Photo: Jamil Soni Neto (flickr)
‘Tis the season for apple picking and all the wonderful things that come with it: apple pie, apple sauce, apple butter, apple cider… Mmm.
Nothing beats driving out to an orchard on a crisp October day and coming home with a basket full of beautiful, ripe apples (or an empty basket and a massive tummy ache)! But we certainly aren’t alone in our love of this savory autumn sweetness.
There are orchards all around the world dedicated to growing the most delicious apples. Today, A Moment of Science is going all the way to Japan to learn about their perfectly polished technique.
The ingredients for perfect Japanese apples are these three things: a careful eye, hard-working hands and plenty of patience.
The apple growing process begins in the spring. Farmers do what is called ‘blossom thinning.’ This is when they put on their gloves, climb up to the blossoms and begin picking away the outer four flowers, leaving the center ones to grow. This ensures that they will only be getting the biggest apples.
Flyin’ Purple (Apple) Eaters
This is also the time for pollination, which is done by hand with a small feathery tool that sort of resembles a fairy wand with a puffball at the tip. The workers dye the pollen purple in order to tell which blossoms have been pollinated and which have not. A orchard bustling with such activity must be a rather whimsical sight!
In the early summertime, the apples have now grown to be about one inch in diameter. This is when a second clearing is done. Any damaged or imperfect apples are cut and tossed away.
The remaining apples are carefully wrapped with a special colorful wax paper. They are sealed off from insects and sunlight for over three months. This keeps the apples safer, more flavorful, and gives them a creamy white color. The color of the wax paper is what will eventually determine the color of the fruit.
When the bags are finally removed, silver mats are places under the tree. This reflects the sunlight up to the apples while they ripen to give them a perfectly even color. Sometimes farmers add an artistic flair by placing a stencil on the skin of the apple. The skin under the stencil remains creamy white, while the rest turns it’s normal color, creating a very stunning design.
Prime For The Picking
Now it is early fall, when the apples have finally ripened and sprung to life with color. When the skin is the perfect toughness, the apples are ready to be picked and enjoyed. It’s this moment that makes the hard work and patience well worth the wait.
Get out there and taste the glory of autumn! They are so perfect you hardly need the caramel and peanuts… although a little extra sweetness never hurts.
- Photos from a Japanese Apple Orchard: (Discover Magazine)
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