Omakase strawberry. Photo: Oishii
If you’re often disappointed with store-bought strawberries, with a taste more tart than sweet, generally harvested before their time and shipped in from faraway places so that they are already in decline before they even hit the supermarket shelf, try an “Omakase” berry. Carefully grown under perfect conditions without the use of pesticides, hand-harvested and served mere hours later, this giant strawberry of Japanese origin is now available year-round in the best New York City restaurants at fantastic prices: up to $50 US for a single strawberry. Of course, since the meal they accompany is in the $300 to $400 range, that might not seem quite as steep.
Similar giant strawberries, called “Kotoka,” sell in individual gift boxes in Hong Kong for 168 Hong Kong dollars and are flown in daily from Nara, Japan.
Developed in Japan, where they’re no cheaper, these specially hybridized strawberries are juicy, aromatic, marvelously textured and sweeter than regular strawberries. The “Omakase” berry (the one served in New York) is grown by a New Jersey-based company called Oishii and raised in a warehouse under carefully controlled conditions. Each berry is meticulously measured before harvesting to have a brix level of 13 to 14 (brix is a measure of sweetness). In comparison, the average supermarket strawberry offers only 5 to 6 brix. Coloration must be perfect: red and glossy. No white base for these beauties!
If you’re concerned about the price, you can save big bucks by not buying the berries in a top-end restaurant. You can, indeed, get 8 berries, carefully wrapped for the same $50 by pre-ordering from Oishii. Of course, you then have to go to New York City to pick them up at the designated place and time. These strawberries wait for no one!
Can Grow Your Own?
Are you kidding? Do you honestly think that anyone is offering plants or seeds of plants that produce $50 strawberries to home gardeners? They’re exclusive and carefully controlled, certainly not shared with us ordinary mortals. Even Hiroki Koga, Japan-born CEO of Oishii, had to negotiate for years to gain the right to grow these precious plants outside of Japan.
Of course, you can find all sorts of companies offering “Giant Japanese Strawberries” on eBay and similar sites, always accompanied by delightfully Photoshopped pictures, but you’d just be wasting your money. Often the seeds produce weeds, not even ordinary strawberry plants, let alone quality ones!
Maybe one day you’ll be able to grow your own, but in the meantime, add the price of a plane ticket to New York City, Hong Kong or Japan to the cost of the fruit if you want to try one of these tasty beauties!