What is a King Cantaloupe?

Everyone is familiar with the cantaloupe fruit, but what may not be as widely known is that there are many different types of cantaloupe. Some are sweeter, some are juicier, etcetera. This may be why every time you buy a cantaloupe it tastes so different than the last. However, there’s one type of cantaloupe that stands out because of its outrageous cost. 

The King cantaloupe, or Yubari King, is a hybrid of two other cantaloupes. It’s farmed in the small town of Yubari, Japan, and is the most expensive fruit in the world. They have been auctioned for upwards of $30,000 USD but cost around $200 USD in a shop.

Why So Expensive?

For starters, Yubari king cantaloupes are protected by geographical indication, so they can’t be accessed easily. This is a similar case with Wagyu beef and Iberian ham. They sell for about $200 in a store, but some exceptions have made the king cantaloupe gain its fame.

In 1990, Yubari’s biggest industry was coal mining, but the population crashed so the city needed to find new ways to improve their economy. It began running a film festival to attract visitors, which worked, even drawing in Quentin Tarantino. The Japanese city also rose to fame by making their cherished melons.

As mentioned before, the melons can be bought in retail for $200 but have been sold for much more, comparable to the price of a nice car. The most a Yubari melon has been sold for was $45,000 for two. But there isn’t any difference between a $200 melon and a $45,000 one. 

A melon that costs dozens of thousands of dollars is simply sold as an incentive to farmers to get more traction for their business or as a status symbol. The highest bidder ever, in 2019, was a food and beverage company in Tokyo, Pokka Sapporo LTD. They used the attention from the media to promote their new melon flavored soda. 

The melons sold at these auctions are the first harvest, which many consider to be the ripest and sweetest. Although they may be available in shops, they aren’t easy to find, which is why the wealthiest people in Japan will bid on them.

How It’s Made

Because of its high price and exclusivity, the Yubari melon is still highly sought after by the wealthy in Japan. They’re usually bought as special gifts to bosses or family members. They’re very rare because they are only grown in Yubari and are only ripe during late May to early August. The volcanic soil in Yubari aids with the sweetness of the melon, and ideally each melon harvested will have the same texture and flavor.

The melons are grown with a technique that has been passed down for generations of farmers. They’re often grown in individual boxes for protection and in greenhouses. The soil is rich with volcanic ashes, which makes the cantaloupes thrive. They’re pollinated by hand and harvested with scissors. 

Yubari melons take around one hundred days to grow, and while they’re grown year-round, they are only ripe for a couple months. The growing process begins in the harsh winter, so when summer rolls around the melons are ready for harvest. They need constant care from farmers to grow properly.

Once harvested, they’re kept in a cool and dark location to preserve the flavor until they’re ready to be sold and eaten. They are grown in Yubari, Japan, only, and can’t be replicated due to the soil of the location and extreme attention farmers pay to make them perfect.

How They’re Eaten

Yubari King melons are carefully selected for sale by farmers. The ones highest in quality are perfectly round and have a seamless, smooth outer skin. If farmers find that any of the melons grown aren’t up to par with sweetness or aesthetic, they will be thrown out. 

When eating a Yubari melon, it’s prepared very carefully to get the sweetest and juiciest taste possible. It’s recommended to purchase them a couple days after harvest, and once purchased, consumers will keep it in the fridge for hours. 

After the melon is chilled, you will cut off the stem and slice the melon in half. Then, one must scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Often, people will scoop out the orange fruit and use the rind as a makeshift bowl. The flavor is described as extremely sweet, melting in the mouth. 

Another popular way to eat them is to add brandy after the melon is sliced in half. This is a high-end meal served at luxurious restaurants known as “brandy melon.” The melon has also been made into chocolate candy and fruit jellies. 

They can be eaten raw or added into smoothies, salads, and juice. If you, yourself, want to try the Yubari King melon, the easiest and cheapest way would probably be to take a trip to Japan and seek it out. 

Health Benefits

Along with the melon’s sweet and savory taste, it has many health benefits as well. It helps with digestion, prevents dehydration, lowers blood pressure, boosts immunity, and improves skin health and brain function. 

Final Thoughts

The Yubari melon is sweeter (and more expensive) than any other melon you’ll ever try. It’s made and served with care and usually only bought by the wealthiest people due to its high price. It’s extremely expensive because it’s geographically protected and cultivated with a careful, age-old process.

It has risen to fame as the most expensive melon, or fruit in general, in the world. It’s also known as the best melon in the world because of its intense sweetness. The climate in Yubari is perfect for growing them and they’re often given as gifts. If you ever get a chance to try one, you won’t be disappointed!