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Spring vegetable craze sweeping across China

China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-16 09:12
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You might not have heard of xiangchun, malantou and jicai, but these wild vegetables are sought-after delicacies for Chinese foodies during spring.

Wild, edible spring plants — or chuncai in Chinese — have garnered considerable attention from Chinese consumers this spring, as eating chuncai has become a way to welcome and celebrate the season.

In major grocery markets across China, seasonal wild vegetables are visible on stalls at various prices up to dozens of yuan per kilogram.

"Although they are more expensive than ordinary vegetables, they sell out before 10 am every day," said a stall owner in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province.

Since this year's Spring Festival, Alibaba's fresh-food chain Freshippo has put nearly 20 types of wild spring vegetables on its shelves.

"The sales volume this year has increased 40 percent compared with the same period last year," said Li Wenjie, a vegetable buyer for a Freshippo store in Nanjing.

According to a report on wild spring vegetable consumption released by the JD Research Institute for Consumption and Industrial Development, over 50 types of seasonal wild vegetables are on sale on e-commerce platforms.

The consumers are mainly in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, and most were born between 1980 and 1999, according to the report.

"It is hard to distinguish specific vegetables from a wide variety of wild vegetables," said a 27-year-old consumer surnamed Li, who always heads to the grocery store after work. "I buy them for my parents."

A bodybuilder surnamed Zhao said in a comment on an e-commerce platform, "Once a little salt is added, the wild vegetables are tasty, and they are suitable for eating during a period of fat loss."

To promote wild vegetables to young consumers, e-commerce platforms have cooperated with food bloggers to upload videos demonstrating how to cook them. One food blogger with millions of fans posted a video of the process of steaming wild spring vegetables, amassing more than 500 comments within three hours.

People's enthusiasm for wild vegetables is contributing to a boom in the agritainment sector on the outskirts of cities, with huge numbers of tourists traveling to enjoy a taste of wild vegetables.

Lin Yunli, who runs a bed-and-breakfast in the suburban Yanqing district of Beijing, has received an increasing number of tourists since the beginning of spring.

"We updated our menu by adding seasonal wild vegetable dishes, and they are popular among the guests," said Lin. "Various wild vegetables grow near my house, and guests can take them home."

Beijing resident Liu Xiaoxiao, 32, is a fan of wild vegetables. She often heads to the suburbs with her family to find restaurants to enjoy wild vegetable dishes.

"It is very pleasant to have healthy meals," Liu said.


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