Friday, November 28, 2014

Pink-a-boo! I can see you! (Or, The Big Apple, Continued)

Evidently 60 varieties of apples are not enough.

Last apple season, I counted 60 varieties of apples sold at the Union Square Greenmarket and wrote about it in a blog entry, "The Big Apple." 
(Of course 60 varieties are but specks of sand on the beach: the forthcoming seven-volume encyclopedia, The Illustrated History of Apples in North America,  identifies 17,000 apple varieties grown between 1623 and 2000.)

This season, I've seen four new varieties: the bland and crisp SnapDragon, an offspring of Honeycrisp created by Cornell University's apple breeding program; the very decent (and remarkably blight-resistant) Crimson Topaz; and  - let's cut to the case - much more interesting Pink-A-Boo and Pink Delight

Don't confuse either of these Pinks with Pink Lady, a fairly random Golden Delicious offspring also known as Cripps Pink.  They are far more intriguing.

From the outside, Pink-a-Boo looks nice enough. The photo above could be of Granny Smiths or another green apple that sometimes has a rosy cast. But it's the insides that count here.

Cut open a Pink-a-Boo and discover its Cherry Vanilla surprise!

Our other fascinating newcomer, Pink Delight, looks like many other reddish apples from the outside, distinguished mainly by being a bit less photogenic than usual (even for low-spray apples).

 But inside, Pink Delight had the same marvelous surprise!

I had never heard of red-fleshed apples until this season, but the eccentric British website lists many varieties, mostly with charmingly lurid names - Red Love, Red Moon, Scarlet Surprise, Purple Passion, Purple Wave, Vampire, Firecracker and Red Devil. A red-fleshed apples few go the Disney route, with names like Pink Sparkle, Pink Beauty and Pink Princess. Here's the site's description of Pink Pearl: 

Rich flavor..the flesh is an attractive light pink and white. The apple is to my taste but if it was put in a child's lunch box it would probably be half eaten.

A comment about the plan for Tesco, a major British supermarket chain to carry red-fleshed apples (yes, I'm envious) included this pithy description of the apples: 

They look pretty damn insane yet wonderful.

Most red-fleshed apples are believed to be descended from malus niedzwetzkyana or Niedzwetzky's apple, a wild apple native to the Caucasus with red leaves, flowers and flesh. Beginning in the 1920s, Albert Etter, a California horticulturalist, used the Niedzwetzky offspring Surprise (sometimes called Surprize) to breed around two dozen red-fleshed apples. In case you were wondering, the red color of red-fleshed apples are caused by our good buddy anthocyanins, the antioxidants also present in a variety of deeply-pigmented produce, including purple cabbage and sour cherries

And what about the taste? Pink-A-Boo, the smaller apple above, has more dramatic coloring than Pink Delight, but rates only a "pretty good" in flavor. In other words, I wouldn't rush to buy it for myself if I had better alternatives -- and considering the only place I could buy it is Samascott's stand at the Greenmarket, which consistently has an incredible selection, so of course I would have better options. But I'd still buy it as a gift for others or simply to wow them.

Pink Delight is another story. Close your eyes and open your mouth. Pink Delight (okay, one you pare off the blemishes) tastes like the Granny Smith of my dreams (but seldom found in real life). Tart, but not astringent. Deep in its apple flavor. Desirable beyond its superficial charms.

I can't wait to see what Apple #65 is like.

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