Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Apple Stars on Parade

I rate apples from one to three stars.

Once a year at this time, I add ratings for recent finds and make adjustments.

In 2019, I tasted 16 apples for the first time, and resampled some others. Here's my verdict.

* One Star

A single star is "worth choosing." Most apples are.

To this happy band of fruit I welcome

These nine newcomers would have swollen the number of one-star apples to 146—but see Starkey, below.

** Two Stars

It's a bit more difficult to earn two stars, "worth a journey," from me. Only two apples did this year.


The Starkeys, which had previously earned one star, were exceptionally good last fall. They demonstrated solid two-star quality. My ratings are based on eating qualities at peak, and for me, this was a new peak.

Of the 16 new apples, the only two-star variety is not available generally. It may never be.

Midwest 311

The apple is an unnamed variety numbered 311 in the apple-development system of the Midwest Apple Improvement Association. It reminded me in several ways of the esteemed Esopus Spitzenberg.

Unfortunately, there are several counts against 311, for farmers trying to make a buck.

Red apple with crackles of russet and large lenticel dots

First, it is not another Honeycrisp clone. Its crunch is perfectly fine, but lacks the hyper explosive quality that is "in" these days. It is well balanced rather than tooth-achy sweet.

Second, 311's appearance, spotted and laced with russet crackles, is not what generations of marketing have trained consumers to expect.

Don't blame the farmers, who are just trying to make a living. But if 311 does not make it into the marketplace (with a suitable name), it will be a shame.

The two-star total now stands at 64.

*** Three Stars

There are still only five three-star apples. The pinnacle of my rating system, for those "worth a quest," is unchanged this year.

No Stars

Last fall I fulfilled my desire to revisit Tomkins King with a better sample. That was based in part by the esteem in which some of my readers hold that variety.

But in the end, I did not find anything to change my mind.

I created the rating system in 2012 to help readers find older reviews of apples they might like to know about.

My only misgiving was, and is, that ratings might encourage people to bypass all but the best-rated varieties.

Okay, I did rate them. But consider that having an opinion about taste is, traditionally and classically, a very democratic activity. In this matter my own views are not better than yours—not for you.

What do you like? To find out, taste broadly.

Shooting star courtesy of Clker


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