04 March 2013

Gourmet apples

Excerpts from an article in the University of Cincinnati magazine:
For nearly 200 years, Japanese farmers have fine-tuned the little-known craft of creating gourmet apples. To document their "incredibly labor- intensive efforts," Stevens spent four months in Japan last year photographing how the Japanese cultivate enormous apples with utterly unblemished skins and perfectly tinted on all sides...

The work starts in the spring when farmers thin the apple blossoms. "An average tree has 4,000 blossoms, and they cull them down to 200 to 400," she says. Each flower consists of a set of five blossoms -- one in the center, surrounded by four more, she explains. Farmers climb ladders to carefully pluck the four outer blooms, leaving only the center one. This creates fruit that is 30 percent larger than American apples, the standard size expected in Japan, she notes.

In June, while apples are still less than an inch in diameter, imperfect fruit is discarded, and the best apples are identified as ones to "bag." Farmers go back up the ladders, armed with distinctive bags made of a special opaque paper and lined with a translucent, colored wax paper, she describes. They pull a bag over each apple, pleat it in way to allow room for growth, then wire it shut so the apple receives no sunlight for three months or more. The technique keeps out pests, significantly extends the storage life and flavor of the fruit, and leaves apples a creamy white color. In the fall, farmers again climb the ladders to carefully remove the outer bag without tearing the lining...

When the wax bags are finally removed, farmers take exorbitant steps to increase an apple's exposure to the sun, thereby increasing its sugar content and giving each a uniform color. They trim branches and strip leaves from remaining branches to keep shadows off the fruit. Next, they lay silver or white mats on the ground to reflect sunlight on the bottom of the fruit. Every few weeks, they also hand-turn each piece to give all sides equal sun exposure...

For the biggest, most perfect apples, they also apply sticker-like stencils to create designs on the apples' skin. "The stencils act like a high-contrast negative," the professor notes. "Some have sayings on them, such as, 'Best wishes for a long life.' Some are negatives with pictures. One Japanese pop star put his picture on apples to give his entourage for presents."
More details at the link.  Via Edible Geography, where there is additional information on the history of "branding" and putting stencils on fruit.


  1. My friend who lived in Japan complained about how hard it was to get fresh fruit like here in Europe. Even things like strawberries and grapes came tastefully arranged in a small box and individually selected for perfection, and are very expensive.

  2. Hello....It's an Apple!

  3. I think it's amazing! The care that goes into each apple is amazing and time consuming! I can definitely understand WHY they're so expensive but I think they're worth it! I'd love to create such beautiful apples! You could customize them as wedding favours and corporate gifts etc!(also I think your grandfather would be proud! I think it's great you used his pic as your avatar!)


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