Washington State Magazine

Fall 2005

Fall 2005

In This Issue...


Where Have You Gone, Edward R. Murrow? :: Edward R. Murrow '30 broadcasted reports from a London rooftop during the Blitz. He confronted Joseph McCarthy on national television. And he admitted "an abiding fear regarding what...[radio and TV] are doing to our society, and our heritage."

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Interview: The Battle Against Ignorance : An Interview with Bob Edwards }

Diabetes: It's Still Up to You :: Although Mary Ellen Harvey '58 knew about her type 2 diabetes for nearly 20 years, she wasn't managing it very well on her own. That changed when she joined thousands of other diabetics across the country in a diabetes management trial.

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Recipe: Tortilla soup for diabetics }

How Coug Are You? :: Would you paint your airplane crimson and gray? Or drive hundreds of miles to wave the Cougar flag at a non-Coug game? Or keep a concrete cougar in your yard? Well, how Coug are you?

WSM Special Report :: Drinking on Campus

How WSU is helping to change the culture of alcohol

More Thinking, Less Drinking :: "Everybody knows this place as a party school," says a student about WSU. But what everyone knows is starting to change. by Hope Tinney

Our Drink :: Toren Volkmann and his mother, Chris Volkmann '70 have co-authored a book about their family's experience with Toren's alcoholism. What they learned through direct experience dovetails with what counselors and researchers are discovering at WSU and beyond. by Hope Tinney

Two chapters from Our Drink: Detoxing the Perfect Family, by Chris Volkmann '70 and Toren Volkmann. (PDF: Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader or another PDF reader.)


{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Gallery: Bringing couture to campus: A gallery from the 22nd Annual Mom's Weekend Fashion Show }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Gallery: If clothes could talk...but they do! What WSU students are wearing on campus. }


:: FOOD AND FORAGE: The spice of life

:: PERSPECTIVE: Thinking about Washington State

:: A SENSE OF PLACE: Bounty on the bluff

:: SEASONS|SPORTS: I never said thank you.

:: SEASONS|SPORTS: Legends of the Palouse

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Story and video: An affair of the heart :: In his documentary film, Legends of the Palouse, Jeff McQuarrie '98 seeks to answer the question, "What is this love affair we have with our school?" Includes an exclusive video excerpt of Junior Tupuola and Rod Retherford from the film. }


{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Story: Elegy: May 18, 1980 :: In memory of a friend and the geologic event that marked her passing. by Bill Morelock '77 }

Cover: Edward R. Murrow '30. Photography from Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections.

Food & Forage

The spice of life: Apples come in more than one variety

by | © Washington State University

Thanks to controlled atmosphere (CA) storage, apples are available year round. But the time to enjoy the full sensual gift of the apple is when they're in season.

Lest I be misinterpreted, I believe anything that allows us to eat apples year round is one of the greatest technological accomplishments of all time. And I take full advantage of the technology, eating apples just about every day. But no matter how well CA works, an apple pulled out of storage in May is not a fresh apple. It might be remarkably firm, crisp, and juicy. It can even, if it wasn't picked too early before going into storage, taste okay. What's missing are the volatiles and aromatics that overwhelm your senses when you bite into a truly fresh apple. These compounds are the apple's soul, but according to post-harvest horticulturist John Fellman, apples lose their ability to regenerate them after about four months in storage.

So enjoy them now, when they are best. If you're reading this in mid- to late August, the first Galas will be ready in Washington. As the fall proceeds, you can anticipate a number of relatively new varieties, a welcome recovery from the sad lack of apple choice we suffered only recently.

Cripps Pink and Jazz are the first two that Bruce Barritt recommends you watch for. Barritt, a horticulturist at the Tree Fruit Research Station in Wenatchee, is in charge of an ambitious variety-breeding program for the state apple industry.

Cripps Pink is a wonderful apple, an excellent balance of sweet and acid. Same with Jazz, says Barritt, though it is still a bit hard to find. It's been grown in Washington for about three years now, so it should start becoming more available. A cross between the Gala and Braeburn, Jazz is less acid than the Braeburn, says Barritt, but has a good balance and is crisp and juicy.

Others Barritt recommends are Pinata and Honeycrisp. Honeycrisp was developed in Minnesota and can be difficult to grow in our warmer climate. Some growers in higher elevations are having some success. Honeycrisp has an avid following, so taste it if you can.

Ray Fuller, who grows apples organically on his Stormy Mountain Ranch above Lake Chelan, has some additional recommendations.

Cripps Pink is a wonderful apple, he says. Unfortunately, it matures too late for him to grow it. It's grown farther south in the state. Fuller does grow the sweet Ambrosia. "The bears up here love it," he says.

Its flavor is sort of a cross between Gala and Fuji, he says. The aroma reminds him of banana bubblegum-though it doesn't taste like that, he says. Fuller also grows Gingergolds, Galas, and Pinatas. He planted 30 trees this spring of Robella, a new German variety. It will be a few years before they hit the market.

Whatever the variety, Fuller has a few basic tips for buying good apples. "If it's a colored variety, it should be that color," he says. If the color is off or faded, it was probably grown in the shadier part of the tree. Such apples will have lower sugars and flavor and be less crisp.

