Saturday, October 20, 2012

Forbidden fruit

Psst: Hey buddy. You want a hot apple?

Not only is Sweetango this year's "it" fruit, this variety is also illegal to grow in Massachusetts. Patents and trademarks have this apple locked up tight. The consortium that controls Sweetango does not license them in New England.

So when I found some Bay State Sweetangos for sale last month, I looked furtively over my shoulderand bought two.

Last year's version: Looks to die for, but not as good.
Sweetango has many fans but I was underwhelmed last year. Did all the awesomeness leach away through too much storage and handling? Because, alas, not local (though licensed and legal).

In any case, this year's sample is different: it's very large, rock hard in my hand, and not nearly as pretty.

This is a bright green apple covered more than halfway with a thin translucent blush that has some red saturated patches. It's big and squat and only moderately ribbed. The many small light lenticels are easier to see in the blush.

The flesh is medium-coarse off-white, nicely crisp and quite juicy. It breaks off into great satisfying chunks.

Right off the bat there is a very interesting malt-sugar note and a kind of creamy caramel quality (think cream soda without the vanilla). It's quite well balanced, a surprise considering how aggressively this apple is being marketed to lovers of the sugary Honeycrisp.

These flavors are distinctive but easy to take. In one sample that may have been less ripe the aftertaste included a piquant hint of tangerine peel and yeasty suggestion of B vitamins.

The two apples were sufficiently different to suggest that I still may not have the full story. (I lean heaviest on the riper and better of the two in this description).

Still these flavors and this texture make a winning combination. For the first time, I can appreciate the appeal of this variety.

So perhaps you are thinking to yourself: Adam, you are a chump. You bought a bootleg apple. It's not on the level. Did it ever occur to you it might not be a real Sweetango at all?

The thought did cross my mind. Here's the thing.

This apple is good enough to succeed on its own. If it's not Sweetango the grower is missing an opportunity to promote and capitalize on a fine new variety instead of passing it off as something it isn't.

Hey, all you Sweetango fans: help me out. Does this description ring true?

I think these are probably genuine, and we'll never know the whole story.

Perhaps there is an orchard licensed to grow these here, but this is the first crop, small and not up to snuff. Still, waste not want not, the grower sold what he or she had.

If so, we may get a chance to try these legally and locally next year. Let's hope!

For now I'm keeping last year's review in place as my "official" take on this variety, though I hope someday to describe a Sweetango that is legal, certain, and at peak. (Is that too much to ask, O apple magnates?)

Meanwhile I've taken a walk into the shadows of the apple world.

Update: Got some legit examples fresh enough, I think, to do justice; review here.


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