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  Most Expensive Watermelon-Densuke watermelon sets world record
 ASAHIKAWA, Japan -- A 17-pound premium Densuke watermelon, auctioned in northern Japan was sold for $6,100, setting the world record for the most expensive watermelon ever sold.
   Photo:The record setting watermelon is a Densuke, weighs 17lb (8 kgs) and is one of the only 65 from the first harvest of the season. Photograph by Tomoko A. Hosaka / Associated Press (enlarge photo)

   The watermelon, one of only 65 from the first harvest of the season, was purchased by a marine products dealer who said he wanted to support local agriculture, according to Kyodo News agency. The fruit is grown only on the northern island of Hokkaido.

   In a country where melons are a luxury item commonly given as gifts, the watermelon's hefty price tag follows another jaw-dropping auction last month, where a pair of Yubari cantaloupe melons sold for a record $23,500.

  "This is the highest price on record for a Densuke watermelon, and that probably means it's the highest of any watermelon in Japanese history," said Kazuyoshi Ohira, a spokesman for the Tohma Agricultural Cooperative in Hokkaido.

   Growers expect to produce about 9,000 Densuke watermelons this year, Ohira said. For seasonal, high-end fruits like the Densuke watermelon and the Yubari cantaloupes, Japanese buyers are often willing to pay top prices at auction for the prestige of owning the very first ones of the year.

   Unseasonably warm weather in April and May have helped boost sugar content and overall quality, and consequently prices, of the 2008 watermelons, Ohira said.

   "It's a watermelon, but it's not the same. It has a different level of sweetness"- Kazuyoshi Ohira, Tohma Agricultural Cooperative.

   The biggest watermelon of the day departed for Tokyo immediately after the auction in Asahikawa city. By midafternoon Friday, the 24-pounder had traveled some 500 miles south to Isetan, an upscale department store in the capital, where it went on sale for $5,945 (630,000 yen), in an upscale department store.

    Other Densuke watermelons won't cost quite as much. Most will retail at department stores and supermarkets for a more modest $188 to $283, Ohira said. And what makes a watermelon worth $200, much less $6,000? Its unusual black skin, Ohira said. Inside, the watermelon is crisp and hard. And, he says, it has unparalleled taste.

    Tuesday, August 19, 2008

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