12 of the World’s Most Expensive Fruits
The Japanese are known for their love of beauty, harmony, and quality. It’s reflected in their art, their music, their fashion. What’s not so well known is that this search for perfection is reflected in their fruit.
This has led growers all over Japan to create wonderful ‘designer’ varieties that are for sale, immaculately packaged, in Tokyo’s luxury fruit stores at eye-watering prices.
A few are now being exported beyond the shores of Japan, so if you’re a fruit lover, keep an eye out for these incredible creations. But the Japanese don’t have a monopoly on premium fruit. To end our list, we’ve traveled to the UK for an unexpected taste of the tropics, and China, for a lucky charm. Enjoy!
1. Yubari King Melon
Price: between $200 – $45,000 per melon
The Yubari King melon is the best known of all Japanese luxury fruits. In Tokyo’s specialist fruit shops, expect to pay around $200 per melon. They’re prized for gift-giving and as status symbols. In 2010 a pair of Yubari King melons were bought by a beverage company for an eye-watering $45,000 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their melon-flavored mineral water!
As the name suggests, they’re grown exclusively in the small city of Yubari, in Hokkaido province. Originally developed in the 1950s, these rockmelons are a cross of Earl’s Favorite and Burpee Spicy varieties.
Their incredible flavor is partly due to the rich volcanic soil they’re grown in and partly because of the way they’re cultivated. Taking 100 days to produce, they’re massaged daily to create the perfect lattice patterning on the rind and even given hats to protect them from the sun.
They’re highly prized for their fragrance and flavor, sweet and slightly spicy with notes of pineapple. A world away from the bland supermarket specimens we’re used to.
2. Japanese Ruby Roman Grapes
For a single bunch of these rare luxury grapes, expect to pay between $90 and $450. That’s if you can find them, because only 24,000 bunches are harvested each year. Developed in 2008, this juicy, sweet, and low-acid variety is only grown and sold in Japan’s Ishikawa prefecture.
Each bunch goes through a rigorous inspection before a sale, checked for flavor, uniformity of the distinctive ruby color, and size. And Ruby Roman grapes are enormous – each one as big as a ping pong ball!
They’re classified into three categories: superior, special superior, and premium. Incredibly, only one or two bunches are pronounced ‘premium’ each year, which means they’re greatly prized. For example, in 2020 a single cluster of Ruby Roman grapes sold for $12,000.
3. Densuke Watermelon
Price: between $250 – $6000 per watermelon
Grown in small quantities on the island of Hakkaido in northern Japan, the Densuke is the world’s most expensive watermelon. Prices range from $250 to as much as $6,000 each.
Dark green to black colored Densuke watermelons seem to resemble more commonly grown varieties on the outside. However, they have a unique sweet flavor and few seeds.
How can you be sure that the watermelon is a genuine Densuke? Each one is packed into a cube-shaped cardboard box to protect it and comes with a certificate of origin to guarantee authenticity.
4. Taiyo No Tamago Mango
Price: between $50 – $3,600 each
The name of these mangoes translates as egg of the sun. Although they’re exclusively grown in the Miyazaki prefecture of the Kyushi region, they come from the Irwin mango cultivar.
What makes these luxury mangoes so highly prized and gives them their elevated price tag of between $50 and $3,600 is their high sugar content and spectacular coloring. Their hue can range from the deepest orange or red to purple. The texture of the pulp is meltingly soft, and even the skin can be eaten.
Their popularity has recently spread beyond Japan, with Israeli and Indian growers beginning to cultivate these beautiful fruits.
5. Square Watermelon
Price: between $100 – $800 per watermelon
If you get frustrated with giant watermelons taking up so much space in your fridge, perhaps a cubed watermelon is the solution to this pressing problem. And you’d be prepared to pay a little more, right?
Although, $200-$800 may seem excessive for a common or garden watermelon, apart from its novelty shape. So you’ll be relieved to learn that it is possible to find a square watermelon for as little as $100!
Square watermelons were initially developed in Japan in the 1970s to make them easier to stack. The shape is achieved by confining a young melon into a box, which it will grow to fill. It will certainly solve your storage problem and it tastes just like any other watermelon. If you’re looking for a novelty fruit to serve your guests, a square melon will definitely get them talking.
6. White Jewel Strawberry
Price: $10 each
White Jewel strawberries are cultivated by a single producer in the Saga prefecture of Japan and sell for around $10 each. However, they’re about three times the size of a typical large strawberry, so you won’t need to buy as many.
