July 11, 2014 6:05 pm

The List: Rich pickings

From Yubari King melons, often given as high-prestige gifts, to white truffles, which usually cost £1,000 to £5,000 per kilo
Yubari melons on display at a department store in Sapporo, Japan©AP

Yubari melons on display at a department store in Sapporo, Japan

A bunch of Ruby Roman grapes sold at auction in Japan this month for Y550,000 (£3,170). At £105 per grape, each the size of a ping-pong ball, they were bought by a wedding organiser to be served at a lavish reception. Here are five more of the priciest fruit, fungi and vegetables on record.

1. Yubari King melons

In 2013 a Japanese fruit wholesaler paid Y1.6m (about £9,000) for a pair of coveted Yubari melons. Standard Yubari melons, which are only grown in the small town that gives the fruit its name, cost £30 to £60. Displayed with reverence in shops, Yubaris are often given as high-prestige gifts. The best examples, which look and taste like cantaloupe, have perfectly smooth skin. A portion of the stem is always left on.

2. White truffles

At a charity auction in November 2010, billionaire Macau casino mogul Stanley Ho paid $330,000 for two white truffles dug up in Tuscany that weighed a total of 1.3kg. The rare fungus grows underground and has to be foraged by specially trained pigs. Only available for two months from October each year, white truffles usually cost £1,000 to £5,000 per kilo.

3. Pineapples

The tropical fruit, indigenous to South America, was brought to Europe by Columbus and first cultivated in English hothouses in the early 18th century. Growing pineapples became something of an obsession among the wealthy, with the cost making it an exclusive pursuit. An 1822 guide to the fruit’s cultivation said: “The culture of Pine Apples is attended with a heavier expense than that of any of fruit under glass.” One estimate suggests that, once building and heating costs are taken into account, it would have cost the equivalent of £5,000 today to grow a single pineapple.

4. La Bonnotte potatoes

The world’s most expensive potato variety is grown on an island off the coast of western France. The potatoes have a nutty taste that is said to come from the salty air and seaweed that is added to the soil. Selling for up to £400 per kilo, the delicate potatoes have to be handpicked. In recent years, however, Tesco got hold of a supply – and sold them for a very affordable £1.99 a bag.

5. Caterpillar fungus

Found only in the Himalayas, caterpillar fungus feeds on the caterpillars of ghost moths and grows from their mummified bodies. Collected in early summer, the fungus has long been used in traditional medicine but, in the past few years, it has also become much sought after as an aphrodisiac and performance-enhancing drug for athletes. The price in Hong Kong for a single fungus can be more than HK$700 (£50).

Photograph: AP

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