Saturday, July 30, 2011

Late Mutsu

Update: These are last year's Mutsus, stored very well. Of course.

That was my first guess when I saw them at Farmers Market last week.

But when the seller insisted they were fresh picked, I entertained some bizarre theories (below) consistent with that.

This week the grower himself was at the market and he told me the truth.

It makes sense that a year in storage would produce the kinds of slow changes I describe below--attenuated flavors, delicate texture. Anyway here is what I wrote.
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Mutsu is considered a mid-season apple. Gould Hill lists them as ripe in mid October.

But Charlton Orchards sold me some on July 26.

That's not just early, but ridiculously early. A conundrum. So, worth investigating.

The fruit is medium sized, blocky and slightly ribbed, a light green to green yellow, and, reasonably firm. It has dark green lenticels and a faint streak of blush, both visible in my photo. (Click for a larger version.)

The flesh is pleasantly crunchy, a little rubbery in one sample. It is juicy and on the fine-grained end of coarse, a very pale green yellow.

The flavors are washed out, sweet, faint delicate watery tastes of berries, minerals, maybe a hint of ginger. There is barely any trace of apple.

The grower insists that these are fresh-picked Mutsus. While not at peak, they are not unripe. There's no green sourness, the pips are a dark brown, there's even a blush.

Yet as related, these are eatable even as that harbinger of the harvest, Vista Bella, is not.

So what is going on? I see three possibilities:
  1. Mutsu has an unusually long harvest season within which it is not actually unripe, though it is better at its autumn peak than in the summer;
  2. These Mutsus grew under unusual conditions that caused them to mature early;
  3. These are not Mutsus at all but another Mutsu-like variety, such as Shizuka.
If #3 is correct, then I should rework this column into a full-fledged apple review. (These do correspond to Mutsu on many points, though.)

If #1 is correct, I think the apple develops its best flavor and character if allowed to reach its peak. These clearly have a ways to grow if they are Mutsus.

For comparison, in 2008 I described Mutsu in September, when she is larger and more flavorful.

I should sample one in October to fill in the trend.


Update: Not the first time I believed what I was told at Farmers Market. The truth is less interesting in this case. Still, I bought a few more this week.

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