Monday, March 30, 2020

The World's Fanciest Fruit

What culture most appreciates fruit? It's a hard question to answer. Humans have loved fruit since …well, since before we were human. 

Many cultures and nations have a fruit that's central to their identity. Think of dates in the middle East, mangoes in India, kiwis in New Zealand, the wine grapes of Europe, and so on. The orange is, of course, the state fruit of Florida. It's key to who we are here! 

You Paid What for That Melon?

But there is one country that venerates fruit in a truly unusual way. That county is Japan. In this island nation, fruit isn’t just enjoyed; it's adored. Both taste and appearance are extremely important to Japanese fruit-lovers, who'll pay top dollar for fruit that they consider perfect. When we say top dollar, we're talking some high numbers: $30 for an apple, $250 for a mango, and up to thousands of dollars for one melon.

In Japanese culture, very special fruit like this is often gifted to others as a sign of respect and appreciation. It may be delivered as a housewarming present, brought to a party, or sent to someone who is ill. You might also buy it for yourself as an indulgent “just for me” experience. In a way, it’s similar to fancy chocolates or a very nice bottle of wine. 

The purchasing experience for fruit like this is also very luxurious. The stores resemble jewelry stores, with the food gorgeously displayed and lit up. It's no workday trip to the grocery store.

Japan's Citrus Culture

Of course, not every piece of fruit eaten in Japan’s fruit-loving culture is at quite this level of luxury. Did you know that Japan is a very citrus-oriented society? In fact, the country’s relatively mild climate is well-suited to growing citrus. Citrus has also been a key part of Japan’s light and delicate cuisine for centuries.  

There are literally hundreds of special varieties of Japanese citrus. The best growing region is around the Seto Inland Sea, a protected bay with beautiful scenery and stunning mountain views. But Floridians would recognize the familiar dark green leaves and sweet-smelling flowers of citrus trees all over the nation. Here are just a few of Japan’s most loved and interesting citrus varieties.

The banpeiyu is a type of pomelo (similar to a grapefruit) with a mild and tangy flavor. These are notable due to the large size—up to 10 pounds! It's traditional to float these on steaming hot baths.

The mikan is the most popular eating citrus in Japan. Here in the US, you may know it as a satsuma. These fruits are very sweet, mostly seedless, cold-hardy, and easy to peel.  They’re much like a tangerine.

The beni-madonna is a new luxury orange with super-soft flesh, bred to be delightfully sweet-sour and succulent for a wonderful dessert eating experience. 

The Yuzu is hugely important to Japanese savory cuisine and has a tart flavor unlike other citrus. Yuzu juice is often combined with soy sauce in savory dishes.
Yuzu martini

The dekopon has a big bump or bell at the top, and resembles a honeybell. Although it's also a seedless, easy-peeling, sweet fruit, it is not a tangelo and has a different parentage.

There's so much more to learn and know about the history of citrus and citrus cuisine in Japan and the amazing story of Japan’s beautiful gift fruit.  Explore here: OishiSo Japan: Citrus 

Although we don’t spend thousands on a melon in this country, it's still true that we consider sending beautiful and delicious gift fruit a thoughtful and considerate way to honor and thank others. There’s a reason this tradition endures and crosses national boundaries. Consider a fruit gift from Florida Fruit Shippers today.

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