“Strawberries don’t like cold weather. They need the mild weather that’s more suitable for them. It shouldn’t be too cold,” the owner of the strawberry farm said to us, as we were entering the greenhouse.
Just like other Thai people, I had long thought that strawberries originated in a cold climate. Back home in Thailand, everyone thinks strawberries grow in cool places on mountains.
“What temperature is suitable for strawberries? What temperature is too hot for them?” I asked.
“The temperature in this greenhouse is roughly 16 to 18°C now. Strawberries harvested here are also slightly warm. I prefer slightly colder strawberries,” a male staff member working in the greenhouse answered.
“Greenhouse cultivation is the mainstream way of growing strawberries. It helps manage the temperature more easily and prevent damage by snow and rain. The growing season for strawberries is roughly from November to May. After that, it is too hot for strawberries. Since it becomes too hot both inside and outside the greenhouse in summer, we discontinue strawberry cultivation during that period. When the temperature reaches 24 to 25°C, the strawberry season is over,” the male staff member added.
Temperatures of 24 to 25°C are too hot… The temperatures he has just described as hot are rather cool for us from Thailand, though I was unable to say so to him.
“Come in the greenhouse and pick strawberries. The time limit is set as 40 minutes, but it’s not meant to be so strict. You can eat strawberries without rushing. Put the strawberry hulls into this plastic box. We use them to roughly figure out how many strawberries you have eaten.” The owner said this, beaming, and went out of the greenhouse.
We tried hard to use this wonderful and healthy time effectively. Strawberries contain 90% water. They also have a high vitamin C content, with 62 to 100 mg of vitamin C in every 100g of them. Moreover, they contain a substance that prevents tooth decay too, so it may be said that the more strawberries you eat, the healthier you become. That day’s event of picking and eating strawberries in the greenhouse, which is called “ichigo-gari” (literally “strawberry hunting”) in Japanese, taught us many lessons about strawberries.
The strawberry is Thai people’s favorite fruit. Strawberries grown in Japan are particularly popular in Thailand, because they are large, smell good, and taste sweet.
I had long thought that strawberries had a long history in Japan. However, a brief survey taught me that Dutch people had originally introduced strawberries into Japan in the final days of the Edo period.
Time has since passed, and surprisingly, 275 varieties of strawberries are currently grown in Japan. The number of varieties will further increase hereafter. I expect that more delicious strawberries will be developed.
Saga Prefecture has a strawberry variety named Saga-honoka. As its name suggests, the variety was developed in Saga Prefecture, by crossing the Onishiki variety featuring large fruits and the Toyonoka variety with a delicious flavor. Saga-honoka strawberries have a beautiful triangular shape, and feature a sweet but slightly sour flavor. Biting one, you will find your mouth filled with the delicious flavor of sweet strawberry juice together with an excellent aroma. You can savor this tasty strawberry variety only from November to May.
When you buy strawberries in Japan, and if you want to savor Saga-honoka in particular, I recommend choosing strawberries in a package with a photo of Licca-chan, a popular character doll in Japan.
The package says, “Licca also loves Saga-honoka grown in Saga Prefecture.” Why not try it?
Author name: Noi
Hometown: Bangkok, Thailand
I live in Wakaki-cho, Takeo City, Saga Prefecture, together with my Japanese husband, raising our child.
In Thailand, I used to do art and publication-related work.
I have a Kyushu Special Zone Guide-interpreter’s license (in Thai).