Every year I look forward to seeing a variety of local apples come into season in late summer. Can you tell me a bit more about the different varieties and how they differ?
Apples are among the oldest of domesticated fruits with evidence of their presence dating back to stone-age cave dwellings. That may explain why there’s estimated to be more than 7500 varieties of them grown around the world with evocative names like Cinnamon Spice, Horneburger Pancake and Northern Lights.
As a snack food, the apple’s got it all going on. It’s naturally wrapped - in hardy yet nutritious rind. It’s pleasantly crunchy-crisp in texture, juicy and sweet and tart at the same time, and it’s good for you. The malic and tartaric acids in apples can stimulate appetite, remedy indigestion, and apples contain pectin which reduces cholesterol and removes toxic metals such as lead and mercury from the body. Many apples also store well and may be available months after harvest.
Here are a sampling of ten apples you may encounter in The Market in the coming weeks:
Ambrosia - A relative new kid-on-the-block discovered as a chance seedling by Wilfred Mennell near Keremeos in the late '80s. Creamy flesh with pale yellow highlights. Juicy, crisp and fine in texture. Good forward sweetness with fragrant banana notes and just enough sourness to give it good mouth-filling complexity. It’s an excellent eating apple and because it’s slow to oxidize, it’s terrific in salads – try with Belgian endive, watercress and candied pecans with classic creamy French vinaigrette. Harvest late September, available till February.
Braeburn - Blend of Lady Hamilton and Granny Smith with yellowish creamy flesh that is very juicy with a good crunchy texture. Mildly sweet with a sprightly citrus/lime tartness that lingers in the mouth. Fine eating apple but should also be good lightly sauteed and served with roast pork. Available in late October to March.
Fuji - This Ralls Janet and Delicious cross has cream-coloured flesh with a light green tinge that is firm, fine-grained, crisp and juicy. It's aromatic and sweet with banana notes and a mild tartness that's quite complex and full-flavoured. An excellent eating apple and terrific in pies as well. Ripens in mid-October and stores well till February.
Gala - Descendent of Cox's Orange Pippin and Golden and Red Delicious. Pale cream flesh with a nice crunch. Juicy and medium sweet with pear-like notes and a pleasantly tart finish. A good eating apple that ripens around August and keeps well.
Golden Delicious - Grime Golden and Golden Reinette cross with firm, fine-grained white flesh and sweet honeyed flavour. As a cooking apple it retains its shape and rich, mellow flavour when baked. Also makes a fine apple sauce and good in salads like the Waldorf. Look for them in September, available till July.
Granny Smith - Skin is bright green with a pink blush with flesh that is tinged green to yellowish white. Good sweet and tart balance. Fine eating but also good baked and sautéed. Yummy breakfast: Granny Smith sautéed in brown butter, drizzled with maple syrup over pancakes. Harvest typically around early October, available till March.
Jonagold - A cross of Jonathan and Golden Delicious apples, this apple has pale creamy flesh that is fine-textured, firm and crisp. It's medium in sweetness with mild banana notes balanced with a pleasant tartness. Makes great pies and apple compote. Available late September.
Red Delicious - Creamy flesh with pale green veins and nice medium crunch in texture. Taste is quite juicy with mild, clean, sweet flavour but somewhat lacking in acidity. Available in September. Best eat fresh.
Shamrock - McIntosh, Starkspur, Golden Delicious etc. cross. Creamy white flesh, firm, sweet and juicy with a floral fragrance and good lively balance between sweetness and tartness. A terrific eating apple that ripens mid-September.
Spartan - McIntosh, Yellow Newtown and Pippin cross. The flesh is white with a rosy hue, medium crunchy, tender and fine-textured. It is fragrant, floral with vivid melon and grape-like flavour with a nice balance of sweet and sour. A very good, delicate eating apple when in its prime in early October.
The best way to find a favourite apple of your own, or a few, is to conduct your own tasting. Instead of playing parlour games at your next dinner party you might consider having a blind apple tasting. Squeeze it in between the cheese course and dessert. Serve sparkling water as a palate cleanser.