Monday, January 11, 2016

Opal vs. Junami smackdown

Today's head-to-head compares two modern varieties available in North America only briefly around the turning of the year.


Both Opal (L) and Junami were developed in Europe, and both embody balance and flavor in a way that the previous generation of commercial apples (lookin' at you Gala, Braeburn, Fuji) do not.

Other than that, these are utterly different.

Yellow Opal feels a little waxy (natural wax) but has a matt finish. The yellow has a drop of orange in it, and wide-spaced lenticels, when dark, provide dramatic contrast.

Jumani is glossy with what I suspect is added wax or laquer. Its streaky red blush covers pretty much all of an otherwise green peel, and the tan lenticels are less obvious.

Both are attractive but Opal's exotic good looks are the most striking.

This year (see note at end) the only Junamis available here are medium-sized, thus the size difference in the photo. Nonetheless they also grow large (and Opal comes smaller).

This is about marketing, not genetics, as large apples qualify for premier treatment on the supermarket shelves while the smaller guys get sold in bags.

Opal also has a marvelous honey-sweet aroma; Junami is nearly odorless.

Opal's yellow flesh is moderately crisp, coarse-grained, and juicy, bearing vanilla and, initially, banana tastes, with a hint of honey spice. There is a clear Golden Delicious vibe.

Junami is crunchier, a medium-coarse light yellow. It is intensely floral.

Both are well balanced: plenty sweet, but also with that appropriate measure of acid and tart serving to center the taste and allow component flavors to express themselves.

Right now the crisper Junami has the better texture and so (in my view) carries the day. Earlier in the season, though, I'd call this a dead heat.

This time of year you won't go wrong with either.

Of greater significance, maybe, is that big growers are getting varieties that are genuinely interesting into supermarkets. Opal arrived here in 2013, Junami in 2012.

Is this a trend? Couple them with Lady Alice and Sweetango and, well, maybe.

Note: I'm tasting these in late January of 2015, but since these apples are mostly gone from the shelves I'll wait a year to publish this. Further note: That’s what I did.

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