Monday, December 15, 2014

Watercore

Watercore in a Lady Apple. Click for close-up.
Eat enough apples and you are sure to encounter watercore: strangely translucent, glassy flesh super-saturated with juice and sugar.

You'd think juiciness would be a straightforward trait specific to each apple variety.

Coarse-grained apples, with large cells, hold more juice than fine-graned, smaller-cell breeds. Watermelon vs potato.

Sometimes however things get a little haywire and the tree forces water, tree-sap really, into the apple so fast that some of it ends up between the cells.

The sap is sweet with sorbitol, a kind of sugar alcohol, and maybe other sugars as well. It serves as a kind of tree antifreeze when the temperature drops.

I'm pleased to learn this, having previously noted a kind of heady alcoholic quality to some (not all) of the watercored apples I've had.

I can't say whether this is just the taste of the sorbitol or of some further process that takes place during storage.

Although watercore is considered a disorder, and in extreme cases can be disfiguring, it's not caused by any germ or other organism and is safe (and interesting) to eat.

In Japan apples with watercore are called "honeyed" and are delicacies that command a premium.

Nonetheless most Western growers seek to avoid watercore. Common advice is to monitor the apple crop and harvest whenever watercore first appears. Farmers sometimes forestall watercore by adjusting nitrogen and calcium fertilizers.

If not for these measures, we'd encounter this condition more frequently than we do.

Watercored Cox's.
Watercore can be an interesting sauce, and I've been seeing a lot of it this year. But I wouldn't pay extra for it.

It's not always an improvement, especially when it upsets a well-balanced apple or overwhelms flavors that are especially harmonious.

I've been enjoying it in Lady Apple but regretting it in Cox's Orange Pippin.

Have you ever found watercore in apples? Did you like it?

7 comments:

  1. Ive gotten it in a few russet varieties after long storage. i like the taste and share your finding, ie, ETOH quality.

    Also agree on the Cox. On occasion, i run into one with tasty effect, but more often, the texture degrades and any upsides of the watercore get pounced by the mealiness.

    Brad

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    Replies
    1. More watercore this year than in all the other years combined. I wonder why.

      I'm appreciating more that Cox can be tricky, and that skill and labor is involved to get fruit of the highest quality.

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  2. The Lady apple is one of the oldest varieties in existence and because of it's size and color a favorite for seasonal decorating.

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    1. Ann, I used to think of Lady as just a kind of holiday garnish. Then I got some fresh ones a few years back, which really changed my mind!

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  3. Thank you for sharing! I was concerned about whether it was safe to eat, I have a fuji apple that looks like that right now

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    Replies
    1. It does look pretty strange! But yes, watercore is okay to eat.

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  4. I had a watercored Braeburn yesterday. It was very good! As I've discussed before in comments, Braeburns are one of the most variable apples to be found in a grocery store, so I'm always reaching for the reddest ones I can find. This last week I had one that had just started to go bad, but the watercore sample still had a lot of crispness and no mealyness.

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Join the conversation! I'd love to know what you think.