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These Nicola apples grown by Dashan Gill of Oliver, British Columbia, took a first place for new varieties.

These Nicola apples grown by Dashan Gill of Oliver, British Columbia, took a first place for new varieties.

The reemergence of apple judging at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, Canada, has British Columbia growers enthusiastic about future competitions.

The 86th fair, touted as the largest combined indoor agricultural fair and international equestrian competition in the world, attracts more than 326,000 participants and visitors annually.

The fair in November marked the revival of the national apple competition after a 44-year absence, and Okanagan Valley growers made their presence felt, claiming 18 top-three placings, as well as an overall trophy for best new variety.

"We had 28 entries from 19 farms from the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association," said Glen Lucas, general manager of the association. "In terms of new categories, we did really well. Next year, we’ll probably focus a little more on other categories."

Taste

He said sponsorship and entry coordination was a collaborative effort of the BCFGA, B.C. Tree Fruits, the Okanagan Plant Improvement Corporation and the New Variety Development Council. Horticultural consultant Rita Yastremski chose, collected, and packaged the samples that were entered.

Although the judging criteria are strictly visual, organizers are considering adding a blind taste test to future competitions, Lucas said.