|If you can afford to eat this vegetable, it's as expensive as a lobster|
In China it was cherries, but now it's a vegetable called xiangchun 香椿, the young red leaves of the Chinese mahogany tree that are the in thing to munch on. The basil-tasting leaves have become so prized that in places like Beijing it costs 80 yuan to 100 yuan (US$12 to US$30) for a catty or 500 grams.
People have taken to social media to complain about the price of the vegetable that could cost as much as a lobster, 10 abalone or 39 crayfish.
|Xiangchun leaves are from the Chinese mahogany tree|
Another said: "There's plenty of xiangchun trees at my grandmother's house. I feel like I've just found the path to riches."
The first spring leaves of the tree are traditionally used in Chinese cooking, especially in the north, where it is stirfried with eggs or tofu, or used as filling for dumplings.
Xiangchun per catty costs more than pork in Beijing, where it is priced at 8 yuan to 10 yuan. In places like Qingdao in Shandong province, Xiaogan in Hubei province and Xian in Shaanxi province, the vegetable costs 40 yuan per 500 grams.
However, if you can afford to buy and eat xiangchun, then you are considered to have "xiangchun freedom", similar to people who can afford to buy imported cherries to give as gifts. Before the Spring Festival this year, imported cherries were selling for 60 yuan per catty in Beijing.
Economist Yao Zhiyong is with the School of Management at Fudan University and says the wide use of the terms "xiangchun freedom" and "cherry freedom" showed a decline in real spending power.
|Xiangchun are stirfried with egg or tofu, or in dumplings|
The Chinese have this cruel obsession of constantly comparing themselves to other people, either to psychologically feel like they have a leg up on their peers or to bemoan the reality that they are never going to win the rat race.
It's as if this competition is the only way they know how to relate to others which is unhealthy and scary. But the ironic thing is that people are willing to pay top dollar for a seasonal vegetable, and I'm all for a greener lifestyle!