Square Watermelons Selling for $860 Each

A square watermelonA square watermelonBefore the news of the odd fruits' arrival to fancy Moscow markets was reported, the price of square watermelons imported from Japan was holding steady at a mere $700. But ever since word hit the street, the price has shot up to around $860; for a single watermelon.

That's more than 300 times the price of a regular old round melon.

Training plants and trees to grow into unusual forms is nothing new; bonsai, espalier trees, pleached hedges, and even pears grown in Poire William bottles all come to mind. But that the fruits of such labor, so to speak, can command such prices is really quite remarkable.

Also see: Surprising health benefits of watermelons

The magic happens by way of a rather simple method: melons are trained into square submission by being placed in boxes while they grow to maturity.

In Japan, the cubic Cucurbitaceae actually serve a purpose beyond novelty. A giant round squash is both hard to store and awkward to cut; square watermelons can be tucked away much more easily in the small refrigerators typical of many Japanese households. Melons are also popular during the Japan summer gift-giving season of ochugen; trained versions of the fruit offer a novelty that is also delicious to eat.

Yet the melons sent to Russia are picked before they are ripe, the BBC notes - making them inedible. In the end, Russian shoppers are parting with hundreds of dollars for a hunk of ephemeral décor, without even being rewarded with the distinct summer pleasure of sweet, sticky watermelon juice dripping down their wrists.

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