Japanese Strawberries are Sweet and Delicious, and Grown in the United States, Too
Jan 6, 2023
HOW TOJapanese Strawberries are Sweet and Delicious, and Grown in the United States, Too
Japan grows 300 different types of strawberries, and they all want to be the sweetest and softest you’ve ever eaten. But how do you ensure maximum freshness for fans in the U.S.? By growing Japanese strawberries in America.
No one in Japan had eaten strawberries before they arrived in the country via Dutch trading ships in the mid-1800s, and it wasn’t until about 1900 that Japan started cultivating its own. Today, though, strawberries are one of the best-loved fruits in Japan, and it grows roughly 300 different types of strawberries, more than half the total number of varieties in the world. That internal competition drives Japanese farmers to grow the sweetest, largest and softest strawberries they can, and now it’s Japan’s turn to send its strawberries out to other countries, to the joy of foodies around the globe.
Scientific and technological advances in Japanese strawberries
You can’t consistently get exquisite strawberries by leaving things to chance in the growing process, so Japan’s farmers are always looking for new innovations to help them. Murata Farm in Ibaraki Prefecture, for example, has a network of sensors that measures the temperature, moisture and concentration of fertilizer in its greenhouses’ soil. This data gets fed into an AI system which evaluates the growing conditions and can automatically add more water or fertilizer if necessary to ensure the farm can grow the highest quality strawberries.
Something else that innovative farmers can control is light. The help of LED growing lights not only frees farmers from worries about insufficient sunlight on cloudy or rainy days, it also allows for strawberries to be grown in more enclosed facilities where the environmental factors can be more completely tailored to best suit the type of strawberries being grown.
Japanese strawberries grown stateside
But why don’t we see all those delicious Japanese strawberries for sale in the U.S.? Mainly because they’re so soft and tender, which makes it hard for them to survive the long trip to America with their full flavor intact.
So how to eliminate the potential for the berries to be damaged in shipping them overseas? Grow Japanese strawberries outside Japan. Utilizing an array of sensors and controls, U.S. strawberry grower Oishii regulates not just the temperature but also the levels of light, humidity, CO₂ and even wind in order to replicate the environment of the Japanese Alps inside the company’s indoor vertical farming facilities in New Jersey.
The result: strawberries grown outside Japan but under Japanese conditions. As an added bonus, the fact that they can be grown year-round means that they’re always in season, and with the opening of Oishii’s Mugen Farm expansion in 2022, they’re growing more strawberries than ever before.
Will Japan’s legendary melons hit the international market?
Strawberries aren’t the only fruit Japan does an especially excellent job of growing. Arguably its most famous produce is its premium melons, and the U.S. should be seeing more of those soon too. Less than a year and a half ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture lifted its ban on the importation of Japanese melons, opening America’s doors to such gourmet varieties as Shizuoka Prefecture’s Crown Melons, rubbed by hand while growing to enhance their sweetness, and Hokkaido’s Yubari King Melons, which are so prized that perfect examples have sold for millions of yen each.
With the lifting of the ban still a fairly recent development, we’ll probably see an increasing number of Japanese farmers sending their melons overseas in the near future. Or maybe they’ll be the next Japanese fruit to be grown outside Japan? Either way, the international future for Japanese fruit is looking sweeter than ever.