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Square Watermelons In Japan

Email with attached photographs of square watermelons claims that Japanese farmers are growing the fruit in glass cases to save space on refrigerator shelves (Full commentary below).

True, but not new

Example:(Submitted, August 2007)
Subject: Square Watermelons

A round watermelon can take up a lot of room in a refrigerater and the usually round fruit often sits awkwardly on refrigerator shelves.?

Smart Japanese Farmers have forced their watermelons to grow into a square shape by inserting the melons into square, tempered glass cases while the fruit is still growing on the vine.

Square Watermelons 1

Square Watermelons 2

Square Watermelons 2

According to this email forward, attached photographs depict unusual square watermelons that are grown by farmers in Japan. The message claims that the square watermelons are created by inserting them into cube-shaped glass containers while they are still growing. Square watermelons, claims the message, will fit more easily on shelves and therefore save refrigerator space.

Given the amount of manipulated images that circulate via email, it is perhaps not surprising that some recipients have questioned the veracity of these square watermelon photographs. However, the images are genuine and have not been manipulated.

In fact, square watermelons have been grown in Japan for a number of years. According to a BBC news article published in June 2001, a Zentsuji farmer came up with the innovative idea for a space-saving square watermelon some twenty years earlier. Since then, the square fruit has been sold in various selected outlets across Japan, but they are prohibitively expensive to buy and their potential market is therefore quite limited. The BBC article noted:
Today the cuboid watermelons are hand-picked and shipped all over Japan.

But the fruit, on sale in a selection of department stores and upmarket supermarkets, appeals mainly to the wealthy and fashion-conscious of Tokyo and Osaka, Japan's two major cities.

Each melon sells for 10,000 yen, equivalent to about $83. It is almost double, or even triple, that of a normal watermelon.

"I can't buy it, it is too expensive," said a woman browsing at a department store in the southern city of Takamatsu.

According to another 2001 news article about the square fruit, it was doubtful that there would be much of a potential market for them in the US. However, in 2006, British supermarket chain, Tesco announced plans to sell square watermelons in the UK at much more affordable prices than those sold in Japan. An August 2006 Food Business Review article noted that the square fruit was being produced in Brazil especially for Tesco and was grown using wooden boxes rather than glass containers.

Garden hobbyists have also dabbled in square fruit production. A North Carolina resident has even grown square tomatoes after hearing about the square watermelons grown in Japan. And an August 2007 Lansing State Journal article offered gardeners instructions for growing square watermelons using cinder blocks.

Square fruit stuns Japanese shoppers
Japan corners the market on square fruit
Tesco to sell square-shaped melons
Want to see a square tomato?
Grow a square watermelon

Last updated: 10th September 2007
First published: 10th September 2007

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen