Quality Eastern Apples?
A recent issue of Good Fruit Grower asked various industry people what they felt the industry needed for the future to allow profitable continuance. Various suggestions were made. The fantastic publicity profile of Honeycrisp apples has been unprecedented of late. But, it’s a small-volume producer at present, with many problems in culture, and nobody knows how many bushels can be grown and sold at current stratospheric price levels.
As an Easterner all too familiar with the McIntosh apple, pro and con, I’ve been marveling at how lousy they tasted the last couple years. I’ve read where the miracle growth regulator MCP has been used, and pressures for Macs have been better with the material than without. This is apparently measurable, and we can all say in unison that “pressure is good.” However, have you folks been tasting these apples lately? Have you followed the taste from harvest through the very long storage season? What are your findings?
I’ll tell you what mine are. McIntosh has been ruined by this allegedly meritorious wild goose chase for “pressure.” MCP also depresses flavor volatile production, and even the academics at several universities have said that MCP- treated Macs are really not too hot tasting before mid-January. However, stores have demanded that MCP-treated apples be in market channels by November 1. The result? Lousy tasting apples.
The vaunted storage abilities of Honeycrisp are not legit. I had some university stored ’Crisps late last fall and very early this winter. The fruits were already getting de-acidified, flat tasting, and a far cry from the potentially bright-tasting fruit at harvest and very shortly after harvest. Prices last fall in New England chain stores reached $2.99 per pound. Since movement was poor at that price level, despite exhortations by some pundits that folks were stepping over each other to pay such prices, fruits in stores have been universally dead. Honeycrisp is not for every consumer. Not everybody wants apples for 3 bucks a pound. Honeycrisp will be self limited in sales volume and more likely due to such a dearth of optimum eating quality all too often.
These observations may not be accepted by growers heavily invested in these two cultivars. However, I’d wager that more people than just myself agree with such observations. Asking many cultivars to be long-haul performers is a big stretch these days, and it detracts from enthusiasm amongst apple consumers. We can’t grow the market for apples this way. Terrific movement with poor profitability, what do you call that? The demise of McIntosh is partly due to this brutal overcalculation regarding market desirability as a sole function of “pressure.”