Sunday, February 1, 2009

Ambrosia *

I'd never heard of this apple until a reader mentioned it, so when Ambrosia showed up at a local supermarket I had to try one. Place of origin was just listed as "Canada," and I'm guessing British Columbia, where Ambrosia was born.

This shapely apple has the tapered, wasp-waisted profile of a Red Delicious. There is an orange-pink blush in streaks over light yellow, with yellow-green lenticels (a bit darker than the skin) throughout. It is medium large and prominently ribbed, to the point of having distinct "chins" on the bottom. The calyx is tucked far behind those chins and is closed. Unbroken, the apple smells promisingly of cider and strawberries.

Ambrosia's crisp yellow flesh is medium-coarse-grained and very juicy. Its flavor is light and sweet with faint vanilla, melon, and banana notes. The slight hint of tartness, though enough to keep things interesting, does not really balance the sugar, but Ambrosia's lightness nonetheless skirts the pleasant side of cloying. My sample oxidized very slowly.

This is a refreshing sweet apple with some nice flavors, very good to eat this time of year. I'm getting some more of these.

Ambrosia is a chance-found pippin (ca. 1980) and although one blogger may be right when he claims it is a Starking Delicious - Golden Delicious cross, no one knows its pedigree absent DNA testing. (Update: More on this in the comments.) The BC Ministry of Agriculture and Lands has an Ambrosia fact sheet, and the discriminating reader may enjoy some cheerful Ambrosia propaganda (which includes a recipe for Ambrosia-accented cole slaw).

I was going to tag this a "winter" apple to distinguishing between local apples (even good keepers that I eat in the wintertime) and those trucked in from far away in the winter apple "season." On second thought, a system of classification based on when I eat an apple or how far it traveled to reach me is not really tenable or interesting to others. This Ambrosia was certainly harvested in the fall.

Note however that good keepers were once widely known as winter apples and this meaning persists today.

19 comments:

  1. Hey, you found Ambrosia! You seem to have been able to detect more flavors than I could. I'm going to have to eat them even more carefully and thoughtfully. I suspect I do not have the most sensitive palet. But I do get sweet, light, juicy and crisp. And to me there was something very floral about that blossom end of the apples, all four of them that I bought and ate. Also, the Ambrosias I got around here were really large. One apple was very filling! I like your description of its chins. They do seem like chins!

    Nina

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  2. By the way, I got the presumptive parents from the actual patent:

    http://www.google.com/patents?id=8h4TAAAAEBAJ&printsec=abstract&zoom=4&dq=ambrosia+apple

    Love the site, by the way.

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  3. You are very kind, fruity lord. That patent link is worth a post of its own someday for what it shows about genomic property rights.

    But a question; How can the finders of this foundling be 100% certain of its parentage?

    His Fruitiness is suzerain over The Fruit Blog, an eclectic place that I already gratefully pillaged once for one of my more unusual posts.

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  4. Nina, I guess it is possible that I have a finer palate than you, more nuanced and discriminating, but I doubt it.

    It's just credible that since I've reviewed fifty varieties so far, screwing up my little brain muscles each time to hunt for flavors and ways to describe them, maybe that has trained my taste buds a little in the process.

    It's also possible that the flavors in my apple were better differentiated than in yours. I think these fruit are stored under very good conditions, generally, but once they hit the markets they are out on the floor all day and they can't help but age a little, and unevenly.

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  5. Ok, now my mouth is totally longing for an Ambrosia. Time to go home and slice one up!

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  6. Just wonder if anyone knows where to buy an Ambrosia tree or scion wood. Please post or email to fiftymickey@yahoo.com

    Many thanks for this excellent site. Makes me hungry for autumn every time I come here.

    Regards, Mike in oregon

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  7. Mike, I hope someone reading this can help you out because I don't have a clue.

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  8. Attn: The link to the "propaganda" is broken.

    I found another link which may be interesting. It's more technical and agricultural. Not consumer oriented: http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca/treefrt/product/ambrosia.htm

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  9. Thank you, anonymous reader, for catching the broken link. I've fixed it with the same document elsewhere on the web; I hope it persists at that location.

    This blog of mine has really gotten too big for me to track all my external links, though I do check them from time to time. It's very helpful when readers flag errors!

