By DWIGHT BRADLEY
The annual Alaska-grown apple tasting was held in late September at Bradley’s in Peters Creek. About 25 people attended and 12 people rated the apples. We rated 52 different varieties, plus 22 repeats, or 74 apples altogether. Bob Boyer also sneaked in his usual ringer—a Ginger Gold bought at Fred Meyers which didn’t rank as well as Bob’s own Ginger Gold. The highest-rated
apples this year were Carroll (grown by Dan Elliott), Breaky (grown by Bob Boyer), the 15th St. Mystery apple, State Fair (grown by Dan Elliott), and Sunrise (grown by Bob Boyer). Carroll and Breaky have never done nearly this well before. Among the repeats were five Yellow Transparent, and three each Parkland, Norland, Westland, and Morden 359. In the following table, DE is Dan Elliott, BB is Bob Boyer, DB is Dwight Bradley, JY is Jim Yassick, MO is Mike O’Brien, KC is Ken Cassidy, and VV is Virgil Vochoska.
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. Dolgo finished first with a sugar content (measured in brix) of 18.0. Runners-up were September Ruby, Idared, Novosibirski Sweet, and Rescue.
The next table ranks the Alaskan-grown varieties that have been tasted over the past eight 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. September Ruby is now firmly established as one of our best apples. Although it has only four 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 in 2000. When one of these excellent apples scores poorly, it is generally because it isn’t ripe.
Every year I mention the same 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 (this year they finished #8 and #10, respectively). 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. A few 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 marginal for eating but great for cooking. Westland apples are big, hardy, and belong in every Anchorage-area orchard.
(in order of rank)
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