Friday, November 5, 2010

Topaz **

Proposition: Today's apple, crunchy, juicy, and flavorful, is the un-Honeycrisp.

I have two Topaz apples, one medium sized and one quite large. Both are ribbed oblate spheres with an attractive red blush, streaky over a vivid yellow green. Tan lenticels are of varying size. The whole apple is rock hard (but not to the tooth, see below).

Inside is very crisp, very juicy coarse yellow flesh. Despite considerable balancing sugar the flavors are tart with some pleasantly fizzy acidity. The taste is spicy, with hints of corn and grass, and one sample has mineral and brine notes.

Jon Clements, the UMass Extension Fruit Advisor, has recorded this short video about Topaz.

These flavors work very well, and the crisp firm juicy flesh is tops. Still I could not in good conscience recommend Topaz to a Honeycrisp lover, except for one with broad tastes.

Honeycrisp, of course, is the popular sugar bomb introduced by the University of Minnesota in 1991. Topaz is a new disease-resistant variety from the Czech Republic. Both have a great texture, bracingly crisp and juicy, with coarse yellow flesh.

There's no doubt that popular tastes have shifted over the past several decades towards sweet fruit with intense flavors. Indeed, a recent article in the Boston Globe disparaged Opalescent and Baldwin--two wonderful heirloom varieties--as being only good for baking.

My proposition is this. Those of us who love an apple that is balanced, even tart--whose flavors are not buried under surfeit of sugar--deserve choices too. (No disrespect intended to noble Granny Smith, but we need a few more voices in the choir.) Growers and marketers who meet that need will prosper. And Topaz is an excellent candidate for the job.

It's easy to pass Topaz by this time of year, when there are so many excellent choices. But put some Topaz in cold storage (next to the Honeycrisps) and wheel them out in March, and we will eat them up.

Update: It turns out that Topaz kept into late winter can develop some surprising flavors. Also an attempt to pair Topaz with Honeycrisp does not fare so well.

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