true to type, that is, seed from a sweet fruit could grow into a plant with sour fruit. It is therefore advisable to buy a grafted tree. In general it is best to transplant trees during the rainy season to reduce the need for frequent watering. When transplanting a tree into the ground, dig the hole so that it is large and deep enough to accommodate the root system.
The tamarind is not demanding in its soil and climatic requirements but the best planting material is a well drained sandy or clay loam soil mixed with organic matter.
Sufficient water should be provided at all times during the first year after planting and until the tree has firmly established itself in the soil. Although the tree is drought resistant, enough water is also needed for the development of flowers and fruit.
Whether you are planting a tamarind, marian plum or any other fruit tree for that matter, apply a handful of complete fertiliser one month after planting for general growth. The amount of fertiliser should be increased as the tree grows bigger, applied twice a year _ at the start and at the end of the rainy season. Water thoroughly right after fertilising the tree.
About the author
- Writer: Normita Thongtham