In Japanese fruit production, quality is all that matters. It doesn’t matter how many fruits you produce, so long as each individual fruit comes out perfectly. This requires a lot of labor and care. Fruit farmers begin in the spring by thinning the buds of the fruit trees to optimize their placement on the branches. When the buds bloom, they will go through again to hand pollinate each blossom. This ensures that each fruit will be perfectly fertilized with the right type of pollen. Once the fruit has begun to grow a little, there is more thinning. On apple trees, 95% of the original buds may be thinned in one season. On peach trees, this number can go as high as 98%. Aggressive thinning brings more flavor, nutrients, and size to the remaining fruit, making each one incredibly flavorful. Once it has grown a little, each fruit will be covered with a double layer bag. In late summer, the dark outer layer of the bag will be removed to allow the skin to harden and brighten up in color while still being protected by the inner bag from strong winds, rains, and bugs. Mr. K compared this process to putting a pale, homebound person outside in the middle of summer. They will get a more dramatic, rosy suntan than the person who is exposed to the elements all year. With one more pass, the final bags are removed and the fruit is ready for harvest.
Japanese fruit is well known for being fairly expensive. When I lived there, I mostly ate bananas and whatever seasonal fruit was on sale or being passed around by the neighborhood grandmothers. Now, however, I have a better appreciation for the cost (and quality!) of the fruit you find in the supermarket.
But what happens to the fruit that doesn’t make it to the supermarket because of some blemish? The equivalent of “Waste not, want not,” is a very common saying in Japan. I was very happy to help Mr. K find a happy home for all of that imperfect fruit.