The sun is out in full glory over Shah Alam. It’s swelteringly hot, the kind of day most people would prefer to spend indoors with a cold drink.
For Mutiara Figs co-founder, Mohd Hilmi bin Yusoff, this is wonderful weather. Sunlight helps convert the potassium in his fig trees into sugar, resulting in sweeter crops. There’s a spring in his step as he takes us around his family’s farm.
Next to him, his daughter and fellow director Aliyaa Suraiya binti Mohd Hilmi direct our attention to some of the fruits growing nearby. “Figs have three types of colours: red, green, and black. Malaysians love red figs because of their large size. In terms of taste, the red is juicy and succulent, and the green has a very unique, mild sweetness to it. As for the black, it’s creamy, rich, and sweet,” she enthuses.
A farm is probably one of the last things you’d expect to find in the heart of industrial Shah Alam. Yet, Hilmi and his family have been running Mutiara Figs here for almost half a decade. It’s hard to believe but this place started out as a side project after Hilmi wanted his wife, Faridah Hasni binti Ramli, to improve her diet.
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“My father loves fresh and dried figs from overseas. He also loves landscape and gardening. He always wanted to plant figs and he wanted my mother to eat them every day because they have a lot of health benefits for women,” says Aliyaa.
Instead of just buying figs from overseas, Hilmi had a dream: to grow them here. To some, this seemed a crazy idea. After all, figs are not native to this part of the world. Would they take well to the tropical Malaysian climate?