As March sprinkles light rains atop the snow-white pomelo blossoms of northern Vietnam, local gardeners take advantage of the changing weather to pollinate each plant using traditional methods passed down from prior generations.
Phu Dien Village in Hanoi’s Bac Tu Liem District is known for its native Dien pomelos, a species of grapefruit so popular that it has even found its way into the Vietnamese folk poetry canon.
A perennial variety, Dien pomelo trees blossom just once a year and bear ripe fruit around February.
The mellow scent of the Dien grapefruit attract bees, insects, and birds, which naturally help with the pollination process.
Still, natural grapefruit pollination only yields a 30 percent fertilization rate.
Hand pollination, however, yields 80 percent.
|A grapefruit flower bears fruit at a garden in Phu Dien Village, Bac Tu Liem District, Hanoi. Photo: Trong Chinh / Tuoi Tre|
|A man uses a stick to pollinate Dien grapefruit blossoms in an orchard in Bac Tu Liem District, Hanoi. Photo: Trong Chinh / Tuoi Tre|
To increase their harvest, Dien grapefruit gardeners spend two weeks each year hand-pollinating the flowers and caring for the trees during the blossoming season.
On dry days, when humidity is low, they work extra hard as low humidity is key to successful pollination.
Pollinators mostly go out in the early morning or late afternoon, using a long stick with one end swathed in cotton to collect pollen from male flowers and transfer it to female flowers.
Each male pomelo flower can be used to pollinate 8-10 female counterparts.
Meanwhile, commuters on Van Tien Dung Street in Bac Tu Liem District, Hanoi slow down as the beautiful white grapefruit flowers come into sight.
Many even stop at the nearby Dung Thu Farmstead, home to 2,000 pomelo trees, for a free photo op.
The grapefruits sold in the neighborhood bring in VND15,000-20,000 ($0.7-0.9) apiece.
|Farmers packs Dien pomelos collected in an orchard in Bac Tu Liem District, Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Trong Chinh / Tuoi Tre|
|A visitor poses with grapefruit flowers in an orchard in Bac Tu Liem District, Hanoi. Photo: Trong Chinh / Tuoi Tre|