Muskmelons are one of the most expensive fruits you can find in Japan (and in the world!). The best muskmelons are grown in Shizuoka and they’re grown with exquisite care and attention to detail. They are available from June to November, the Shizuoka Muskmelons are so juicy and tasty they will blow your mind.
In Japan, each year there is a Crown Melon Show, which is essentially a competition for farmers to showcase their melons and to see who has the best melon. Melons are judged based on its shape, sweetness, scent, and color. The winners of the previous years were from Shizuoka Prefecture in central Honshu’s Pacific coast, home of the famous Mount Fuji. We decided to take a trip to Fukuroi Shizouka to search for the best melon. What we found was not only the juiciest muskmelon, but also farmers who dedicate their lives to create the best muskmelon possible.
The process of producing a muskmelon is strict and long. First, farmers cross-pollinate three flowers on each plant to produce the best fruit in a hot and humid greenhouse. The green house is fully transparent to absorb the maximum amount of sunshine and it is temperature controlled, around 42 degrees Celsius which is even warmer than the outside. Once the baby melons are on the plants, farmers will pick off and sacrifice melons with less potential and leave only the best melon on the plant. By doing so, the remaining melon absorbs all of the nutrients from the plant and grows much faster. Muskmelons that have gone through this process of one plant one melon will have T shaped stems.
Muskmelons yields many cracks on its skin as it outgrows itself, but the cracks will fill itself with melon’s own sugar creating the reticulation. The reticulation of a muskmelon is the web on its skin. The finer the reticulation the juicer and tastier the melon. The quality of the reticulation depends heavily on how much and often the plants are watered. Experienced farmers will monitor the plants closely and give the plants the perfect amount of water.
After the cracking and healing is complete, a technique called “tama-fuki” is applied to the melons. Farmers will wear cotton work gloves and slowly and neatly rub the melons, which stimulates the melons and adds sweetness. Farmers may go through a few pairs of gloves for one row of melons. This process is repeated several times before the melon is ready for harvest.
Once the melons are ready for harvest, farmers will wrap the melons with a protective layer and carefully pick the melons from the plants. Muskmelons’ ripeness period is a few days after being picked. Muskmelons ripen from the bottom, and the pulp gradually become tender and emit a special aroma. The rind of the melon will turn slightly yellow when the melon is perfectly ripened.
How to Select:
When choosing a muskmelon, pay attention to the reticulation (web/skin). The finer the reticulation the juicier the fruit. Also, look for a T-shaped stem which represents the melon was the only fruit from the plant. The stem should yield slightly if pressed by your thumb. A good melon should also have a sweet and musky scent.
Muskmelons are loaded with beneficial nutrients like Vitamin A, B6, C, calcium, magnesium, and are high in fiber. They are also free of fat and cholesterol.
We recommend refrigerating the melon for three to five hours before eating to bring out the full flavor of the melon.