Girls show white way to grow apples
BY YURIKO SUZUKI STAFF WRITER
A farmer harvests white apples in Nanbu, Aomori Prefecture. (Masaru Komiyaji)
White apples grown using a technique developed by a group of five third-year senior high school girls will go on display at a fruit store in Tokyo's Shinjuku district from Saturday.
Forty of the fruits, developed by students at the prefectural Nakui agricultural high school in Aomori Prefecture, have been brought to the capital by the well-known Takano Fruit Parlor.
A representative of the shop said, although the apples are not for sale, they may be available to customers next year.
"A combination of white and red apples would be perfect for a gift," the representative said.
Shigeru Izumiyama, a 60-year-old apple grower in Nanbu, a town in Aomori Prefecture, supplied the white Fuji apples at Takano Fruit Parlor's request.
Megumi Umeda, one of the students who developed the method, hit on the idea of making white apples in spring 2009, when she saw white strawberries featured on TV. The girls were looking for a theme for a school project.
An apple grows white if it is covered in a bag to prevent exposure to the sun. But many farmers avoided cultivating the fruit that way because they believed the white apples would not be sweet enough.
The students succeeded in cultivating sweeter white apples by keeping the leaves around the fruits intact, which is at odds with the usual techniques for growing regular apples.
Their white apples won the first prize in the high school category of an invention and commercialization contest held at Kyoto University last November. They were also awarded the top prize at a competition sponsored by the industry ministry's Tohoku Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry in February.
After hearing of their method, Takano Fruit Parlor contacted Izumiyama to ask him to grow the white apples. He learned the technique from the girls, who graduated last spring.
Umeda said, "I am happy to be of help because I wanted to help the local community with our specialty, apples."