Apples-Nature's Treachery April 2011
The apple has long been known as a symbol of temptation. Eve took the chance and plucked the fruit from the tree to enjoy its crispy, juicy taste. I certainly have no problem with the story as a whole rather that her apple was delicious.
The last time I ate an apple it declared once again the annoyance I have with them as a food. Looking all beautiful and shiny, you are lured in with the expectation of crunch and inevitably you get floury. With the huge variety of apples being grown in New Zealand it becomes difficult to remember which one you bought last time that was such a disappointment that you hope to avoid this time.
Go to ENZA's website and you will find all sorts of information about apples and pears that would make reverting dinner party conversation. I have learnt all about the export of pip fruit from New Zealand that is worth more than $1 billion per year to ENZA and the incredible work they are doing to naturally cross breed varieties that will guarantee me and crunchy apple.
I went off to the supermarket to do a little more investigation.
Apples certainly make up a large part of the fruit on offer with three or more varieties on offer at any one time. With the exception of potatoes, you rarely see that many other varieties of any other fruit or vegetable on offer.
I peruse the offerings and find that I personally wouldn't take any of them home. Looking tired and damaged, I move on to another fruit store to see what the offer is.
Again, I look intently to find something that really says fresh to me (not just as a word that appears on its sticker) and I am struggling. I pass amazing looking broccoli, tight little brussel sprouts, dirt encrusted potatoes and imported pineapples and mangos but no beautiful bright enticing apples.
I return home to research more.
We all understand that varieties play an important part in how fruit looks and tastes.
When I look for apples I look for those that are free of bruises and punctures and have a nice bright, almost shiny skin. Thin skins are sometimes cross breed into a fruit so they are easier to eat for those with dentures, so the skin will cook better, so they are more appealing to children.....the list of things they can do to apples is long and some what scary. The more one reads the more ridiculous it starts to seem. I now have a favourite apple known as the Flower of Kent that is a variety that dates back to the 1700's and was the apple that hit Isaac Newton on the head.
Look at the incredible list of apples on Wikipedia and you will find that New Zealand as growers of apples are rather low on the list. Who would have known that the largest apple producer in the world is China closely followed by USA and Iran? New Zealand doesn't even figure into the top ten.
With a wonderfully involved history, the apple is said to have been first cultivated in eastern Turkey. The Germanic peoples of Europe popped apples in with the dead perhaps in honour of a Norse goddess who gave eternal youthfulness. Greek mythology is full of the apple as a symbol of beauty and youth particularly when it comes to woman. As mentioned earlier, Eve coaxed Adam into joining with her in the fruit she had plucked from the Tree of Knowledge and that is today why the larynx in your throat today is called an 'Adam's Apple' because of the notion that the forbidden fruit stuck in Adam's throat.
With more than 7,500 known cultivars of apples I would at least like to be able to find at least one that is bright, crunchy and juicy. Old cultivars are often deemed as unsuitable for reasons such as odd shape (not perfectly round), poor tolerance to shipping and storage (wont keep for 6 months in cold storage), low yield or short season and liability to disease. I sort of thought that was what it was all about but obviously I am a little too much of a greenie. Apple activists (yes-they do exist) rally for growers to maintain their older cultivars to save them from extinction. Local markets have been a great way to preserve and educate people to try different varieties even when they may be misshapen.
I search more on the internet and find a funny little article from 1934 published in the New Zealand Railways magazine that is pondering the question why stores don't write varieties and use on their fruit price tags. I feel vindicated as I feel this is a very important part to our education and keep reading to find that most of the apples that they are describing in 1934 don't ever appear on our shelves. I plan to pay more attention at my local farmer's market to see what they have on offer so I can gain that little bit more information on where my food is coming from and what it has been cross breed with.
What also interests me are the storage times that are given for many. I delved into a rather technical website that detailed the issues surrounding storage in order to kill pests. Interstingly they discuss the storage of apples coming from New Zealand for up to 20 weeks in order to kill some cold borne pests before they even reach the market. 20 weeks! I wonder how long our apples that are being picked right here are being held?
The end of the apple season is July and at that time the rest from then on are from cold storage. Varieties such as Gala then have been well come and gone so have been in storage since mid March. Another one that we see on the shelves all year round is Braeburn which begins in mid March and finishes in late July. The rest of the year it comes out of cold storage.
All of this still leaves us with the issue of cooking versus eating and what to use for what.
Cooking apples are a mass part of what the British apple producers invest time in. The demand for good cooking apples is seems outways eating apples. The Bramley apple is the most popular in the UK for cooking but is described as sharp, sour and less than exciting in flavour. However this doesn't help us as it is almost exclusively a British variety.
Granny Smith originated in Australia in 1868 by chance. Thought to be a mix of wild apple and domesticated green apple, the flavour displays the characteristic sourness of a wild apple. Cultivated heavily in New Zealand, this is an excellent cooking and eating apple. Raw, it will not brown as quickly as other apples so can be used in salads or fruit platters and as it has a great firmer crunch it is well liked by all.
Pink Lady is one variety that we see available. From Australia, it is a cross breed of golden delicious and Lady Williams apples. Pink Lady is a trade marked name and the success of this apple due to its ability to be stored for lengthy periods and a taste that is described to be akin to sherbet. I question this, but must bow to the 'manufacturers' in this case for they have quite a lot to say about their amazing Pink Lady.
Gala is a New Zealand development coming from a Kidd's Orange and golden delicious. Sweet but with grainy texture and softer skin, they are more resistant to bruising. I have personally never found a gala that was in good condition so I reserve them for cooking only and only when I won't a very soft, broken down apple sauce or pie filling.
Fuji, as the name suggests, is a Japanese creation made from two American varieties, Red Delicious and Ralls Genet. Appreciated for their much larger size and high sugar ratio, they have a dense flesh and a sweet flavour. Industry wise, they can be stored without refrigeration for up to six months. I find these to be wonderful for cooking due to their high sugar levels. They work well for slicing and baking lightly such as in a tart or slice.
Braeburn is another New Zealand chance find. Oddly sweet and tart, they are perhaps my favourite apple with a higher chance of having the perfect texture. Growers love them as they are another long store apple. I like them for both eating and cooking. Producing a nice tartness for sauces, pies and tarts, they will work long cooked or lightly cooked.
Braeburn cross breed with Gala in New Zealand was launched in 2007. The new Jazz apple, also trade marked and heavily hyped for its wondrous abilities of long storage, perfect shape, crisp skin and crunchy texture (no claim of tasting like lollies here), they have been taken up residence in supermarkets quickly. Look them up on line and you can get info about the media company who launched them at a media event in Auckland and what supermarkets take them all over the world. A strange thing for an apple but it feels like Jazz has rock star status.
Obviously the trade marking is all part of the gig now but is it really necessary? ?Did all of those growers one hundred years ago think that trade marking their find would save their variety? What stops someone else coming along and cross breeding the same thing and calling it something else?
After my research and taste testing I am still left feeling unsatisfied by the apple. Has the excessive long shelf life got something to do with this? Or is it those annoying stickers that I have to pull off before I bite? Or is it the fact that the perfect russetting, shape and size just makes me feel like I am eating something that isn't real at all? ?The questions will remain for now and my disillusionment has just grown that little bit larger. I look forward to the media launch of another trade marked super star apple soon.