Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How do you like them apples?

As I'm typing this I'm snacking on a granny smith apple, one of my favourite varieties. Even though you'll typically find only a half dozen or so different varieties at the grocery store, there are over 7500 different cultivars (though not all are eating apples). The apple is a member of the rose family, and as one might expect they have a long history. They originated in Asia, and Alexander the Great is credited with bring dwarf apples back to Greece in 300 BC. The first apple orchard in North America is said to have been planted in the 1600s in Massecheusetts.

AC wrote before about modern hybrid fruit. It should come as no surprise that having been around for centuries and being an important food crop, the apple has gone through several rounds of its own breeding to produce popular varieties we eat today. It can take 15-20 years to develop a new variety and promising cultivars are selected on the basis of appearance and flavour as well as ease of shipping, longevity in storage, and even length of stem to allow pesticides access to the top of fruit.

The granny smith apple I mentioned above is originally an Australian fruit, but Canada is famous for apple varieties of its own. Every McIntosh apple can trace its lineage to a tree discovered in 1811 in Dundas County, Ontario. One of its offspring, the Spartan (another one of my favourites) was developed in BC in 1936 as part of Agri-food Canada's apple breeding program. It's widely described as a cross between McIntosh and Newton Pippin but recent DNA tests have put the Newton parentage in question.

Over the past few weeks, I've been sampling several different apple types from the common Granny Smith (still my favourite) and McIntosh (which I find too soft) to less 'brandname' varieties such as Honeycrisp (which was almost unnaturally crisp and a bit too sweet) and Braeburn.

Extensive lists of apples, their origins and descriptions can be found here and here.

What's your favourite apple?


Anonymous Coward said...

Royal gala is my favorite. Second is russet. Then the Japanese fuji apple. Then granny smith.

My least favorite are the red & delicious and the macintosh.

Kamel said...

Interesting that you pick Russet since russeting is apparantly one of the traits they try to eliminate. (Russeting is the rough, green-brown skin - they've also been called leathercoats for this reason). Although the apples are known for their taste and smell, they don't get much use in breeding new apple types.

Bayman said...

As a lunch food, apples suck. Way too much effort for too little nutrient. Great to eat of the tree though. Especially with worms for value-added...

Rob said...

Spartan, then macintosh then grannysmith.
golden and red delicious are at the distant bottom of the list.

maxelondon said...

russet apples are delicious - a much more complex flavour than most apples