The sweet case of strawberries in Thailand


Northern Thailand

Joanna Horanin

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Last updated at 20/05/2024, 17:45

Hi, I'm Joanna, the author of The Blond Travels. In the worlds of Thailand and Portugal, I feel like a fish in water - and it's no coincidence! I've been exploring Thailand for over a decade, and I've settled in Portugal for 6 years now. My mission is to support Dreamers - just like you - in discovering these fascinating countries and helping those in love with them find their own place on Earth, preferably for good! Let's uncover these unique corners of the world together.

Thais are crazy about strawberries. In winter, during the strawberry season, everyone seems to buy them. There are stalls selling fresh fruit, some sell them covered in sugar, others in chocolate. There are juices, shakes and even soaps and other cosmetics. Why is this fruit so popular among Thai people and are the strawberries in Thailand really worth buying?

When I first lived in Chiang Mai, I missed strawberries a lot. In Poland they grow during the Summer and are juicy and sweet. I really wanted some with cream and sugar or a good strawberry smoothie. To my surprise, in the winter months, strawberries started to appear everywhere in Chiang Mai. I remember that I paid over 100 BHT for a small box of them at a local market. Needless to say, they were nothing like the ones I knew from home and I didn’t like them very much. However, I realised that the tastes are different in Thailand and Thais love this fruit from their home country.

If you’re in the north of Thailand around January, you will see the strawberry craziness. Here’s a little story about how and why strawberries are grown in Thailand and I’ll give you a couple of tips if you want to try them.

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    The first crops

    In 1969 the King Rama IX opened the Royal Project in the north of Thailand. The aim of it was to show the hill minorities how to cultivate fruits and vegetables, which then would stop them from growing poppy for opium and improve their living conditions.

    The Royal Project opened in the mountains around Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai and was a big success.
    When you go for a trip outside of Chiang Mai you’ll see how many different farms there are around the city. They include of course strawberry fields, which are relatively new to the country.

    Two plates of red strawberries on a green table cloth.
    These strawberries look really good!

    The fruit was introduced by the British in 1934, but only in the 1980s, after the Royal Project was opened, they became popular and an important addition to the Thai economy.

    A research showed that growing strawberries is cheap and brings a quick profit. Therefore, a lot of farmers in the mountains started planting the fruit.

    Today there are farms in Sa Moeng, Doi Inthanon and Mae Sai districts around Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.

    Buying strawberries in Thailand

    You will find a lot of vendors selling this sweet fruit in Chiang Mai and generally, in the north. In my opinion, strawberries are better in Europe. Thailand has a lot of great tropical fruits and it’s better to go for mangoes, rambutan, or mangosteen. But, if you really want to try strawberries here, then there are a few things to consider.

    A Thai woman makes a smoothie out of strawberries.
    It’s best to go for a smoothie than to buy whole fruits.

    Sadly, Thai farmers don’t use good soil to produce strawberries. They also don’t have high quality of mother plants (fact taken from the Thai Journal of Development of Sustainable Agriculture) and this causes a couple of problems.

    You will see that a lot of fruits that are sold in Thailand are small. They are also often hard and quite tasteless, or sour.

    For an unknown to me reason, strawberries are sold when they are still green. You can see stacks of them in shops and at markets. I once asked a friend about it and she said that they buy them green and then leave them laying in the sun, so they ripe. Personally, I have never heard about this kind of practice and don’t know if it’s true and it works, but the fact is that green strawberries are a thing in Thailand.

    Sometimes you will see a box of nice looking fruits displayed on a stall. Before buying, inspect it as the sellers tend to put the green ones at the bottom.

    Strawberries are also very expensive for Thai standards. 100-120 BHT for a small box tends to be the normal price.

    If you really want to try them, I think it’s best to purchase one of the small cups with the berries sprinkled with sugar. Yes, it’s not very healthy, but at least the fruits are sweet.
    You can also try smoothies or juices.

    Going to a strawberry festival in the North of Thailand

    During February and January there are quite a few strawberry festivals taking place in the mountains of Thailand. Try to keep an eye out on Facebook groups or check online.

    I went to a festival in Samoeng, which is not so far from Chiang Mai. During the day there were a lot of stalls, selling the fruit and other things made out of it, including the strawberry wine!

    Stalls at the strawberry festival in Thailand.
    There are lots of stalls during the strawberry festival in Samoeng.

    For those who didn’t want to eat strawberries, there were other options.

    And during the night, there were concerts, more food, more stalls and a fun fair.

    I went with my friends. We bought some food and headed to a camping field nearby, where we had a bonfire, we ate and drank and camped for the night.

    I think it’s a really good idea for a fun weekend.

    Stacks of strawberry wine at the thai strawberry festival.
    When you’re in Thailand, try some strawberry wine.

    Strawberries are a craze in Thailand. Thais love them, but to a person coming from Europe or other countries, they might not be such a huge attraction. If you want to try them, do it, but follow the advice above. Again, I’d encourage you to taste the tropical fruits and avoid spending a fortune on something you can get at home.

    If you’re in Chiang Mai in the winter, visit one of the festivals as this is something interesting and a really great way of spending time.

    Do you have any questions or suggestions? Leave them in the comments!