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Produce Profile by Mark "Guido The Gardner" ® Ferro
All's Well That Enza's Well
A couple of days ago an older (key word) fellow asked me an interesting question. He asked "When do the Gravenstein apples come out?" My reply was "late summer". But what was more interesting to me is that anybody still cares about the first apple of the season.

Here's the story. Before controlled atmosphere storage and the fresh fruit arrivals from the southern hemisphere, the first apple was a BIG deal. The apple barrel was empty and folks were looking for something to chomp on.

Our local Gravenstein came out of Sonoma county in big numbers. Although an excellent cooking, baking and juice apple, nowadays the Grav barely makes a splash in the local produce markets. Not much interest in a fruit that is fairly soft and doesn't store too well.

Today the seasonal boundary lines are blurred. There are really three distinct apple seasons. It kinda goes like this. Northern hemisphere apples from parts like California and The Big Apple, Washington, come to us in late summer and into the fall. That's season #1. Then apples from that same crop are released from controlled atmosphere storage a few months later-like January. That's season #2.

Now we are in season #3. That is where the controlled atmosphere vaults in Washington state are beginning to empty, and we get an entirely new supply of fresh picked, new crop apples from southern hemisphere growers.

Now for a physical science lesson ... northern and southern hemisphere experience opposite seasons. We are in late spring and they are in late fall-the natural season for apple picking.

By singing the praises of fresh picked apples, I really don't mean to backhand storage apples. But here's the deal. Once an apple comes out of long term storage, it suddenly realizes that it was picked eight or nine months ago and loses some of its just picked perkiness. If it is kept quite cold, it should be OK. If it is mishandled along the retail way ... forget it. You end up with apple sauce quickly.

A current heavy hitter is New Zealand, that island country which sits about 7,000 miles southwest of California. New Zealand is an apple growing veteran, as the first European settlers established orchards there as soon as they set up shop a couple of hundred years ago.

Apples must dig growing there because the lineup of New Zealand apples is impressive. The Gala is a pleasantly sweet, crisp apple with reddish pink stripes over a yellow background. That was bred in 1930 and introduced in 1962.

The familiar green skinned Granny Smith started out as a chance seedling in New South Wales, Australia in 1868, but it was actually introduced into the U.S. by New Zealand in 1958.

The very crisp and crunchy Braeburn was another chance seedling, this one discovered in New Zealand in 1950. It was first brought to the U.S. in 1985.

The last of the heavy hitters is the ever popular Fuji apple. Talk about a joint developmental effort. This dessert sweet apple was developed in 1962 by the Japanese as a hybrid of two American heritage apples, the Red Delicious and the Ralls Janet. In the dozen years or so since New Zealand imported the Fuji to American apple lovers, it has shot up to number three in popularity. (The Red and Golden Delicious are numba 1 and 2.) There are three new, yes NEW varieties on the horizon called the Pink Lady, the Pacific Rose and the Southern Rose. The Pink Lady is a beautiful apple and gets lots of play from California growers. The Pacific Rose has a thin, pink skin, and is just as sweet as a Fuji. The Southern Rose is my newest favorite apple. (I bought four of them today. And for a guy that gets so much free produce, to actually buy something says lots about that something.)

In the looks department, it does a great Winesap imitation- heart-shaped and almost fully red-skinned. The flavor is between a Gala and Fuji with a firm bite. An added bonus to the Southern Rose is that it stays white a long time after it is cut. Need some crunch in a summer fruit salad? Here be 'da one!

New Zealand is not the only Southern Hemisphere game in town. After Chile is through with their importing of our winter grapes, they slide right into shipping us lots of apples and pears. In fact if you are partaking of organic pears and apples, more than likely they are Chilean grown.

So if your looking for fresh picked apple flavor, look south, way south!!