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|Food Buzz: History of Strawberries|
Toukun strawberries are a medium to large varietal, averaging 2 to 5 centimeters in diameter, and have a round to conical appearance with broad, curved shoulders tapering to a blunt or slightly pointed tip. The fruit's skin is thin, smooth, glossy, and delicate, being easily bruised by handling. The skin also has a characteristically pale nature, exhibiting variegated hues of pale red, salmon-pink, to light orange. It is important to note that Toukun strawberries will not darken with maturity and will still be pale when ripe. The strawberry's surface is covered in external brown, dark red, to yellow seeds known as achenes, and these tiny seeds are deeply set into the skin. Underneath the seeded surface, the white flesh is aqueous, soft, and tender with a succulent consistency. The flesh also sometimes encases a narrow, hollow center, depending on cultivation conditions. Toukun strawberries are known for their permeating, peach-scented fragrance. The aroma is said to be distinct from other Japanese strawberries and has subtle caramel and coconut nuances combined with peach notes. When consumed fresh, Toukun strawberries have a mild, honeyed, and subtly fruity flavor with balanced sugar and acidity levels, followed by a lingering sweetness on the tongue.
Toukun strawberries are available in the mid-winter through early spring in Japan.
Toukun strawberries, botanically a part of the Fragaria genus, are a rare Japanese variety belonging to the Rosaceae family. The late-season hybrid fruits were developed as a specialty cultivar in the early 21st century and were selected as a new variety for their unusual coloring and distinct aroma. The name Toukun roughly translates to “the scent of peaches” in reference to the fruit’s peach-like appearance and fragrance. The strawberries are also sometimes known under spellings including Tokun and Tou-Kun in high-end markets. Toukun strawberries will generally be pale pink, orange, to red when ripe, and the fruits are challenging to grow and transport due to their delicate nature. Throughout Japan, Toukun strawberries are sold as a rare, premium variety and are primarily consumed fresh to savor their sweet taste and aromatic, peach-like aroma.
Toukun strawberries are an excellent source of potassium, a mineral that can help regulate fluid levels within the body, vitamin A to maintain healthy organ functioning, and vitamin C to strengthen the immune system. The strawberries also provide iron to develop the protein hemoglobin for oxygen transport through the bloodstream, folate to produce RNA and DNA, fiber to regulate the digestive tract, and other nutrients, including magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin K, copper, manganese, antioxidants, phosphorus, and zinc.
Toukun strawberries have a mild, sweet, and subtly fruity taste suited for fresh preparations. The variety is traditionally consumed straight, out-of-hand, savored for its rarity, aroma, and flavor. Toukun strawberries can be served on fruit platters, dipped into condensed milk or whipped cream as a snack, or sliced and paired with other subtle ingredients to allow the peach fragrance to shine through. Toukun strawberries can also be used as edible decorations on cakes, tarts, and pastries, layered into parfaits, added as a topping on toast, cereal, or other breakfast dishes, or tossed into green salads for a delicate flavor. In Japan, Toukun strawberries are mixed into syrups as an ice cream topping, added to whipped cream sandwiches, sprinkled over strawberry shortcake, or blended with shakes, smoothies, or fresh juices. Toukun strawberries pair well with vanilla, sweet cream, ice cream, maple syrup, other fruits such as grapes, blueberries, oranges, and pineapple, chocolate, and spices including cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Whole, unwashed Toukun strawberries should be immediately consumed for the best quality and flavor. The fruits will also keep for 3 to 7 days when wrapped in paper towels and stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
In 2010, a small group of strawberry farmers in Japan established Six Berry Farmers, a collective to grow the rare Toukun strawberries. The farms are based in Yaizu, a city within the Shizouka prefecture, and only six growers joined the collaboration to distinguish themselves from other mainstream commercial farms. Toukun strawberries are challenging to cultivate, requiring the fruits to be grown in elevated beds in a regulated, temperature-controlled greenhouse. Several of the growers also raise their own bees to pollinate the strawberries within the greenhouse. Toukun strawberries must be hand-harvested and are slow to grow, appearing in markets in mid-January or February. Historically, Japan's most successful strawberry varieties are cultivated to arrive in markets before Christmas. Toukun strawberries are a late-season cultivar, coming into season after the holidays. With this late-season nature, Six Berry Farmers had to develop exclusive partnerships with Japanese businesses to create new demand for strawberries after the holiday season. Toukun strawberries are primarily found in Yaizu City and are sold to select businesses, including a bakery known as Kilfevon. The bakery produces seasonal tarts as part of its “Strawberry Week” marketing campaign, and one of the bakery's signature treats utilizes Toukun strawberries. The tart is lined with a crisp crust and is filled with sponge cake, cream, custard, and Toukun strawberries. The tarts are sold in very limited supply, and it has been reported that strawberry enthusiasts will travel across the entire country to take home one of the peach-flavored desserts.
Toukun strawberries are a hybrid cultivar developed from a joint parentship between the National Institute of Agriculture and Food Research and the Hokkaido National Agricultural Research Center. The variety was created by using a wild strawberry, Fragaria nilgerrensis, and crossing it with the cultivars Toyonoka and Callenberry. These crosses created Kurume IH1 and K58N7-21, and these varieties were then crossed with each other to produce Toukun strawberries. The creation of Toukun strawberries began in the early 21st century, and the fruits were officially registered as a new variety with the Japanese government in 2011. After their recognition as a new cultivar, six strawberry farmers in Yaizu City contacted the Japanese government and formed a collective called Six Berry Farmers to grow the variety. Today Toukun strawberries are primarily grown in Yaizu City in the Shizuoka Prefecture, and it is estimated that there are less than 3,000 plants of the variety in all of Japan. Toukun strawberries are a rare cultivar produced in limited quantities and are sold as a premium fruit through high-end retailers, department stores, and distributors in Japan.
Recipes that include Toukun Strawberries. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Shizuoka Gourmet||Toukun Strawberry Cocktail (Cai Pirigna style)|