Japan may have cornered the market on square watermelons, but if a South Korean farmer has his way, we could soon be eating another cubic fruit: apples. Fruit may be one of nature's perfect foods: delicious, good for you, often portable. But for markets with limited shelf space, the irregular packaging could use some improvement.
Enter the Japanese, who began developing their innovative square watermelon in the 1980s. And enter Lee Chong Boun, 57, who 10 years ago decided to close his Nike shop near the city of Chungju, about four hours south of Seoul, and try the same reshaping with apples. Aided by his local government agricultural center, Lee, who taught himself farming, needed five years to perfect his first cubic apples, which grow in plastic containers attached to branches of apple trees.
At about $7 a pop, the apples are not the kind of thing Korean consumers would be likely to snap up, but Lee figured they would make an excellent gift every November for students preparing for their university entrance exams, a major event in this education-obsessed society. "Korean parents will do anything for their children," says Lee.
Next, he hopes to export his apples to China, a country even more fanatical about education. No plans yet for the U.S. market, but in the land of the square dance and the square deal, don't bet against the square apple.
Next Wes Jackson