Why Japanese Strawberries Cost $500 "Each"

The strawberry world is abuzz with rumors and stories of a strawberry worth almost $500. Japanese strawberry farmer Mikio Okuda has been growing strawberries for 45 years and has taken the world by storm with the stable development of his Bijin-Hime (“Beautiful Princess”) strawberry. The culture of gift-giving in Japan and the limited farmland has driven a farming mentality that prizes quality over shippability and has resulted in some amazing fruit. That’s what led Okuda to a breakthrough strawberry variety that can get as big as a baseball and appeals to several senses at the same time. Bijin-Hime strawberries are perfectly shaped, with bright, shiny skin. When you bite into one, the texture is a perfect balance of soft and firm, while the color remains bright red straight to the center. The scent is sweet and is said to be similar to the smell of roses. The flavor is unmatched — sweet, with none of the acidity that sometimes ruins grocery store varieties. Typically, the larger the strawberry is, the less flavor it has, but not with the Bijin-Hime. They are exceptionally large and equally as sweet. Okuda grows his prized strawberries in a greenhouse through the winter months, which gives him tight control over the temperature of the soil and the air. He mulches his strawberry plants with rice straw to enhance that control even further. The long, slow ripening makes the big strawberries super flavorful. The closest thing the U.S. has to the Okuda experience is the Omasake strawberries that are being grown in New York, New Jersey and Los Angeles. Those plump berries will set you back $50 for 8 berries, but you must be in a position to pick up your order, as they aren’t shipped.