Monday, September 22, 2014

Dolgo

These intense dark red spheres, decorated with tiny light lenticels, have a marvelous gem-like quality. Dolgo is small, though large for a crab apple.


They are moderately ribbed and slightly elongated, and have trouble standing upright because their tight-as-a-drum calyxes are outies.

The backs of these blush lighter and less saturated, and bear many more lenticels, close-spaced.

Dolgo is rock hard and, unbroken, has the faint aroma of cider with some lively spice notes.

The grower flagged these as "cider apples," as in hard cider; these are notoriously inedible. So, spitter?

Biting in splits the apple wide open to reveal super dense fine-grained hard flesh the color of antique ivory. The flesh is stained a little red right by the dark part of the peel.

Dolgo's flavor is intensely tannic and bitter, as befits a hard-cider apple, but there is a hit of pineapple before these darker flavors take hold and overwhelm.

These apples oxidize rapidly and leave an intensely astringent finish in its wake.

The taste may be hard to swallow, but opened up Dolgo smells wonderful—a sweet mix of berries, cantaloupe, and a few other things I just can't pin down. (Sorry, this aroma thing is new to me!)

An apple this dense is not very juicy and Dolgo quickly reduces to dry pulp. Spit? Oenophiles do it and in this case so do I. For all that, the flavors are very saturated, intense, and rich. Wow!

This is, presumably, exactly what one hopes for in a cider apple. But why eat it out of hand? It's not supposed to taste good.

But I am still exploring the dimensions of this fruit. Dolgo expands my apple palate even though I would never recommend it as a snack. I wonder if it could be used in cooking, perhaps to flavor a sauce.

This apple was sold as "Deljo," but there is zero information about that name online (which is unusual).

So I took my case to the cider fanatics on Twitter. They did not disappoint!
Similarities include color, shape, and the rapid oxidation I noticed. (It would not be the first time this grower fumbled an apple's name, either.)

It's not a perfect match but I think we have a winner. Thanks to the pomologically astute United States of Cider for the tip!

Many nurseries (here's one) tout Dolgo as an ornamental spring bloomer, a pollinator, and a source for jellies. It was imported from Russia at the end of the 19th Century.

If anyone has more information about this crab apple, or about a similar variety called "Deljo" (if there is such a thing), please tell us about it in the comments below.

6 comments:

  1. Kimball Farms had them at market a few weeks ago and steered me away from them (I like to get smaller apples for my 3 year old), telling me they tasted terrible!

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    1. That's where I got them (as "Deljo") and as you can see your 3-year-old was spot on!

      The flavors were fascinating and intense but not really palatable.

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  2. Maiden Rock in MN makes a dolgo cider called crabby...it smells like lilies to me, and is quite dry...

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    1. Thanks for the anonymous tip! I see that Maiden Rock presses several varietals.

      I think that's unusual, and that it would be more typical to blend Dolgo with other varieties.

      But I'll bet it's good! Dolgo has astonishingly strong flavors.

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  3. Growing up in northern Minnesota, Dolgo were a common backyard crab apple. Although we didn't have any in our backyard, a friendly elderly neighbor would share he trees harvest with us. Unfortunately, many times people didn't realize the culinary potential of these apples and they are left to fall to the ground. Their concentrated flavor makes an excellent jelly and juice. For juice, my mom would take the first cooking of the apples, add sugar and can them as juice concentrate. We would later add 3 parts water to each concentrate to dilute and drink as a flavorful juice or blend with lemonade.

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  4. Dolgos are available here in nursery stock. I've eaten them there and they are quite good she very ripe. Locally they are distinctly oval in shape. The seedlings make a good rootstock as well. Your picture doesn't look like Dolgos in the NW.

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