Monday 29 May 2017

Million Yen Melons in Early Summer

A whole Quincy melon with a QR code sticker
A Quincy Melon with QR Code to check the sugar content

Japanese tend to be very conscious of the changing of the seasons and seasonal food - at least compared to the British - and produce in supermarkets does seem to change a lot depending on the time of year. Now is early summer or shoka (初夏), the breezy, warm, and very comfortable period before the rainy season. One of the foods you're likely to see more and more of in the supermarket are melons.

The picture on the right shows a Quincy Melon (クインシーメロン) from the Village of Asahi in Ibaraki Prefecture, apparently Japan's leading melon producer. The Quincy Melon has juicy orange flesh, is high in beta carotene, and is beautifully sweet. In fact, one can check the exact sugar content (tōdo=糖度 - the first kanji is the in satō which is the Japanese word for sugar) of this particular melon by scanning the QR code on the melon (pictured). This brings up the screen below showing the sugar content (15.1%), the date it was harvested or scanned, and the name of the farmer, as well as information on how to know when it is just ripe for eating and how to store and eat it. In terms of price, this melon cost ¥721 (£5/$6) which is actually quite reasonable: last week saw a pair of Yubari melons sell for ¥1.5 million in the annual auction which marks the arrival of early summer in Hokkaido - half the price of last year's record high of ¥3 million (£21,000/$27,000)!