Sunday, December 2, 2012

Kiku

This large apple, slightly conical, has next to no ribbing. Its streaky red blush, over yellow, is accented with many tan lenticels.

It's firm in hand, with a glossy peel and a sweet cidery aroma with floral notes.

Kiku's flesh is crisp and coarse-grained, light yellow and very juicy. It is sweet and light with a little tempering tartness behind the scenes.

Its mostly generic sweetness is enlivened by faint floral notes and hints of ginger and cream soda.

Kiku's texture and pleasing juice make for a winning snack.

It's always pleasant to find a new variety in stores this time of year. New apples are introduced regularly in the off season, though usually for only a limited time. (Jumani's debut here last year lasted just four days.)

Kiku, however, is not a new variety. It is a Fuji. To be fair, it is a sport of Fuji, a genetic mutation, but (like most sports) the apple has not fallen far from the tree.

Kiku, whose real name is "Fuji Kiku Fubrax," colors better in some climates. The patent holder claims a "superior" flavor, but the patent does not.

Its flavors (and for that matter texture) are indeed a little better than those of my review Fuji, which had been in storage for months. All of that difference is well within the kind of variation one would expect from storage and handling.

So what is the big deal here? It's marketing, and it works. At least, it got Kiku (a trade mark) prime shelf space at Whole Foods, surely the holy grail of food fetishism.

What does it say about the structure of the apple industry that pure brand wizardry can elevate a mere sport to the status of a whole new variety?

What dies it say about consumer tastes that Kiku's handlers could introduce a "new" variety that is essentially the same as a well-established one?

Is bland, if sweet, Fuji really the ultimate modern apple variety, such that we should all be happy to savor each minor variation? If so, lucky us, as there are many sports of Fuji.

Sorry if this sounds crabby. Kiku is no chore to eat, and I'm glad that retailers are adding to the off-season repertoire. But this time of year, I have some truly great apples in my mud room, and I can have Fuji any time.

Update: See how Kiku compares to a regular Fuji.

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