Turpan: The Raisin Capital of China

Turpan City (pop 254,900)

Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

The People’s Republic of China

September 27, 2016


Turpan is the “Raisin Capital of China.”  In a country of one and a half billion people, the Capital of Anything is impressive.

In the Turpan Depression, the winter temperatures are below frigid.  But in summer the sun bakes the land.  Apparently, the local crops thrive in the extreme heat.  The sugar content of the grapes (and melons) increases dramatically.   

Turpan is an agricultural economy growing vegetables, cotton, and especially grapes being China's largest raisin producing area.  There is a steady increase in farming acreage devoted to grapes backed by strong local government support for increased production. The local government has coordinated improvements in raisin distribution, offered preferential loans for grape cultivation, and free management training to growers.

From my hotel, I wander around the nearby Uyghur traditional village of Muna'er Cun.  I receive a brief education in agriculture and raisin production.  

Despite the surrounding desert, water flows everywhere in this oasis town.  Water bubbles up from the ancient underground system of wells and tunnels. (Kerez = Wells).  The town is crisscrossed with a series of narrow streams.  

Since it is late summer, the grapes have been picked.   Now in large wooden buildings, air circulates through the drying racks. Tons and tons of bunches of grapes are transformed to raisins. 

In front of their homes, women and children pick out and discard any remaining stems.  In the local markets, a dozen different varieties of raisins are for sale.  I try one variety of white raisin.  It is so sweet I thought I would have a hangover the next day.

My driver invites me to his home for lunch.  His mother cooks a meal of roast lamb, rice and salad.  The hot food is sprinkled with raisins.  And as a side dish, why, a selection of red and white raisins, of course.


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