Monday, February 9, 2009

Bad Apples

One of the difficult things about winter in these northern climes is the lack of local fruits and vegetables. I try to avoid buying food that has travelled 2000 miles to get to me, due to the environmental impact, but at this time of year it's so much more difficult. At least in the case of apples, I don't have to buy Galas from New Zealand and Fujis from China, because locally-grown apples are available in bags. Unfortunately, they suffer a loss of quality with the long-term storage. Here is a roundup of things that can go wrong in your bag of supermarket apples. I've given each condition a punsy name, just for the fun of it.

Crapples

A crapple is an apple devoid of any hint of tasty apple flavour. It is blah, lifeless, a waste of time and teeth. One bite, and you don't even want to bother eating the rest. In short, it's crappy. It's a crappy apple. It's a crapple.

How to avoid crapples:

Smell the apples before you buy them. The nose is such an underappreciated organ in our culture. People think I'm a weirdo when they see me sniffing apples and tomatoes in the supermarket. One guy cracked, "Does it smell like a tomato?" Well yes, but that's why I bought it. Many tomatoes, especially the ones imported from the U.S., smell more like, I dunno, Royal Doulton figurines than they smell like tomatoes. Which is to say they smell like nothing, and taste like nothing too. Oh, they look perfect, of course. It's all about looks these days, about things being shiny and pretty and perfect. Well, some of the worst-tasting crapples in existence are shiny and pretty and perfect. But usually (though there are exceptions) an apple that smells good will taste good.

It is a bit harder to smell apples when they're encased in a plastic bag, but even then you can often manage it. The plastic bags that the apples come in usually have perforations. Look for a perforation and stick your nose right up next to it. Don't worry if your fellow shoppers look at you funny. Let them eat crapples.

Booby-Trapples

This illustrates perfectly the moral that looks aren't everything. The booby-trapple is an apple that looks fine on the outside--firm, red, pretty--but is completely rotted away on the inside. I fell for one of these this weekend. When I bit into it, a gruesome flavour filled my mouth. The heart of the apple was completely black. I rinsed my mouth out, but even that didn't get rid of the taste. Aaargh, it was awful. Since then, I've been slicing all the apples in half before I eat them. I don't trust them anymore.

How to avoid booby-trapples:

I wish I knew. I don't know if smelling would have helped because I have to admit I forgot to sniff this particular bag. But it might not have, since the rot was on the inside. One thing I know is that this has never happened to me with Cortlands. I buy Cortlands whenever possible, because they're the best apple breed ever. But they didn't have any the last time I was at the supermarket. What I bought was a bag of Spartans. It will be a while before I buy Spartans again.

Beaten-Upples

Our previous bag of apples (the one before the bag that contained the deadly booby-trapple) was loaded with bruised apples. It seemed there wasn't an apple in the bag that hadn't been mercilessly worked over. Poor beaten-upples; who did this to you? And when will you see justice done?

Actually, this is the least bad of all the bagged-apple defects (for the human, that is; the beaten apple itself might feel differently). You can cut off the bruised bit if you want, or you can eat it. It's not that bad, just a bit mushy. And the rest of the apple usually tastes fine.

How to avoid beaten-upples:
Careful physical inspection should do the trick. Feel the apples through the plastic bag and make sure they feel firm and that you can't find a lot of squishy bits.

In general, my best piece of advice on buying tasty apples is: don't get them at the supermarket. Get them at a farmer's market or, even better, pick your own apples at a u-pick farm. This is the next best thing to having your own apple tree: it's cheaper, it's fun exercise out in the sun (if it happens to be sunny at the time), and the apples are so much better than anything you'll get at the supermarket. It's like an entirely different fruit. I wish I could get all my apples that way, and if I was a master canner and fruit-dryer, maybe I could. I'm not there yet. I did some canning and drying, but two litres of applesauce and one little bag of dried apples is not going to last you through the winter.

So if you're like me, and you live somewhere cold, you'll have to buy some supermarket apples too. For those times, my best advice is to remember to sniff, and buy Cortlands. Hang in there. Spring and strawberries will be here soon.

6 comments:

Phyllis said...

How will I ever be able to buy apples again without laughing?

Vivian said...

That's not necessarily a bad thing. :)

Heather said...

Have you seen the grapples? Its a hybrid of a grape and an apple. There is something utterly wrong about that..and believe my tongue will glow purple if I were crazy enough to try it. I did the smell test too...smell grapey.. so wrong.

Vivian said...

I haven't tried that. How do they do it? Is it by grafting? I hope it's not a GMO. I have no interest in eating the Frankenfood. People with vested interests say, no worries, it's perfectly safe, until the bodies start to accumulate, and then they go, oopsie. Or they try to sweep them under a rug. We have a lot of lumpy, oddly-smelling rugs lying around in our society. (This is kind of appropriate since I'm working on a post about Horror fiction. :) )

Heather said...

Its a GMO...it would have to be, cos the flesh of the apple is mauvy. Could an apple grafted onto a grape (or vice versa) take on a grape flavor? Where is Quirks and Quarks when you need them...

Vivian said...

I think you're probably right. They couldn't be grafted. One's a tree, one's a vine. Too different. It has to be a GMO.

Blech, blech, blech!

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