Monday, May 3, 2010

What to eat in May: the South rides in

In the nick of time, at the end of April the first apples from the Southern Hemisphere come thundering into supermarkets like the cavalry riding to rescue in an old Western.

These varieties, reliables like Braeburn and Gala, grow here too, but they've been off the tree for half a year and are getting tired.

Meanwhile it's harvest time in New Zealand and Chile; these fresher fruits will have to sustain us until local trees start bearing at the end of July.

The Southern apples are all bred to satisfy the same general modern taste: crisp, hard, juicy, and very sweet.

I'd enjoy a little more diversity, but this is what people like and growers grow. They can any of them be very satisfying, though quality varies.

Braeburn, originally from New Zealand, is mild, crisp, and sweet. Gala, a Golden Delicious x Kidd's Orange Red cross is also from New Zealand; it rewards the attentive eater with some interesting flavors.

The daughter of these two varieties is Jazz, one of my favorites of this cohort; she has a delicate flavor with some interesting tastes. I also enjoy Pink Lady, which I think has real character. I find that the quality of these seems to vary a bit more than the others, so I try to get some when they are relatively fresh (like in June; May might be a bit early for these to make it north).

With such limited, and similar, choices, I am particularly grateful for tart and distinctive Granny Smith to shake things up. Granny is a foundling, part crab, and hails from Australia originally.

There's no need to turn your back on old favorites from the fall, if you still have access to them. I'll be leavening my diet of Southern Hemisphere apples with Empire and the occasional McIntosh, still available here, for as long as they are good.

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