You may have heard about the expensive gift fruit in Japan? Take, for example, individually boxed and wrapped watermelons, selling for $100 each?
The exceptional prices reflect exceptional methods used in growing the fruit. While an ordinary melon in a grocery stores rarely costs more than $5, the high-priced version, usually a usually a variety of musk melon, is nurtured by special growers in specific locations, of which Shizuoka prefecture and Hokkaido are two of the best known.
In Shizuoka, west of Tokyo, melons are farmed in sophisticated green houses, complete with air-conditioners that fine-tune the temperate to optimal levels day and night. Melon vines are planted and cultivated in a soil bedding that is separated from the ground, said Tsuneo Anma, general secretary of a growers' group based in Fukuroi city that produces the "Crown" brand of melons. Producing 3.5 million melons annually, the agricultural cooperative is the biggest specialty-melon grower in Japan.
The soil separation is necessary to regulate moisture levels. "The moisture uptake by the tree roots must be optimized to promote proper amount of photosynthesis," Anma said. "If trees are planted in the ground, the roots will grow unregulated," making moisture absorption difficult to control.
Growers trim the vines so that only three melons will grow on each tree. When the baby melons grow to the size of a human fist, two are chopped off to allow the most promising one to monopolize all the nourishment from the vine. That one melon is expected to mature into the juicy, beautiful and revered $100 dollar fruit.