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Food For Thought Aiberry
(Entered Apr. 01, 2008)
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The aiberry was made for people who think that fruit needs to be bigger and sweeter, and that scientists should be selectively breeding things like berries until they're the size of basketballs. The aiberry (ai means love in Japanese), represents Japan's best effort to date of getting strawberries to mimic watermelons, while still keeping sugar levels high.


So where does one find these massive aiberries? I set off on a quest to find some of these legendary fruits to discover if they really live up to their names or not. Local supermarkets only stock the regular puny ones so a more serious approach is needed. Checking online revealed that the English speaking world has no idea what an aiberry is (I'm breaking new ground here) so I was forced to try and understand what little information I could gather from a few Japanese websites. Some strawberry growers sold packs of aiberries online, and I almost paid 6000 yen for a pack of 6 (1000 yen a berry!) before I read that some specialty fruit shops in Tokyo might have them. At the least I would be able to save on the shipping cost.
Heading out, I first went to a famous fruit shop in Shibuya only to be told by some smug looking guy working there that the aiberry season finishes in February. He seemed to think that finding them now would be pretty much impossible. However the next shop I went to (under the Tokyu department store) had them in abundance. So much for his words of wisdom!
I was hoping to find strawberries as big as my head, but I had to make do with this bunch which were about as big as regular sized plums. For those of you who can read katakana, you will see that my find was authentic, and this is not an April Fool's day post.


I'll say this about Japan, when it comes to fruit, they pull out all the stops. Sure it may be expensive and all that, but this is one instance where you get what you pay for. In Canada you can buy a bag of 20 apples for a couple bucks, but half of them may be duds, and they're small. In Japan fruit is big! Farmers grow and care for fruit like they would their own children. Each fruit is individually wrapped in protective paper or maybe a plastic bubble, while it's still on the tree. The way they're groomed, pampered and polished, you'd think each piece was being readied for a personal meeting with the emperor or something.


With the exception of boring things like bananas and apples, fruit in Japan tends to be quite seasonal. Getting a Japanese pear in the summer, or some grapes in the dead of winter can only mean that you spent 10 times as much money as you should have. The only thing you can really do is just enjoy the current fruit of the month while it's available. I eat strawberries pretty much every day now, and will continue to do so until they're replaced by... hmmm what's next? Maybe peaches.


So aiberries! Are they worth it? Oh yeah, I paid only 2600 yen for my box of 12, much less than the online price of 6000 or so yen. However after the novelty has worn off, an aiberry is still just a strawberry, and making it bigger doesn't really mean it tastes any different, or better. If they had been grapefruit sized I admit I would've had a lot more fun. And 2600 is still way too much for a pack of 12 strawberries.


Some interesting, but perhaps useless strawberry trivia:
The actual fruit part of the strawberry are the little seeds on the outside, not the juicy red stuff you're eating.
Strawberries are actually not berries (nor are they made of straw). They are actually what's known as an accessory fruit.
Nobody really knows how strawberries got their name, anything you hear is just speculation.



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