Their white color is due to the absence of the pigment anthocyanin, which gives strawberries their typical red or deep pink color.
White Jewel strawberries are incredibly sweet with a pineapple-like fragrance.
To achieve this, a unique hybrid variety is grown in the dark. So while some specimens may start to develop their natural pinkish color when exposed to sunlight, the best White Jewels will retain their white color. And while you might imagine they’d be tasteless or sour, they are, in fact, incredibly sweet, with a pineapple-like fragrance.
7. Sembikiya Queen Strawberries
Price: $85 per box
Sembikiya Queen Strawberries, aka Nyohou Strawberries, are named after one of Tokyo’s most famous fruit sellers. They’re sold in boxes of twelve, which cost around $85, roughly equivalent to $214 per pound.
Why the high price? Their painstaking cultivation method means they never actually touch the soil, and they’re hand-selected so that only those with the best color and shape are sold. As a result, they’re particularly valued as luxury gifts.
8. Dekopon Citrus
Price: $80 per six-pack
The Dekpon Citrus can be compared to an enormous mandarin: they can weigh up to 1 pound each. The top-knot shape means it’s sometimes called the Sumo citrus. Easy to peel with thin flesh, seedless, and with meltingly soft flesh, this unique fruit balances intense sweetness with low acidity to create a wonderfully aromatic fruit experience.
The first Dekopon was cultivated in Japan in 1972. They require an intensive cultivation process in temperature and humidity-controlled glasshouses. Once picked, they’re cured for up to 40 days while the sugar level develops, and the acidity drops to under 1%.
Although each Dekopon citrus comes with a price tag of at least $14, or $80 per pack of 6, their popularity is spreading outside Japan to California and beyond. They’re now being harvested in Brazil and South Korea to give even more people the opportunity to enjoy their unique flavor.
9. Sekai-Ichi Apple
Price: $21 per apple
Love apples but looking for something different? Then try the Sekai Ichi variety at a cost of around $21 per apple. The elevated price is due to its appearance and rarity. With its perfect red peel, each massive apple weighs between 1 and 2 pounds. Unfortunately, this means that each tree can only grow a limited number – making them difficult to mass-produce.
While they appeal to the Japanese love of perfectly shaped and colored fruit, the taste, according to many apple aficionados, is nothing special. So, if you’re looking for giant apples that will make a statement in your fruit bowl, or you want to give an impressive fruit gift, the Sekai-ichi apple may be a good investment. But if you’re looking for crispness and flavor, more familiar varieties will be a better investment.
10. Sembikiya Cherry
Price: $160 per box
Sembikiya cherries are grown in small glasshouses where they’re monitored closely to ensure their size, color, and quality meet the exacting requirement for this premium fruit. For maximum visual appeal, the size and color of each one have to be identical.
Once they’re perfectly ripe and sweet, you’ll find them for sale in Tokyo’s most famous luxury fruit store, Sembikiya, where they sell, in gorgeous, perfectly arranged boxes of 40 for around $160.
11. Pineapples from the Lost Gardens of Heligan
Just to prove that rare and expensive fruit is not only confined to Japan, pineapples from Europe. Only in the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall, UK where limited quantities are painstakingly raised in a Victorian glasshouse, called the pineapple pit, using an 18th century technique.
This requires large amounts of fresh horse manure and urine-soaked hay to generate heat in the pit and copious amounts of tender loving care to bring the pineapples to peak sweetness.
These pineapples are not available on the market as so few are produced each year. However, if one was to be sold at auction, the price is estimated at an eye-watering $16,000. But as they’re never sold, they’re shared among the staff of the incredible productive garden at Heligan.
12. Buddha Shaped Pear
Price: $9 each
In case you’ve not been impressed with square melons or perfectly formed cherries and grapes, we’re ending with a real showstopper in the world of luxury fruit.
Unlike those above, this juicy delight originates from China’s Hebei province, where Mr. Xianzhang Hao has developed an incredible Buddha pear in his backyard. So how did he create this amazing shape? By putting newly formed pears into a mold, so that they’re forced to take its shape. Once they outgrow the mold, he removes it, but they continue to grow into the form of a perfect Buddha.
His original idea sprang from a Chinese myth about a magic Buddha-shaped fruit that would grant immortality to whoever ate it. Given that, it’s no surprise that these pears sell out as fast as he can grow them, at the bargain price of $9 each.
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