Sweet, dirty Fujis
December 23, 2019 6:34 AM   Subscribe

I've developed a rough test for picking out the sweetest big red Fuji apples from the USA: They have dirt, typically grey-ish, hard-caked down around the stem. Does anybody know what part of their growing, storage, or distribution might have led to this coincidence?
posted by clawsoon to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Minimal processing and storage?

I bought some locally recently from a grower and noticed they were a little rough to the touch, but easily made shiny, even though it's December. The ones I have seen in supermarkets are glossy....I think that's because they've had more done to them and have been waiting longer for someone to come along and buy them.

Maybe better storage conditions too...the ones I got were stored in old fashioned wooden apple crates with air flow. I imagine if they got shipped from Acme Apple Farm they would come in a big waxed box with no air flow, all shiny and waxy, and the supermarket probably stores tons of apples.

Supermarkets care more about appearance too. My local apple farm is banking on customers being more driven by 'local' and 'fresh' than 'perfect and pretty'.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:41 AM on December 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

It might not be dirt; it might be kaolin leftover after cleaning. Speaking as someone who had a decent home orchard at my last house, it’s helpful in preventing some pest problems, but hard to entirely clean off.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 7:29 AM on December 23, 2019 [5 favorites]

It might not be dirt; it might be kaolin leftover after cleaning.

That's a good theory. Would also point to more organic practices and it's in alignment with my local orchard. They aren't 100% organic but they lean organic as much as possible.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:52 AM on December 23, 2019

The dirt could also mean the apple was more exposed to the elements, so got more sunshine, sunshine = sweetness. They'd also get more of the kaolin/clay spray mentioned above for the same reasons so it'd get in all the nooks & crannies more.
posted by wwax at 8:09 AM on December 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think the important thing is that you're getting apples you like, but also taste is really subjective and influenced by lots of environmental cues. A Brix refractometer can be had for under $20 and will tell you if your preferred apples actually have higher sugar content (a garlic press is a convenient way to mash up a sample for juice).

Kaolin clay is probably what you're seeing and isn't exclusive to organic production - it gets used regularly by conventional growers because it's effective at preventing sunscald and has some bonus effectiveness against insect pests.

Are these particular apples you're picking out of a display at a grocery store? Because they all almost certainly experienced the same storage conditions and treatment.
posted by momus_window at 9:29 AM on December 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Are these particular apples you're picking out of a display at a grocery store?

The best Fuji apples in my neighbourhood tend to come from two fruit-and-vegetable focused markets and one corner store. The grocery store Fuji apples tend to be second-rate, underripe, normal sized instead of big, and low in sweetness. Imported USA apples tend to be better than local Canadian Fuji apples. The sweetest apples look like they've been sitting in a dusty storage unit for five years before being mostly wiped off except around the stem, though the kaolin dusting, now that y'all taught me about it, also seems reasonable.
posted by clawsoon at 9:39 AM on December 23, 2019

That's interesting. I eat a lot of Fujis, and I always cut them into orange-like sections, which means I cut longitudinally through the cores.

Many of the apple varieties I eat have bits of white mold growing superficially in the air spaces in the cores occasionally or often, but Fuji apples always have such mold. I have been tentatively attributing the cider-like flavor Fujis have and which I like to this mold.

Some grape molds (botrytis) actually cause the grapes to get sweeter on the vine under some conditions, but I don't know about apples. When I googled 'kaolin fungus' just now, the only relevant hit I saw was for using kaolin powder as a fungal carrier, so it probably isn't an antifungal treatment, at least.
posted by jamjam at 10:32 AM on December 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

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