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Fruitful endeavor: Japanese firm's 20 yrs of work creates watermelon with tiny edible seeds

The cross section of the "Puchitto" watermelon variety with tiny seeds, left, and that of an ordinary variety are seen in this photo provided by Hagihara Farm Co.

TAWARAMOTO, Nara -- Two decades of research by a seed company in this western Japan city has produced a large watermelon variety with seeds so tiny that people can eat them without a second thought.

    Hagihara Farm Co., which specializes in watermelon and melon seeds and seedlings, developed the variety with seeds about one-eighth the size of those in ordinary watermelons. The variety has been named "Puchitto" -- a Japanese onomatopoeia for the sensation of something popping -- as that's how it feels to bite on the seeds.

    Seeds of an ordinary watermelon variety, left, are compared with those of the "Puchitto" variety in this photo provided by Hagihara Farm Co.

    Though there have been seedless watermelons on the market before, and their quality has improved in recent years, growing them reportedly costs a lot and requires great care.

    In response to the issue, Hagihara Farm repeatedly crossed small watermelon types with ultra-small seeds introduced from overseas and the company's high-quality varieties. The firm says that it usually takes 10 years to develop a tasty watermelon variety, but that it took twice the normal time and effort to reach the desired crisp texture and high sugar content.

    Toshikazu Oiwa of Hagihara Farm Co. shows the "Puchitto" watermelon variety with tiny seeds in Tawaramoto, Nara Prefecture, on June 21, 2021. (Mainichi/Takemori Horikawa)

    "This is a gem, the crystallization of all the hard work I've inherited from my senior colleagues," said Toshikazu Oiwa, 33, who oversaw the development of Puchitto. "I want people to take a big bite without caring about seeds."

    Some Puchitto watermelons have already been sold on a trial basis. The company intends to check growth results in various locations, consumer reaction and other data, and expects to start full-scale distribution of the seeds to producers as early as next year.

    (Japanese original by Takemori Horikawa, Nara Bureau)

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