The coveted black watermelons are available in the US and are on sale in the Bay Area of California. The black seedless watermelon is treasured in Japan where it is auctioned in an annual event that sees prices hit the roof. This year, the auction of this first crop in the northern island of Hokkaido saw one supreme quality black watermelon go for a whopping $370. Though a handsome figure, the highest record for the sale of one black watermelon is $6,100 set in 2008.
The American version of black watermelons is cultivated in Northern California. In the US, the melons are much less fanfare, but still attract a considerably attractive price. An average medium-sized black melon retails at $9, while a healthy organic grown melon goes for $18 in stores around the Bay Area.
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Although they are as tasty as Japan’s version, they are less decorated. In Japan, the melon is carefully cultivated and packaged. During the auction, the melons are painted black and packaged in handmade hemp nets and ropes. Even so, the American black melons still carry a rich flavor with a noticeable creamy, sugary punch. The seedless melons are rich red on the inside, giving consumers a tasty appearance.
“It tastes exactly like Jolly Rancher watermelon candy, but in a real watermelon,” said David Vierra of Vierra Farms in Sacramento.
Vierra is a third-generation farmer and one of the few American farmers that produce the melons. The melons are mainly cultivated in California and Washington for commercial purposes. According to Vierra, most of his crops are sold at a Japanese market in Sacramento and other parts of Northern California.
“Watermelons are a labor-intensive crop, but it’s a whole different level in Japan,” Vierra said with a chuckle. “They’re not economy of scale — they’re economy of perfection.”
This year’s first harvest of the black seedless melons hit the West Coast market in early June. The harvest is expected to last until Labor Day, but that will depend on demand. With more people learning about the availability of juicy seedless melons, the demand is expected to rise. Further, Vierra says that the summer heat is also driving up demand. If you would like to try the coveted black seedless melon that goes for hundreds in Japan, you have your chance now in California.
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