Letters to the editor
CRISP & COLD
The February 1, 2006, Good Fruit Grower made history. The revolutionary trends in niche variety, and other apple growing are challenging and sudden.
At the age of 96, after 34 years of semi-hobby apple growing, I offer a few thoughts for consideration. I have gone through 302 kinds of cultivars, and I currently try to maintain 102 of them. At the age of 14 in Minnesota, on cold September mornings, I ate great-tasting, cold, Wealthy and Duchess apples directly from our backyard trees.
People who go into club varieties are going into one of the greatest gambles of their life, unless the marketing of a niche apple is controlled to the final point of sale.
There are, in my area, five food supermarkets. In one, every single apple is offered for sale at room temperature. The balance have 20 percent or less of their apples on sale from cold shelves. I cannot speak for their back rooms. Readers can make a good “guesstimate.”
Surely, apple growers know that apples must be picked, processed, stored, transported, and sold very cold. Otherwise, they all have a dull, uninviting sameness of taste, and they can no longer compete with other fruits. One of the best apples I have ever eaten in my life was a Gala purchased from a roadside orchard stand in Wisconsin. Meanwhile, this week, I am slowly eating three pounds of overripe Galas, which are disgusting to me. They were from a room-temperature counter in a local supermarket. Phew! And has anyone ever eaten an overripe Idared?
What will those niche apples taste like when purchased from a room-temperature counter in a supermarket? For the same reason of temperature, after dozens of attempts, I have never purchased a good apple in Florida.
Niche growers, to succeed, will eternally and absolutely have to control the temperature of the apple to the precise point of sale to the person who eats the apple. Do the niche people have any proof this can be done? Does the niche grower sign an agreement in that respect? Otherwise, I can think of no faster way for an apple grower to self-destruct.
East Burke, Vermont
There have been thought-provoking commentaries on club varieties, new varieties, and new varieties yet to be released. I have to question if this is or will be a long-term trend or just a flash in the pan. For the idea to win support, there must be an increase in profit potential for the idea to be sustainable. From my observations, flavorwise and texturewise I don't see much, if any, improvement over the old industry standards. Some, such as Pink Lady, are very attractive and that along with the name sells it, but on flavor, it’s very ordinary. Others, Pinova and Cameo for instance, are ordinary in appearance but have above-average flavor. Will there be a new variety that will replace Fuji?
Golden Delicious has been with us for a hundred years. Is something in the works that will make that variety obsolete? Then, there’s the Red Delicious, the most beautiful apple ever, and when I walk through my orchard and look for an apple to eat off the tree, it's the one I prefer—it's sweet, crisp and juicy, aromatic and has a pleasant taste. Will it disappear from the supermarket shelf?
For those who like Grannies, is there room for improvement? I suggest the honest answer to all those questions is “no.” One of the biggest reasons for not replacing those varieties is profit, profit for the buyer/retailer, but unfortunately not for the grower.
I’ve had success in marketing antique, old, and new varieties such as Newtown Pippins, Spitzenburgs, Yorks, Arkansas Blacks, Gravensteins, and numerous other old-timers, and new releases as well at my roadside outlet. The volume is small, but the customers are thrilled to find such a myriad of varieties that they didn’t know existed; how, when, and where they were discovered; and their parentage as well.
It will be interesting to see how the new variety issue plays out in the long run, say 20 years from now. For what it’s worth, I’m skeptical of innovation, but show me the profit over time, and I’ll bite.
I’m a third-generation fruit grower. My family moved here from New York State in 1908. We've been growing apples and other tree fruit in the same location since that time. We’re a small operation because we want to be.
Bakers Flat, Washington