Today we weigh two modern varieties in the shadow, or perhaps the light, of a third apple that isn't here: a hundred-sixty-plus-year-old Russian variety called Yellow Transparent.
Both Lodi, at left above, and Pristine were bred to fill, to some extent, Yellow T's shoes. To be a less finicky, longer–shelf-lived replacement for the antique Russian apple (also known as White Transparent).
Pristine is small and oblate, about the size and shape of a Yellow Transparent, also with moderate ribbing. Its yellow-green is lighter than Lodi's and its pretty little rosy blush is more pronounced.
Lodi has an enticing green-apples aroma, while Pristine has no scent.
Lodi's snowy white flesh has a muted crunch and a soft and delicate texture. It is tolerably tart and bears flavors of table grapes with a hint of vanilla. Its finish is bracing and refreshing.
Pristine by contrast is crisp and juicy. Tart, like Lodi, it is better balanced by sweet notes. There is an enticing blend of lime, vanilla, pear, and white grapes, and a sweet but astringent finish.
I do not have any trouble calling this contest for Pristine, although I have to note that in this case Lodi may be slightly past its prime and Pristine slightly early. Even so, Pristine's flavors are far more interesting and complex.
Furthermore Pristine has proven to be an excellent keeper for an early apple, whereas my Lodi is already starting to go off just a little.
If you are curious, check out the flavors I report in my stand-alone reviews of Pristine, based on samples that were a little more ripe.
See also my Lodi vs. Yellow Transparent comparision.
Today is Lughnasa, the astronomical and spiritual center of the summer in early August. Right around now, or perhaps a few days ago, the Yellow Transparents would be ripe, were anyone to grow them. (A few orchards still do, to my undying respect and gratitude.)
At peak, the delicate and sophisticated Transparents are well worth a journey. The trick, however, is catching them at the right moment.
Yellow Transparent's peak quality is fleeting, and the apples do not keep. Small wonder that many think of the Transparent as fodder for early applesauce rather than eating out of hand.
Yellow Transparent is Lodi's pollen parent, and Lodi was originally sold to farmers as an "improved" Yellow T. But bloodlines aside, I think that Pristine has the better claim to Transparent's legacy of sophisticated flavors at the start of the apple season.