Bijin-Hime, or simply ‘Beautiful Princess’, is a Japanese strawberry variety that is perfectly shaped and colored and offers an unmatched flavor.
But It also costs up to $350 a piece, making it one of the world’s most expensive fruits!
Developed by Mikio Okuda, a Japanese farmer with over 45 years of experience growing strawberries, over 15 years of trial (and consequent error), it is one of the world’s most delicious strawberry varieties.
The largest fruits are about the size of a tennis ball and weigh around 100 grams, but it’s not the size that makes the Beautiful Princess special.
Ok, probably it is, but not in the way you expect.
Generally, the larger a regular strawberry is, the less flavor and sweetness it has, but that is certainly not the case with Bijin-Hime strawberries.
They are rated at 13 degrees Brix, which makes them considerably sweeter than the 10-degree Brix strawberry standard, and can appeal to 4 of our 5 senses all at once.
Their texture is said to strike a perfect balance between soft and firm, and their color remains bright red straight to the center.
And It also lacks any of the acidity and funky after-taste that one usually gets from supermarket varieties.
The culture of gift-giving in Japan and the limited farmland has driven a farming mentality that prizes quality over ship-ability and has resulted in some amazing fruits.
Like many other Japanese strawberry growers, Mikio Okuda grows his Beautiful Princess variety during the winter months, carefully monitoring the temperature of the soil and the air inside his greenhouses at Okuda Farms, in Hashima, Gifu Prefecture, about 175 miles West of Tokyo near Mount Ontake Volcano. Could it be that volcanic soil has something to do with the flavor of these remarkable fruits?
He mulches his strawberry plants with rice straw to enhance that control even further, and the slow ripening may be one of the secrets behind the sweetness and intense flavor of the strawberries, but Okuda is not inclined to give out to much information.
And for good reason!
After spending 15 years cross-breeding strawberries to create Bijin-Hime, he finally achieved what he set out to do – create a large, perfectly-shaped strawberry that also provides excellent flavor.
However, the process is still not perfect, as some of the fruits tend to come out round, like fleshy globes. Those aren’t fit for commercialization, and it seems that Mikio Okuda only produces around 500 market-worthy strawberries per year.
Moreover, the strawberry plants at Okuda Farms are all pollinated by honeybees whose hives are kept inside the plastic greenhouses with the precious plants. Okuda-san may pollinate some special flowers by hand though. He looks for flowers with 8-9 petals instead of the usual 6 because they will produce the biggest berries.
Either way, in a country where quality fruits are literally worth their weight in gold (if not more), Mikio Okuda’s Beautiful Princess strawberries are highly sought-after.
At one auction, a single, particularly large Bijin-Hime strawberry sold for 50,000 yen ($350). Some sources claim that the most expensive one sold for $500, but we haven’t found any proof of that. But, $350 for a single strawberry is enough.
Interestingly, Bijin-Hime strawberry plants are all clones of the original plant developed by Mikio Okuda, so growers can’t simply grow their own Beautiful Princesses from strawberry seeds….
Images from web – Google Research