By D. BRADLEY
The annual Alaska-grown apple tasting was held in early October at Bradley’s in Peters Creek. About 30 people were there (including a reporter from the Chugiak-Eagle River Star) and 19 people rated the apples. We rated 35 different varieties, and 15 repeats. The highest-rated apples this year were September Ruby (grown by Bob Boyer), Parkland (grown by Karl Franke), 8th & M Mystery apple, Geneva Early (grown by Tom Marshall), and Ginger Gold (grown by Bob Boyer). Altogether we rated four Parklands and four Norlands. It was a bit late for both of them but clearly Parkland did better this year, with two specimens in the top ten. The best Norland finished only 27th.
Another fifteen or so apple varieties were put on display but not tasted, either because they were obviously unripe, or because better examples of the same thing were being tasted. These included Crimson Beauty, Novosibirski Sweet, Collett, Whitney Crab, Hazen, Gravenstein, Pristine, Northern Lights, Arctic, Lodi, Arbor Dale, Wynoochie Early, Liberty, and Rescue. Also on display were a few pears (David, Menie, Goldspice) and plums (Roppa). The list of fruits being grown in south-central Alaska keeps getting longer.
Bob and Marianne Boyer tested each variety for sugar content. We were surprised, as we are every year, by some of the winners in this department. Novosibirski Sweet, which was not tasted, finished first with a sugar content (measured in Brix) of 19.0. Runners-up were September Ruby (17.0), Centennial (15.5), and one of the Heyer 20’s (14.5).
The next table ranks the Alaskan-grown varieties that have been tasted over the past seven years, since I’ve been keeping track. The order is subjective, based on number of years in the top ten, and on number of times ranked first, second, or third. This list doesn’t change much anymore from one year to the next, because the data have been accumulating for so long. The strong finish of September Ruby moves it up, in my opinion, from 13th to about 3rd. Although it has only three top-ten finishes, this is because it is a new variety. In contrast, Mantet, Red Duchess, and Viking have each finished first, but they’ve been around for awhile and have ranked very poorly in other years. State Fair is perhaps the best example of this: it has finished as high as third, but ranked last out of 35 varieties this year.
Every year I mention a caveat regarding the ranking of Norland and Parkland. These apples have, indeed, finished in the top ten most years, and one or the other ranks #2 or #3 fairly regularly. The qualifier is that we usually sample three or four of each, but only the highest-scoring ones make the top-ten list. If other above average varieties were brought to the tasting in such numbers, they would probably rank a bit higher.
It also bears mentioning that this is a ranking of eating quality during the last week of September to the first week of October. Some apples are overripe by this time and don’t stand a chance. Chinese Golden Early, if properly thinned for size and picked immediately before tasting, would probably score quite well in early September, but by the end of September every one in the barrel is brown and mushy. Yellow Transparent and Geneva Early would undoubtedly score better if tasted a few weeks earlier, as would Norland and Parkland.
Of course, fresh eating isn’t the only use for apples. Westland is just plain lousy for eating but they are great for cooking. Westland apples are big, hardy, and belong in every Anchorage-area orchard.
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