Japanese agriculture, forestry, fisheries and food
Highlighted Japanese IngredientStrawberries
Japanese Strawberry Consumption is the Highest in the World
"Strawberries" are produced all over the world because they are relatively easy to cultivate.
Japan is said to have the highest consumption ratio of raw strawberries in the world. Therefore, competition is intense in the production areas, and new strawberry varieties are developed every year with cultivation technologies still in progress. Japanese strawberries are highly evaluated in terms of taste and quality and travelers who visited Japan from abroad are surprised at how sweet and juicy Japanese strawberries are. In the future, even stronger needs are anticipated for Japanese strawberries that are tasty and can be eaten as is.
About 300 Varieties of Strawberries Offer an Abundance of Variations
Japanese strawberries offer such a broad variation that does not exist elsewhere in the world. There are 294 varieties of strawberries registered in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (including pending registrations as of March 2018), and 161 of them maintain registration. There is no detailed statistical data on the strawberry varieties in the world, but it is said that Japanese strawberries account for more than half the existing varieties.
Constant efforts in variety improvements at each production site help progress generational changes in strawberries every 10 to 20 years. "Toyonoka" and "Nyoho" registered in the 1980s were the mainstream varieties until around 2000, but new varieties appeared in the market one after another. Recently, "Tochiotome" from Tochigi Prefecture, "Amaou" from Fukuoka Prefecture, "Benihoppe" from Shizuoka Prefecture, "Sagahonoka" from Saga Prefecture, "Sachinoka" from Nagasaki Prefecture, etc. are gaining popularity.
In order to survive domestic competition, new varieties have characteristics, such as compatibility with forcing culture, bearing large-sized fruit, and strong sweetness. On the other hand, unique and novel strawberries are produced one after another, including all-season flowering varieties and white strawberries.
Made-in-Japan Strawberries Gaining High Reputation around the World
Japanese strawberries are produced with the most leading-edge technologies in the world, in terms of new variety development and cultivation methods, and are also under strict quality control for raw consumption. The strawberries produced in such an environment are highly evaluated in Hong Kong and Taiwan, the major export destinations, for sugar content, size, juiciness, etc.
Soft texture is one of the key elements to enhance the deliciousness of Japanese strawberries, but at the same time, they are delicate and susceptible to damage, which was considered an issue in transporting them overseas. To resolve this issue, Japanese strawberry manufacturers started an initiative to transport strawberries with freshness being maintained, by introducing package containers with high cushioning properties, using Controlled Atmosphere (CA) containers that control fruit breathing, and high-voltage type containers.
According to “Trade Statistics of Japan” by the Ministry of Finance, exports of strawberries are rapidly growing at 848.93 million yen in 2015, 1,148.59 million yen in 2016, reaching 1,798.53 million yen in 2017. Japanese strawberries have been gaining increasing popularity, with the momentum approaching the import value that is hovering around 3 billion yen.
Red Pigment Symbolizing an Antioxidant Efficacy, Playing a Leading Role in Sweets
The energy of 100 g of strawberries is low at 34 kilocalories containing 62 mg of vitamin C (from Standard Tables of Food Composition in Japan -2015- (Seventh Revised Edition)). Five or six strawberries are sufficient for an adult to consume a daily required level of vitamin C. Strawberries are also rich in folic acid, which is required in large amounts for pregnant or lactating women. Anthocyanin, which is a component of the red pigment, has attracted attention as an antioxidant substance.
In old Japanese households, people used to eat strawberries with condensed milk poured on top, but now, you can enjoy sufficient sweetness even from raw strawberries. In Japan, raw strawberries are placed as-is on shortcakes and play a leading role in sweets. Strawberries are used as ingredients in Western-style confections and jam, and are also increasingly used in Japanese-style confections, such as “Strawberry Daifuku” which wraps a raw strawberry as-is in rice cake.
History of Strawberry Cultivation
Strawberries have a long history: In Europe, there are traces of strawberry consumption from Stone Age ruins and it is said that its cultivation initiated in the days of the Roman Empire. The ancestors of strawberries currently consumed worldwide were produced in the Netherlands in the 18th century by cross-breeding Virginia strawberries originated in North America with Chile strawberries originated in South America.
This strawberry was said to be imported to Japan in the late Edo era, but full-scale cultivation began in the Meiji era, and the agricultural scientist Hayato Fukuba (1856-1921) cultivated the first-ever strawberry made in Japan, “Fukuba.” Since then, the production of strawberries in Japan steadily expanded, and after World War II, the amount harvested increased, thanks to the progress of greenhouse cultivation and forcing cultivation.
Are Strawberries Not "Fruits"?
Strawberries are perennials of Fragaria Rosaceae (Holland strawberry in the rose family) and are cultivated mainly in temperate regions around the world. The red fruit part that we eat is not considered a "berry" in botany; it is called a receptacle, the part of a stem that bears the floral part. Grains that look like seeds on the surface are a kind of fruit called achene.
In general, the strawberry is treated as "fruit," but it is classified as a “vegetable” in the agricultural classification in Japan. In a narrow sense, fruits are something that grows on trees; strawberries are defined as fruit vegetables, just like watermelons and melons.