You've probably never seen watermelon like this before.
A handful of farmers in Japan recently harvested 260 cube-shaped watermelons from their vines, according to this European news outlet. Farmers there have been growing square melons for about 45 years, but this year's batch was exceptionally large due to exceptionally good weather.
Why square? 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.
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.
A costly cubic curio
Japanese farmers grow square watermelon because they're easier to store in small refrigerators and easier to ship in boxes. (Photo: Joi Ito/flickr)
Back in 2013, people shopping at fancy markets in Moscow, Russia, were shelling out $700 to $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 remarkable.
To grow your own, try these instructions.
Editor's note: This article has been updated since it was originally published in July 2013.