Getting to Know Japanese Premium Fruits

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August, 2018

Getting to Know Japanese Premium Fruits

Fruits have long been the pride and joy of local agrarian culture in Japan. Over many years, Japan’s ideal climate perpetuated the growth of melons, persimmons, nashi pears, ume, grapes, peaches, and a myriad of other tasty fruits that we love and enjoy today. According to an article by Takasago.com, fruits are seen as a luxury rather than a necessity in Japan, as there an abundance of vegetables to cater to nutrition needs as result of frequent rain and clean water for irrigation. But how do you produce fruits that reach similar prices of a jewelled necklace or wedding ring? How does a black-skinned Densuke Watermelon sell for 650,000 Yen (USD 5858) at a 2008 local Japanese auction?

The pricing of these fruits embody the painstaking care and unique farming methods implemented to cultivate them. To give you an idea of how stringent these farming processes can be, consider the growing-life of the Japanese Musk Melon. New strains of melon seeds are carefully selected and planted in optimally temperate and humid soil bedding. When flowers start to form on the vine, weak buds are pruned while the rest are manually pollinated. Only a single best young fruit on the vine is allowed to grow to completion – the rest are discarded to ensure that remaining fruit absorbs all available nutrients.

Extra measures are taken to nurture and keep the fruit happy such as a protective cone-shaped ‘hat’ and paper wrapping which prevents sunburn, encourages supple skin, and promotes even colouring. String is tied to prevent ripe fruits from dropping off, and some farmers go so far as to massage the fruits to enhance sweetness and taste. When the pampered melon is finally ready to be harvested, it is graded on shape, sweetness, aroma, and finer details that lie in the quality of skin.  

https://en.rocketnews24.com/2013/09/13/japanese-farmer-creates-the-worlds-first-heart-shaped-watermelon/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true/amp/

While different farms in Japan produce varying quality levels, growing standards are generally kept high and competitive by keen local farmers. The rigorous labour involved makes it no surprise why they are considered luxury items and play an important role in Japan’s extensive gift-giving rituals. It is customary to bring a gift of fruits when visiting friends or celebrating important occasions, affecting all tiers of social status from households to high ranking business ceremonies.

How well do you know your Japanese fruits? Below are some of our favourites:

Momo (Peach)

Japanese peaches are larger and softer than normal peaches. Their juicy flesh is usually white in colour, and it is consumed by peeling off the skin and eaten raw. Among the many varieties such as Natsugokoro, Hakuho, Shimizu, Hakurei, Okayama Yume Hakuto, and Kawanakajima, SimplyObsessed.com cites the Shimizu variety as the best and most expensive.

Budo (Grapes)

Compared to the grapes that we are used to buying here in Malaysia, Japanese grapes are starkly different – they are large and round, growing neatly on the stalk in almost vertically straight rows and filled with copious amounts of juice. Their thick red skins are typically peeled before eating.

The most common variety is the Kyoho grape, utterly satisfying when eaten as a wholesome snack and also used to make wine. Grapes are in season during late summer and early autumn, with the most expensive variety considered to be the Ruby Roman. A single bunch can sell for thousands of USD!

Ringo (Apple)

http://supermarketnews.co.nz/japan-prepares-to-enjoy-an-apple-a-day/

If Japanese apples are ringo, then the fuji apple is definitely The Beatles of the lot – the most well-known. Apples were widely cultivated during the Meiji Period (1868-1912) and is today exported to multiple countries in large quantities. While most Malaysians eat their apples skin-on, Japanese locals prefer peel their apples.

The relatively large, bright red, and satisfyingly crispy Fuji Apple is in season during autumn and early winter. Contrary to popular belief, the apples are not named after Mount Fuji, rather it got its name from growers at the Tohoku Research Station in Fujisaki, in 1930’s Japan. They cross-bred two classic American apples, the Red Delicious and Virginia Ralls Janet to create the flavourful Fuji.

Nashi (Pear)

http://jpninfo.com/16358


Nashi pears are larger, rounder, and crispier than their European counterparts. Originally imported from China, they are widely consumed in Japan today especially during the late summer and autumn seasons. As with most Japanese fruits, they are peeled before consumption. These pears are most commonly gifted as a gesture of goodwill or eaten with guests on celebratory occasions. When selecting them, look for firmness and a slightly heavy feel – they will give you the best crisp.

Yuzu (Citrus Fruit)

http://www.saorijapanesesauce.com.au/product/71
Yuzu fruits carry a pleasantly distinct aroma that makes them ideal as an ingredient in perfumes and cleaning products. Like the nashi, it originally grew wild in China and Tibet before being brought over to  Japan during the reign of the Tang Dynasty. Yuzus are not eaten on their own, but used to enhance the flavour of sweet and savoury dishes – similar to a lime or lemon. In season during winter, the fruit has an interesting traditional use of being placed in hot baths during the winter solstice, believing to provide many health benefits..They are also used to make ponzu, a popular sour dipping sauce for grilled meats.  

Ume (Plum)

Despite being related more closely to the apricot, the obnoxiously bitter ume is better known as the Japanese plum. Not ideal to be eaten raw, ume is commonly used to make umeboshi, a salty yet flavourful pickle which is eaten with a bowl of rice or rolled inside onigiri. The fruit is also used to produce umeshu wine, a popular sweet alcoholic drink. Interestingly, the tree on which the fruit grows has flowers that blossom three months before the fruit is ripe, just like the cherry blossoms.

Mikan (Tangerine)

These sweet and easy-to-peel fruits have gained substantial popularity over the years, and are ubiquitous during winter when they are in season. There is a tradition of crowning the Japanese New Year rice cake with a bright orange mikan, as it is believed to symbolize an auspicious and prosperous succession of a family’s bloodline. Originally, the fruit on the top was a different citrus fruit called daidai, but it was replaced due to its unpleasant bitter taste.

Japanese fruits are as interesting as they are delicious, so give them a try at our Japanese Fair (until 19th August). More details on our fair at this link [insert link]. Who knows, ume discover something new.

Don’t miss our fun fruity activities at B.I.G. Publika! Get a free peach when you shop at B.I.G. on 9th August, and participate in our ‘Fill Your Tray’ special on the weekends of 11th – 12th and 18th – 19th August! Details as below:

Product

Date & Time

Activity

Japanese Peach

9 Aug, 1 – 2 pm.

Giveaway – 1 FREE peach per customer

Japan Delaware Grapes

11 – 12 Aug, 3 – 4 pm.

1 tray per customer for a fixed price* , fill as many fruits as possible on tray.

Japan Satsuma Imo (Sweet Potato)

18 – 19 Aug, 3 – 4 pm.

1 tray per customer for a fixed price* , fill as many potatoes as possible on tray.

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