Saturday, December 8, 2012

Kiku vs. Fuji smackdown

I wouldn't normally do this. You see, Kiku, at left, is Fuji. It's a minor variant, a genetic mutation called a sport.
Heavily marketed Kiku, at left, is really just the brand name for Fuji Kiku Fubrax. A regular Fuji is at right.
Sports typically have better color, or ripen earlier, or bear better, or have other qualities that recommend them to growers.

Only rarely is there any appreciable difference in flavor, with a unique name to differentiate the sport from the sported. The name is the claim that calls for an apples-to-apples comparison.

Kiku here is from Pennsylvania. It has brazened itself into Whole Food's produce section, where it is presented as a whole new breed.

As a premium roll-out, it has probably benefitted from extra-careful picking and handling.

I can't match that with my plain vanilla Fuji, which is from the West Coast. However I picked an organic sample on the theory that it might get some equivalent TLC at the orchard and in transit.

My Kiku is sizable and the larger of the two, but regular Fujis can be gigantic. Kiku is less ribbed but the two apples have a similar classic shape.

The big difference is the color. The non-Kiku Fuji's blush is dustier and more subdued. Kiku's is a purer red organized into streaks. Also, Fuji has larger lenticels.

Kiku is shinier, but that probably just reflects wax applied after washing.

Both are quite firm and have the same strong sweet aroma with floral overtones.

The flesh of both is essentially the same: Crisp, light yellow, coarse, juicy, and sweet, with faint floral notes.

But Kiku tastes slightly better. It is sweeter and has more-distinct flavors.

Only a little. And, I think it was picked at a better point. Towards the core of the non-Kiku Fuji the flesh has some green highlights suggesting less-than-peak ripeness.

The Fuji also has a hint of lime, which in this case subtracts rather than adds to the net result. Funny how that sometimes works.

 I'd pick this Kiku Fuji over this regular Fuji. But as the variation in quality is well within the range of variation of the fruit, it is impossible to render a judgment on sport vs. not.

More on sports. They are ubiquitous among the best-selling industrial apples with well established market shares.

If you are a farmer and you notice a tree or a branch that is producing fruit that is redder or bigger, that is a much bigger deal, commercially, if the apple is one of these top favorites.

There are hundreds of sports of these varieties, most not even patented. The repeated sporting of Red Delicious may have contributed to its decline.

Occasionally a sport comes along that really tastes like a brand new variety. Kiku is not in that category.

Unlike Kiku, most sports do not announce themselves. Chances are the non-Kiku Fuji was also a sport, anonymously.


  1. First batch of Kikus I sampled were great. A little denser and sweeter than the Fujis I've been getting. But that's the issue. Harvest date, storage, and handling tend to have much more to do with today's store bought apples than the varieties. I tend to buy by appearance as much as varietal, though Kikus now get my attention as much as Honeycrisp and Fujis.

    1. I have to admit, the Kikus, and Joburns, and other fake "new" apples tick me off.

      I only write them up here to warn people away. But if you like them, enjoy.


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