Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Opal vs. Lady Alice smackdown

These two modern varieties rise to the top in the off season. Their distinctive flavors set them apart from the older Gala-Braeburn generation.

But which is best?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Lady Alice vs. Gold Rush smackdown

April is the cruelest month for apples, so far from the harvest yet too early for fresher reinforcements from the southern hemisphere.

Lady Alice and Gold Rush apples

But in April, two varieties stand out: Remarkable Lady Alice, which improves (to a point) in storage, and the phenomenal Gold Rush, perhaps the greatest keeper ever.

Since I am lucky to have a supply of both this year, this head-to-head taste-off became inevitable.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Are they old or are they fresh?

It'll be many months before I eat anything fresh-picked from an orchard, so the topic of keepers, and of the long-lived varieties that do well in controlled atmosphere storage, has been much on my mind.

I make a distinction between the old-fashioned meaning of "keeper" and the use of chemicals, precision chilling, and controlled atmosphere to arrest the ripening-rotting process.

The latter is a kind of high-tech suspended animation for apples. At least some of these methods are applied to all of the industrial apples you'd find in your supermarket in the off season.

Many of those are not naturally keepers and would not be good to eat if you just stashed them in your fridge for 4 months. They don't last long out of storage.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Red Delicious vs. Sweet Cheeks smackdown

For today's apple comparison, savor the delicious word salad that is "red delicious sweet cheeks." Say it aloud several times. Revel in its absurdity.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sweet Cheeks

I tried today's variety with the knowledge that it is a cross between Honeycrisp and Cripps Pink.

However, Sweet Cheeks (yes that is a name) did not especially reflect eating qualities from either parent.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Waiting for Alice

When she is good, she is very very good. But when she has not been allowed to mature in storage, Lady Alice is starchy and blah.

Alice is fabulous in late March and in April. And yet, the ladies keep showing up in the supermarkets in February. This year, in January.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Eating old apples

It'll be many months before I eat anything fresh-picked from an orchard, so the topic of keepers, and of the long-lived varieties that do well in controlled atmosphere storage, has been much on my mind.

Keepers, sometimes called winter apples, are varieties that will stay good for months in a root cellar or refrigerator.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Celestial surprise

I don't always do the greatest job of keeping track of my apple acquisitions. So it was this morning, when I found my last Celestia apple in a bag in my fruit bin.

It was past its prime but still quite good, with strong rich flavors that had matured in storage.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

So you like Golden Delicious

Do you like steady, mellow, and well flavored Golden Delicious? This honeyed variety has enriched the world of apples as much or more than any. It is reliably consistent and easy to eat. It stores well and is available year round.

However, Golden Delicious is best during or after the October harvest. If you are eating Golden D in late summer or early fall, you really owe it to yourself to try some of the great varieties that are available fresh.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The invention of Red Delicious

From U.S. Plant Patent No. 90, circa 1934:

My invention relates to improvements in apples of the type depending on color and earliness of coloring for a portion of their commercial value. The objects of my improvement are, first, to provide an apple of the well-known Delicious type which will color about two weeks earlier than the Delicious and therefore be ready to reach the earlier and higher priced markets; and second, to secure on each tree a higher percentage of fruits having the desired high coloring.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

PRI comprises sprightly private fingerprint

There's a story, probably apocryphal, that the Purdue, Rutgers & Indiana apple breeding co-op sprinkled a private imprimatur into the names of many of its apples.

The story is that this surprise fingerprint can be found in the names of such varieties as Pristine (1994), Williams Pride (1986), and Enterprise (1993), each in its own way a priceless example of the breeders' art.

Monday, February 13, 2017


In this space, I recently published some misinformation about some research into the breeding ancestry of the Honeycrisp apple.

I regret the error. Here is the real story.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

McIntosh x Delicious

Breed the noble McIntosh with the ubiquitous Delicious, and you'll get a different variety every time you do.

But when the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station at Cornell University did so in 1945, it created Empire.

This apple is a reliable, crisp variety that boasts generic versions of the berry-and-wine flavors that characterize most of the vast McIntosh family.