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  10. I actually picked up one of these along with a Pinata the other day. I was truly disappointed with the Ambrosia, which I found was best summed up as a Red Delicious in sheep's clothing. Your review, however, makes me want to try another. It's possible I struck at the wrong point in the season, or just selected a poor candidate.

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  11. Tim, I think that when these are good they can be good indeed, or at any rate a notch above Red Delicious!

    Any apple is a crap shoot and a supermarket apple doubly so, at the mercy of how good the crop was, how distributed, how handled.

    How was your Piñata? That's another good-if-good variety in my book.

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  12. We grow the Ambrosia here in N.C. And it is fast becoming one of our most popular pick-your-own apples that we grow. The flavor has best been describe by a customer as " an apple pie hanging on the tree". The flavor is best when fresh picked off the tree. It does store very well but it does seem to lose a little flavor over time.
    www.justusorchard.com

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    1. I didn't realize anybody back east was growing these yet. Maybe I will be able to try a fresh-picked Ambrosia one of these days.

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  13. Ambrosia is my FAVORITE!!! I've saved some seeds and have a little tree about 4 inches high growing. Will have to find another apple tree to pollinate it. It's the best apple I've EVER tasted. Stays fresh and tastes wonderful.
    Rebecca NC foothills-Wilkes county

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  14. I lived for 30 years in British Columbia, and this was the apple everybody waited to see appearing on the local grocery shelves, in from the Kootenays, Similkameen and Okanagan valleys of BC. The Ambrosias available there of course were just fresh off the trees, and, well, ambrosial in flavour: sweet, luscious, tropical, with a hint of apricot-mango. When perfectly ripe, they are a delight, although I know some apple lovers might say they lack acidic "bite". Nonetheless, a wonder of the apple world. I'd give them 2 out of 3 stars, if only because I don't think they rival the likes of Cox Orange Pippin. :-D

    I suspect many of the bloggers here, if tasting Ambrosias shipped to the east from BC will not have got the full experience, as these apples need to be enjoyed at their peak.

    My understanding was that Ambrosia was a chance seedling found by a grower in his orchard in south-central BC. The story goes that he mowed the thing down the first couple of times but it kept popping up, so he finally gave it a chance, and the rest is apple history.

    I expect the parentage mentioned by the BC Ministry of Agriculture may be somewhat of an educated assumption, based on information from the grower as to what trees were growing nearby in his orchard.

    By the way, in reply to Rebecca above, unfortunately planting seedling apple trees will not give you an Ambrosia variety. When you take a seed from an Ambrosia apple, you're getting a natural cross, so the genetics of that apple's parentage, as well as whatever other apple crossed with it, will come out in the progeny. You will likely have a tree that produces poor fruit, or else something entirely different from Ambrosia, and you'll most certainly have a standard-sized apple tree (25 to 30 feet or more).

    There is of course a very slim chance you might end up with an even better apple variety -- imagine Ambrosia crossed with Cox Orange Pippin! If you got your apple from British Columbia, Canada, that's not an impossible outcome. At any rate, if you really want an Ambrosia tree, you'll have to find someone who has grafted the Ambrosia wood onto a typical apple root-stock, preferably M26 or smaller for a manageably-sized backyard tree (or get a scion and do the grafting yourself). I don't know whether nurseries in the U.S. have this apple available yet.

    Patricia (formerly of BC, now Nova Scotia - another apple-rich province)

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    1. Patricia, are Cox common in British Columbia, then? Happy land!

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  15. Can apples be kept in storage for an entire year? A little over a week ago I bought a few Ambrosias from a farmer's market store here in BC. The sign read 'Orchard Fresh from the Okanagan'. Unfortunately the fruit was anything but. They were all dry and mealy and some were starting to get brown spots on the inside. I'm quite certain that these were not fresh orchard run apples. They reminded me of the apples my grandfather still had in storage in his cold cellar at the end of spring.

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    1. Karin, I agree: you were had! Ambrosia is not such a great keeper to begin with, there's no way they could survive a yaer in storage. "Orchard Fresh" my Cox's Orange Pippin!

      On the other hand I could believe that these guys could be worth eating a year out.

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  16. Just noticed this variety in my local supermarket for the first time ever.

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