Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lady Alice vs. Wickson

Flushed with the success of my last odd-couple comparison, I again explore a match between two unlikely partners.

Lady Alice began as a chance seedling while tiny Wickson is the product of an inspired breeding cross. Nonetheless the two varieties overlap in color, texture, and taste to suggest the possibility of an amiable pairing.

In particular, Alice has an unusual malt note and the same “nibble it down to the core” quality I found in Wickson.

Lady Alice is an attractive medium-sized apple, slightly ribbed, with a streaky blush over yellow tinted with a little green. The lenticels are large and evenly spaced.

Wickson's blush is a deeper cherry red, but similar, over a similar yellow and, like Lady Alice, with some translucent wash and darker saturated streaks. Tiny Wickson's shape is also similar, with a little ribbing. It has fewer and less-prominent lenticels.

Alice is firmer, the more so because Wickson had been resting in my refrigerator since November. (No special reason for that, as I had no idea that I'd want to make this this unusual comparison in March).

Alice has a sweet and rich apples-and-pear smell; Wickson's aroma is more complex and includes something punky and sour that suggests a quality hard cider. (I hope that does not mean it has gone bad.)

Despite the small matter of scale there is a strong superficial resemblance between these two varieties.

Lady Alice is (in March) at peak, crisp, hard, sweet, and with that unusual malt-sugar note. Wickson is still reasonably crisp, but past its prime: sharper and more acidic than Alice, with a cultured sourness that wasn't present in November.

Compared to Alice, Wickson's malt note is nuttier. Its flesh is just a little denser and a little lighter yellow-white, but similar.

Alternating tastes, these flavors are very close indeed. Alice is sweeter and fuller, but Wickson is more complex, though the faint sourness is less pleasant.

Since that sour note is a product of storing too long, I think my impulse to pair these two was sound.

However, because Wickson should really have been consumed before Alice is available, the ideal paring is impossible. Consider this the apple equivalent of a fantasy baseball league. (On that score, I'd love to compare late-season Baldwin with the very early Williams Pride.)

I imagine that peak Wickson and peak Alice would get along very well together, the former providing some helpful relief to the latter's intense sweetness.


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