In the olden days most people would buy tangerines as gifts for their relatives when they came to Sibu to visit. The hawkers would be selling their Bintangor tangerines from the wooden crates as they sat by the Five Foot Way near Mui Sung Coffee Shop or even at the wharves in front of the Chinese Temple.
My grandmother would definitely buy some. And in fact many of us would also rememeber we often bought a few KATIS and have them all wrapped up and tied up in brown paper bags (recycled from cement parchment bags) to take to places as far as Kuching!! These were our "see face gifts" or jian mian li...or in Foochow "Ming Nen". Today our children with all their BM training would know it as "buah tangan"...how apt!!
Some tangerines in those days were very sweet. (Of course there were some sour ones). You could choose the sizes you preferred. "Big or small...up to you to choose" according to the hawkers ...Actually my favourite tangerine seller (ki kiang ah moo was my aunt who sold her fruits at the side of Ta Kiong). She followed the Biblical teachings of "measuring the fruits until they overflow with extras".
The Foochows most probably introduced the green tangerines to the Rajang Basin.
\My friends and I have been wondering actually about the exact origin of the tangerines in Sarawak and how they came to be grown so successfully in Bintangor and many parts of the Rajang Valley. The tangerine has become the Town Symbol of Bintangor which not only produces this well liked fruit but a once famous drink similar to Sun Drop called Green Mountain.
May be you would like to know that there are many famous green tangerines in Japan and in China.
Aomikan is a green tangerine that are available in Japan from around the end of August though September. There are simply tangerines that have been harvested a few weeks early. They are tart and tangy. I love peeling them, surprisingly the green peel gives way to juicy orange fruit. Aomikan are one of my two favorite citrus for eating and this year I made marmalade with them!
Green Tangerines also come from Thailand which many people fall in love with the fruit at first bite.
What made it difficult to ascertain the origin of our green Bintangor tangerine is the lack of documentation. Probably the Foochows brought the tangerines and their seeds to Sungei Merah in 1901. And from my readings I have found that "in tropical regions with no winter at all, citrus fruits remain green until maturity, hence the tropical "green oranges". The Persian Lime in particular is extremely sensitive to cool conditions, thus it is not usually exposed to cool enough conditions to develop a mature colour. If they are left in a cool place over winter, the fruits will change colour to yellow." so did our ancestors hybrid the oranges with local limes so that they can grow better here? Who amongst the Foochows or Chinese could do that? And there should be tribute given to him .....
Photo above by Sarikei Time Capsule : Tangerine trees in Bintangor and Sarikei area.
In the 1970's the whole Rajang Valley was crippled by a special plant disease which wiped out the tangerine industry. Today only a few farmers grow them successfully. These green tangerines are usually transported in rough wooden cases by boat and pickups and sold in Sibu and the surrounding areas. Sungei Merah is also one of the places where you can buy the ki kian..
The mystery of the origin of the green tangerines of Bintangor remains. Can someone enlighten us? We will appreciate it very much.