Thursday, June 14, 2012

Reinette

Reine is French for "Queen."

So a literal translation of Reine de Reinettes (an excellent apple) must be something like, Queen of the, um, what, exactly?

Little queens? Princesses? Frogs?

Reinette forms the names of many apple: Ananas Reinette, Orleans Reinette, Reinette Simirenko, as well as Reine de Reinette (above). Its English equivalent is "rennet": not the stuff that curdles milk, but a less-common second meaning.

According to one longstanding theory, reinette derives not from the French word for "queen" but rather from the Latin "renatus," that is "rebirth." A "reborn" apple is a grafted one, that is, a cultivar. Many pomologists seem to accept this meaning.

Ananas Reinette: Ribbit ribbit
The etymologists, however, are not on board. Skeat called renatus a "mistaken notion" and traced the word instead to rainette, an Old French word for "little frog," "because the apple is speckled like the skin of a frog."

Also contra cultivar: Reinette sometimes translates as "pippin." Reine de Reinettes (Queen of the Reinettes) is known in Great Britain as "King of the Pippins."

"Pippin" (an apple grown from seed) is, more or less, the opposite of "cultivar."

In 1792, a German naturalist named Diel used the term Reinette ("Reinetten") to name of one of seven classes of apples that together comprise and describe the entire fruit. (The others were ribbed apples, rose apples, rambours, pointlings, and flat apples.)

There is a translated account of Diel's system in Budd and Hanson's American Horticultural Manual (1908).

Spencer Beach, in Apples of New York, rejects Diel, and in any case Deil makes no etymological claims. Nonetheless Deil is widely cited in 19th-Century apple manuals and may have influenced how the Reinette sobriquet was subsequently applied.

I personally like this qualitative use of Reinette. Diel characterizes Reinettes as having "fine-grained, delicate" flesh, handsome shapes, and "rich, high, spicy, sugary" flavors. That seems broadly accurate.

However, in terms of word origins it looks like the frog has it by default.

11 comments:

  1. Wow, I am jealous of your library. Do you have your own orchard, or do you just hit the U picks?

    Rick

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    1. Rick, I only eat them. And write about them.

      It is a pretty sweet deal.

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  2. I live in central Alberta, Canada (think about 500 miles north of Billing Montana) so our choices are more limited. but if you ever get the chance, grab yourself the experimental (from the U of Saskatchewan's northern fruit program) Prairie Sensation apple. For two weeks, in late August or so, it is the most amazing apple I have ever tried. Then it goes all starchy. They haven't released it commercially because of that, but some test orchards sell the apples. An amazing treat!

    Rick

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    1. You make it sound great! And hard to find, but you never know.

      A lot of Midwest apples do well here, maybe this one will catch on.

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  3. Interesting explanation, we like "rich, high, spicy, sugary" flavored fruits! We grafted some Reinette Simirenko Scions this year...

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    1. Simerenko is perhaps a bit more subdued than that--but still an elegant apple with superior textures and tastes.

      @Trees, do the Simirenkos do well in your part of the world?

      Note that besides running a nursery, Trees that Please blogs its work.

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  4. Adam, Don't know about the taste and performance of Reinette SImirenko in New Mexico yet but it sounded like sonething we had to try! As we learn more about it we will share.

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  5. Adam, great blog - just discovered few days ago - sure come back regularly (for the time being mainly interested in Reinettes but in the nearest future sure will read more.

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    1. What a nice complement, Lena. Please do return and share your own thoughts and experiences.

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    2. No idea if you can trace new people who come here to read. Great blog, Adam! https://medium.com/@LenaSwan/adam-who-made-the-story-of-reinette-apples-and-much-more-160b5486fbdb

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    3. Lena, thank you for your very flattering write-up. I hope you keep writing about apples too!

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