Penang, the first British Straits Settlement in Malaya established during the 18th century, played a significant role in breaking down the Dutch monopoly of the spice cultivation and trade in the 18th and 19th century.
When Captain Francis Light landed in Penang on July 17, 1786, there were not more than 1000 Malays living on the island, making a living as fishermen. To lure in settlers for spice cultivation, one of the measures Captain Light took was to allow new comers to lay stake on as much land as they could clear. By the end of the 19th century, Penang already had a significant amount of land spread out across the island growing spices, fruits and vegetables. That was the start of Penang’s agriculture cultivation.
Today, the western part of Penang island, Balik Pulau is well-known for producing a variety of tropical fruits and spices. Penang continues to produce spices such as cloves, nutmeg and tamarind (assam jawa), but coconut and pepper cultivation has slowed down due to land re-utilization. Durian, rambutan, mangosteen, cempedak, duku, langsat, ciku, custard apple, nangka, guava (jambu batu), jackfruit, water apple (jambu air), soursop, macang, papaya, banana, passion fruit, pineapple and pomegranate are some of the fruits that are still being grown by Penang fruit orchard owners. During the mid year fruiting season, it is quite a sight to see these colourful fruits of all sizes and shapes on display for sale at road sides stalls and in the markets all over the island. Durians from Balik Pulau is probably the best in the world. Every year, durian lovers travel far and wide and descend on Penang just to have a feast on Penang durians.
The 25-acre Penang’s Tropical Fruit Farm at the lush green Teluk Bahang area houses more than 250 types of local and regional fruits. Be sure to drop by to see, taste, and smell the various fruits, many are hard to come by otherwise.