Japanese Strawberries are well known for their lovely appearance, delicate texture and heavenly sweet taste. Strawberries were first made known to the Japanese in the late Edo period (1603-1867) along with many other Western items like bowling and sponge cake by the Dutch. Nagasaki was the only Japanese port permitted to trade with the Netherlands at that time.
Small amounts of strawberry cultivations began as early as the Taisho period (1912-1926). Cultivation expanded and took off in the mid-1900s when research and development created new varieties and extended the harvesting period.
Japanese Strawberries had gone through a long and difficult process before they achieved today’s reputation. Japanese farmers are always working hard to develop new strawberry varieties that are suitable for both domestic and international markets. Farmers select plants with desired color, sugar content, texture, fragrance, size etc. and develop new varieties through cross-breeding. A new variety will take a minimum of three years to develop using 10,000-100,000 hybrid plants. Currently, there are over 200 varieties of Japanese Strawberries. The more well-known varieties are Amaou known for having high sugar content and a vibrant color, whereas Beni Hoppe are known for its aroma and size.
Most of today’s Japanese Strawberry cultivation take place in a greenhouse with controlled temperature, water and other conditions. Planting beds are elevated for easy farming and harvesting. Strawberries cultivation requires the utmost care and attention from the very beginning. It can take about a year from nursing seedlings to harvesting the first berry. First leaves, runners, and blossoms are usually removed, to allow all nutrients to go to the plant and make it grow stronger. Old and excess leaves are also removed since they are less efficient in the process of photosynthesis.
Japanese Strawberries are grown naturally and in greenhouse, and they can be enjoyed between December to May. It is not surprising why Japanese Strawberries are so popular, not only do they have a bright and lovely appearance, but these irresistible delights also have a refreshingly sweet taste that simply melts in your mouth!
Greeting each other with “Good morning,” at 12am at night is not a scene you see very often. When the city goes to sleep, that’s when the Yau Ma Tei Wholesale Fruit Market comes to life. The Yau Ma Tei Wholesale Fruit Market handles around 70% of the total fruit wholesale transactions in Hong Kong. The market has been in operation for over a century, it has a lively and local vibe with a mix of western historic presence. There are Dutch gables and pediments on the stone built architecture and pre-WWII signboards on the outer walls of the building, it is classified as a Grade II Historic Building.
Workers begin their duties at late hours, you will see shirtless men of different ages pushing trolleys in all directions, loading and unloading hundreds of cartons. During the night, cartons and cartons of fruits are stacked outside the shopfront, occupying the Reclamation Street, Waterloo Road and Ferry Street. With electric stackers, trolleys, large trucks and late-night taxi squeezing by the hustle and bustle of the market, this place can be quite difficult to maneuver. Every night fruit and small retail owners come and purchase the selection of fruits ready to be sold to the consumers the next day.
As the sun slowly rises awakening the city, the market finally begins to slow down. By 7am, most wholesalers would have finished their day (or night). Buyers have stocked up on their inventory and started to prepare for business. The workers will finally have the chance to take a rest. During the day, the market remains quiet most of the time, only a few stores are open for business.
However, it gets all busy again during the weekend. The Fruit Market became a popular “to-go” place these few years. You will be overwhelmed by the crowd and how busy this place is! People come here to buy their groceries and fruit gifts or, simply, to visit the place to see the variety of fruits and to feel the liveliness of the market. The market is filled with customers all focused on choosing the perfect fruit, shop owners busy negotiating prices with their customers, cars parked everywhere, fruits being transported from one place to another, it is not uncommon to see police patrolling in the area to make sure everything is okay.
Unlike at midnight, where fruits are piled up in cartons, during the day, the fruits are all nicely laid out on the stall for consumers to pick and choose. Other than the two main streets, the rest of the market remains quiet with doors shut and gates closed. If you stroll through the market, you might see workers and wholesalers playing mahjong and enjoying their time off work or spot a few that are still busy working.
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