Looks aren't everything, he says. But they are an indication of what was going on in the orchard.

Stay away from the smaller grades of apples, he says, especially with Red Delicious.

In spite of being much maligned, the Red Delicious can still be good, he says. But the apples have to be ripe. Unfortunately, they are often picked before they are ready, because they color before they are actually ripe.

To make sure you're getting a good Delicious, ask the produce manager to cut one open, says Fuller. The flesh should be white, not green. If it's not ripe, it will taste like a beautiful red potato.

Also, be sure you're not buying last year's Red Delicious. The practice of carrying over last year's crop is a major point of contention in the industry and has contributed greatly to the Red Delicious's reputation as a beautiful but tasteless apple.

Again, ask your produce manager. If he doesn't know, he should, says Fuller.

I recently ran across a brochure published in the 1930s by Washington Secretary of State Belle Reeves and the Washington State Apple Advertising Commission. Besides suggesting that the longer life expectancy enjoyed by Washington residents was due to our climate, outdoor living, and "protective" foods such as apples, the brochure lists the main apple varieties grown in Washington at the time. In addition to the Red and Golden Delicious were a number of less familiar varieties: Winesap, Yellow Newtown, Rome Beauty, and Jonathan.

Anyone who has had the fortune to sample these and other forgotten varieties understands there's a whole world of taste has been lost to most of us. For example, at its best, the Golden Delicious is a rich, wonderful-tasting apple. But it is not as good, in my opinion, as one of its parents, the Grimes Golden.

Wonderful as they are, though, there's a reason you don't find the old varieties in your local grocery. If looks aren't everything, taste isn't either, I'll reluctantly admit.

There are two reasons apple varieties fall out of favor, says Barritt. Either the consumer loses her taste for the variety, or the farmer simply can't make any money growing it. The latter is more often the case with older varieties. They may be hard to grow or yield sporadically. Apples, particularly older varieties, have a tendency to bear a heavy crop every other year. They may not repond well to chemical thinners. Or they may simply not store well. Or maybe they're just ugly.

One reason the Red Delicious was so dominant for so long is that it is relatively easy to grow. If we're going to eat lots of apples all year round-and why shouldn't we?-farmers are not going to seek out fickle, hard-to-grow varieties just so they can lose money on them.

Fortunately, many of the old varieities are being revived, but in niche markets. Look for them at local farmer's markets or produce stands or high-end groceries. If you find them, buy them. The Golden Russett, for example, is as ugly as sin by today's consumer standards. But once you taste one, you will never forget it. It is intensely rich, sweet, and tart, a marvelously complex apple.

No matter how easy to grow it may be, though, a modern commercial apple also has to taste good. Barritt has watched as the Red Delicious, once Washington's pride and joy, has receded in the market, eclipsed by better tasting varieties. Unfortunately, the Washington apple industry became overly dependent on that one variety, even as consumers tired of it.

Even to the point of not supporting an active breeding program. Washington, the best apple growing region in the world by many accounts, has no other apples it can call its own, like the Red Delicious at the height of its glory.

Barritt started out in 1994 to change this unsettling situation.

Apples aspire to diversity and variety. Genetically, they are heterozygous, which basically means they are amazingly diverse. Plant the 10 seeds from any given apple, and you will likely get 10 very different trees.

So grafting is the procreation of choice for predictable apples. Material from the parent tree is grafted onto a rootstock.

In the past, new varieties generally derived from chance seedlings. Someone would find a seedling, like the apples it produced, and graft it.

But that's not going to happen anymore, says Barritt. No matter how good some of those chance seedlings are, the process of just chancing across a nice-tasting apple with other commercially desirable features is, well, just too chancy.

Barritt is trying to speed up the process of finding Washington's next great apple. Since 1994, he has been planting 5,000 young seedlings of known parentage every year.

My first tasting tour of his grand experiment was of a block of newly ripe Cripps Pink and Arlet crosses. Remember, even though hundreds of trees in this block came from the same parents, they are all different, reaching back for various genetic traits that will enable them to better reproduce themselves. The results were boggling.

Actually, we didn't stop and taste all that often. If the apple was not attractive, Barritt wasn't interested-because consumers demand a beautiful apple.

But then he'd grab one. "Try this," he said.

Not bad. But just sweet.

"Try this."

Interesting, with some tannin.

"A challenge," he said.

Hmmm. Sweet. And tart.

"This one we get a little excited about." And so it went.

Since that day, Barritt has selected 20 candidates, reproduced them, and planted them around the state. Now we'll wait to see how they develop under different climate conditions. And maybe, just maybe, out of these thousands of possibilities, we'll have a grand new apple that will be Washington's own.

For more on Bruce Barritt's apple-breeding program, visit http://hort.tfrec.wsu.edu/breed.php.

Categories: Food, Agriculture | Tags: Apples, Horticulture

Comments are temporarily unavailable while we perform some maintenance to reduce spam messages. If you have comments about this article, please send them to us by email: wsm@wsu.edu