Friday, August 27, 2010


Pronounced "ah-kah-nay." This large apple is a very pretty bright red over yellow, slightly conical and slightly ribbed. It is decorated with irregular small light lenticels.

Note that my sample was waxed, as I bought it in a supermarket while visiting Seattle. Perhaps for that reason, the fruit had no aroma at all.

Akane's dense white flesh was moderately yielding and had a good balance of sweet and tart and generally light and generic flavors but also a suggestion of a vinous quality and hints of kiwi and, towards the finish, white wine.

This is a chewy apple with a chewy peel, filling and not super juicy.

Akane's delicate flavor and substantial texture are appealing, but I feel there is a little something missing. Its main flavors are not assertive, on the other hand it has a subtle kick that is interesting and unusual.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Empress *

Luscious and strange, this apple had me at first bite.

Everything about Empress is a little uncommon. Take a look at the photo and mentally remove the stem. A bit topsy turvy, don't you think?

Many apples have ribs that terminate in little bumps or chins, but usually at the base, not at the crown. Many taper towards the bottom; this one is plum-shaped.

Not every Empress is tapered at the top, but the ones I saw had rib bumps more prominent at the crown than the base. Otherwise this is a medium-sized apple, with a deep purple blush over light yellow tinged with green. The small light lenticels set off the attractive blush, and a smoke-colored bloom decorates the skin in patches.

The fruit has an enticing aroma of cider and spice.

Empress's flesh is also unusual, a yielding coarse-grained apricot yellow. (Update 2012: That yellow is not typical for Empress.) It is both rich and sweet with a little tempering astringency, and indistinct notes of melon, faint coconut and oranges, and fruity hard candy that reminds me a little of the "fake watermelon" taste in Vista Bella (another early variety).

This last flavor peaks intensely for just an instant before fading, the only jarring note in the entire presentation. The net effect is not so much tropical as succulent, and the texture, color, and flavors conspire to suggest that this is not an apple at all but some exotic fruit of an entirely different genus. The peel is chewy.

Empress is another product of the Agricultural Experiment Station at Cornell, a cross between Jonamac and Vista Bella. I really recommend this one.

Update August 2012: I've had the pleasure of eating more of these this year, and felt compelled to note that the "apricot" flesh color I found above must have been a fluke.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Gravenstein Apple Fair 2010

The Gravenstein Apple Fair has its one hundredth anniversary today and tomorrow in Sebastopol, California.

Congratulations, and eat a Gravenstein for me!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Do you recognize her?

Though I am not a fan, I could not resist buying one of these organic Chilean Red Delicious (!) apples just so you could see what she looks like.

Lopsided, flamboyant, even a little scarred, this Delicious has slipped through the bars of her shiny red cage to show a glimpse of her origins as heirloom Hawkeye.

(As usual, click on the photo for a close-up.)

Sad to report, though, that this reversion is only skin deep. To be sure, this is a "good" Red Delicious inside, not mealy as they all so often can be, but the taste and texture were just as generic and unmemorable as those of the glossy red variety.

Friday, August 6, 2010


Two years ago, Red Apple Farm sold me some apples that I found exceptional. I thought they were Lodi apples because the grower said so.

This year, it turns out, those apples were really Yellow Transparents. So of course last Tuesday I let Red Apple sell me some more apples called Lodi, and of course I think that's really really what they are this time.

Okay, I see the pattern. But I'm getting fed. Pass the fruit.

These apples are on the large end of small, a delicate yellow-green that is mostly yellow on the sunward side, where there is sometimes a hint of pink.

The lenticels are numerous but not prominent, a slightly darker green, except that many also have a dark brown speck in the center which may be russet. (One clue that these are not Yellow Transparent apples is that those have sparser and more-obvious lenticels).

Monday, August 2, 2010

Apples of July (2010)

The apple season started early in July along with dire predictions of a McIntosh harvest in mid-August. The idea of a "normal" harvest date is elusive, but Lodi was available the week of July 14, more than two weeks premature.

This harvest follows a warm spring with unusually early blossoming--"not a little bit weird, it's high weird," as one grower said.

However, the early Lodi apples proved unripe--picked prematurely. Other varieties, though early, seem to be so by about a week, not a fortnight.

I personally saw six local varieties for sale in July: Vista Bella, Lodi, Paula Red, Jersey Mac (and Early Mac, as near the same thing as no never mind), Yellow Transparent, and Zestar. In a normal year, if there is such a thing, most of these would not be available until early August.

A seasonal import from Argentina, Autumn Greeting, also made a brief appearance in mid July, though these had not been handled carefully and some were the worse for wear.