Asuka Ruby Strawberries
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|Food Buzz: History of Strawberries|
Asuka Ruby strawberries are a medium to large varietal, averaging 3 to 4 centimeters in diameter, and have a uniform, round to conical shape with broad, flat shoulders tapering to a blunt or pointed tip. The strawberries are capped with dark green lanceolate-shaped leaves, and some of these leaves are longer in nature, cascading over the fruit's shoulders. The variety's skin is a characteristic bright red to red-orange, depending on its growing environment, and the skin is smooth, glossy, semi-firm, and delicate, being easily punctured, bruised, or damaged. The surface is also embedded with shallow, tiny yellow-brown seeds. Underneath the surface, Asuka Ruby strawberries generally have solid, tender, and succulent flesh with an aqueous consistency. The flesh also appears in shades of light pink to red with white accents and releases an aromatic, sweet, and fruity scent. Asuka Ruby strawberries have high sugar levels mixed with moderate acidity, creating a fairly balanced, refreshing, sweet, and sour flavor.
Asuka Ruby strawberries are available in the winter through late spring in Japan.
Asuka Ruby strawberries, botanically classified as Fragaria ananassa, are a rare Japanese variety belonging to the Rosaceae family. The sweet-tart fruits are a specialty cultivar unique to the Nara Prefecture in Japan and were selected commercially for their coloring, texture, size, and flavor. Despite their favorable characteristics as a modern variety, Asuka Ruby strawberries are not well-known across Japan and are challenging to find in some markets due to their limited availability. The strawberries are typically in season from January through May and are only grown by a few farmers in Nara. Asuka Ruby strawberries are primarily found in local markets in Nara or sold directly through their growers. When in season, the variety is typically consumed fresh to savor its fragrant, sweet, and sour flavor, and the fruits are also used as an edible garnish on desserts and sweet preparations.
Asuka Ruby strawberries are a source of fiber to regulate the digestive tract, folate to develop RNA and DNA, iron to produce the protein hemoglobin for oxygen transport through the bloodstream, and potassium to balance fluid levels within the body. The strawberries also provide vitamin A to maintain healthy organ functioning, vitamin C to strengthen the immune system, and antioxidants to reduce inflammation and protect the cells from the damage caused by free radicals.
Asuka Ruby strawberries have a sweet-tart flavor suited for fresh and cooked preparations. The variety is favored for its large size and is often consumed straight, out of hand, served at room temperature, or chilled as a refreshing snack. Asuka Ruby strawberries can be sliced and tossed into green salads and pasta salads, mixed into fruit bowls, layered on toast, or served as an edible garnish over parfaits, puddings, and smoothie bowls. The fruits are also placed as decorations on cakes, tarts, cupcakes, cheesecakes, and other baked goods, or they can be simmered into jams, jellies, and purees. In Nara, Japan, the region is famous for its kakigori or shaved ice, a dish made in honor of the Himuro Shrine, a temple dedicated to the god of ice. Asuka Ruby strawberries are a popular topping sliced fresh or blended into a puree and poured over the shaved ice. The Asuka Village also hosts an annual strawberry fair, where thirteen cafes and dessert shops use Asuka strawberries as a focal point in specialty dishes. In previous years, the fruits have been incorporated into macaroons, parfaits, tarts, pancakes, crepes, daifuku, ice cream, and even a donut sandwich. Asuka Ruby strawberries pair well with sweet cream, vanilla, chocolate, brown sugar, and maple syrup, herbs such as mint, rosemary, and basil, and nuts including almonds, pistachios, pecans, and walnuts. Whole, unwashed Asuka Ruby strawberries will keep for 2 to 3 days when stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. The strawberries can also be frozen for up to six months.
Asuka Ruby strawberries are named after an ancient historical period and precious gemstone. The name Asuka is taken from the Asuka Era, a time spanning from 538 to 710 CE in Japanese history. The Asuka Era, also known as the Asuka Period, marks the introduction of Buddhism into Japan, was a time when Japan had increased interaction with neighboring countries, and was the first point in history when the country had a firmly established emperor. Asuka was also the name of the capital city at the time. Asuka strawberries were named after the capital city, and the variety is still primarily grown in this region. Asuka Ruby strawberries acquired their ruby moniker from the bright red coloring of their skin and flesh, said to resemble the precious stone of the same name. In Asuka, Asuka Ruby strawberries are widely promoted as a locally famous variety on farm tours. Seventeen locations around the village grow the cultivar, and several sites use elevated gardens, providing farmers with increased production during the season. The elevated gardens also allow the farms to host u-pick strawberry experiences. Strawberry growers in Asuka generally allow visitors thirty minutes to pick and consume as many Asuka strawberries as they can manage straight from the gardens. These food tours provide an additional source of revenue for the farms, and the tours can be conducted daily as the greenhouses are climate controlled and offer protection from the outside weather.
Asuka strawberries were developed at the Nara Agricultural Experiment Station in the Nara Prefecture in Japan in the 1990s. The variety was created from a cross between Nyoho and Asuka Wave strawberries in 1992, and over 3,000 seedlings were evaluated and tested before one was chosen for commercial production. The Agricultural Experiment Station was located in Asuka, a village in the Takaichi District that has rich historical significance and is home to several palaces. Asuka strawberries were officially registered as a commercial variety in 2000. In comparison to the other commercial varieties found in the saturated strawberry market of Japan, Asuka Ruby strawberries are a specialty cultivar produced on a small scale. Today Asuka strawberries are primarily grown in the Nara Prefecture. Asuka strawberries are rarely found outside of Nara and are sold directly through farms, at local markets, and through grocers.
Recipes that include Asuka Ruby Strawberries. One is easiest, three is harder.
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