The annual Alaska-grown apple tasting was held in late September at Bradley’s in Peters Creek. About 30 people were there and 20 people rated the apples. We rated 63 different varieties, and 26 repeats. The top five apples this year were Oriole (grown by Tom Marshall), Carroll (grown by Dan Elliott), Vista Bella (grown by Mike O’Brien), Lowland Raspberry (grown by Dan Elliott), and Golden Sentenial (Golden Centennial?) (grown by Kevin Irvin. Altogether we rated eight Parklands, seven Norlands, four Breakeys, three Rescues, and three Westlands. In the following table, TM is Tom Marshall, DE is Dan Elliott, MO is Mike O’Brien, KI is Kevin Irvin, BB is Bob Boyer, DB is Dwight Bradley, KC is Ken Cassidy, KF is Karl Franke, 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. Ranger and one sample of Rescue tied for first with a sugar content (measured in brix) of 17. One of the Norlands scored 16.
The next table ranks the Alaskan-grown varieties that have been tasted over the past nine 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. Tom Marshall’s Oriole is re-established as our best apple. 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 has ranked #2 or #3 fairly regularly (this year they finished #15 and #9, 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. This time of year maximizes the number of apples in their prime: any earlier and not enough will be ripe; any later and winter will have set in. 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.
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