Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Dandee Red vs. Paula Red smackdown

Today's bout pits an apple against its sport to see if there is any meaningful difference other than color.

Paula Red (L) and Dandee Red.
Sports are genetic mutations of existing varieties. Typically they are just redder or earlier or something like that.

Occasionally the differences are great enough to yield a variety that feels wholly original, as with Lucky Rose Golden. Is Dandee one of those?

Paula is probably the best early-summer McIntosh-type apple, so whatever the outcome I look forward to eating it and its mutant clone.

Dandee is a large apple with a handsome rich crimson blush, displaying its sporty color to full advantage. Lenticels vary in size but in places nearly disappear in that red.

My Paula is more oblate and less ribbed, but I discount that as probably just random variation.

The real difference is in the blush, which for Paula is is not only less saturated but without Dandee's purple depths. (However, Paula is not quite as orange as she appears in the top photo.) The lenticels are more obvious.

The unblushed green peel on both apples is a perfect match. Both have the same stubby stem.  Both can have a dusty blue bloom on the surface.

Dandee's attractive color wins it the beauty part. But what about inside?

I was thrown off here because my Dandee Red was water cored. This is a physical condition in which the apple's flesh is super saturated with water, and also extra sugar.

At extremes it is disfiguring, but in this case—well, you'll see.

The water core presents as glassy, translucent yellow regions inside the apple. Even the unaffected flesh was yellower than that of Paula Red.

I also initially evaluated Dandee as more coarse-grained than Paula. But when I compared Paula with parts of the Dandee that had avoided water core, I saw that the flesh had identical texture.

Dandee proved sweeter than Paula, though with similar berries-and-wine flavors. Paula was crisper, with flesh that seemed whiter. While also balanced she was more tart and, consequently, more Mac-like.

And Paula bore a fleeting hint of watermelon candy, a flavor I have found in some other August varieties but never before in this one.

Switching back and forth, these two apples seem to circle around each other. Still you'd never confuse them even blindfolded.

How to separate differences from water core verses inherent character? Dandee was sweeter, but one would expect that as a result of water core, which concentrates sugar.

Is Dandee more prone to water core than Paula? I don't know, but a web search suggests water core is hardly unknown in the parent variety.

Fortunately I had a second Dandee that was not water cored. Its flesh was very similar to Paula's in texture and color.

And although the difference was not great—although it could be accounted for as a variation due to local conditions or harvest timing or terrior—Dandee was just a little sweeter.

Not satisfied with this, I repeated the experiment a week later. There was no water core and the flesh of the two apples was identical: white, fine-grained, tender-crisp.

Again the difference in taste was within what you might call the margin of error, and thus might be discounted. But Dandee again was slightly sweeter, bearing slightly better flavors with berries slightly more prominent.

Advantage: Dandee Red.

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