The Wall Street Journal brings us news of what could be the hot new gift in Japan: a perfect, giant strawberry. The cost? ¥1000 each. That’s about $8.00 per berry.
Japan has little arable land (less than 12 percent of its total, compared with around 45 percent in the US) and most suitable growing areas are dedicated to vegetables. In an interview with the BBC, one Japanese fruit distributor summed it up this way: “Vegetables you need for daily life, but you can live without eating fruit.” The country has quite a few native fruits, including the Asian pear and Fuji apple, but many of their fruits are extremely sour, like the yuzu (a citrus) or umeboshi plum, and more often used for their juice or pickled than featured as a dessert or snack.
Because fruit is seen as a luxury item more than a food that should be on the table at every meal, it’s free to become something other than a common commodity. And Japanese fruit growers and sellers have perfected the art of creating the fruit-as-gift: like a purebred dog at a dog show, ideal fruit must have no errors, and certain key characteristics. An example: the yubari melon, similar to the cantaloupe, is only prized if it retains a strict T-shaped stem. But if the stem is intact, and it has no flaws? A single melon frequently costs around $100 and can reach into the thousands of dollars.
The new strawberry, from Ichigo Co (the word means “strawberry” in Japanese, so the company is sort of limited in what it can sell), is large, about the size of a jumbo chicken egg, and weighs about 50 percent more than a typical large strawberry. It’s a delicate pink, not as dark as many American or European strawberries, and is sold individually wrapped. According to the Journal, it’s exceptionally sweet. Someone else will have to judge that for us; we’re perfectly happy with our imperfect berries.
Images via (top to bottom) Flickr user Susanne Nilsson and Ichigo Co