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Cultivating Japan’s Rare White Strawberry

Japanese strawberry farmer Yasuhito Teshima begs to differ on the idea that a juicy, sweet berry should be bright red. At his farm in Karatsu, Japan, he grows the crown jewel of the luxury fruit basket: the white strawberry.

White strawberries, known as “shiroi ichigo” in Japanese and different from European and Chilean wild alpine and beach strawberries, are grown only in Japan. Although they’re rare in other countries, they are often seen on the shelves of Japanese grocery stores. They come in different varieties, including the more common “hatsukoi no kaori” (Scent of First Love), the very first white strawberry to be introduced to the market byby Miyoshi Agritech Co. in 2006.

Since then, more varieties have popped up in stores. Other common varieties grown by farmers include the “yuki usagi” (Snow Rabbit), “sakura ichigo” (Cherry Blossom strawberry) and “tenshi no mi” (Fruit of the Angel). But only Teshima’s “shiroi houseki” (White Jewel), a unique kind of white strawberry that he’s made to be a whole lot larger, milkier in color and sweeter than any other kind of strawberry in the world.

“The flavor is something deep, something that doesn’t have a huge impact,” Teshima says. “But it does give you a slightly mysterious feeling, and finally you understand it. And it is really, really tasty.”

The White Jewel is the result of Teshima’s years of crossbreeding strawberry varieties. Just as it was a challenge to develop the perfect white strawberry, it continues to be difficult to grow the fruit. Unlike other strains of strawberries, Teshima can’t produce large quantities of the White Jewel, especially because the light color makes even the most minor imperfections that much more obvious. According to the farmer, only a tenth of his total yield can be sold in the market, which is why the White Jewel is sells for a pricy $40 a pack.

Still, Teshima finds satisfaction in growing these particular white strawberries of his own creation—no matter how labor-intensive and time-consuming.

“In growing white strawberries, I feel so happy because I can feel the taste, the aroma, see their shapes form in ways I never expected,” he says. “My ultimate goal is for people to tell me that my strawberries taste like a different fruit. That mine are sweeter, more delicious—that there is no doubt at all that my strawberry is great. Until then, I will keep trying.”

Location

Karatsu, Saga Prefecture, Japan

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