September and October are, perhaps, the best months of the year for apples. Not only are they mostly freshly harvested from British and European orchards, but there is a huge choice of varieties available before we settle into the retailers’ standard winter ranges. There are the early varieties such as Discovery, which don’t store well, but have a wonderfully perfumed fragrance; then numerous older varieties, such as Laxton’s Superb and Worcester, that tend to be marketed sooner rather than later; and finally, the mainstream varieties to be sold until the next southern hemisphere season, such as Cox, Gala, Braeburn, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and plenty of others. In recent seasons, however, the choice is steadily increasing as newer varieties are tested in the market, and are grown in greater volumes.
At present, there are four or five of these ‘new kids on the block’ that are being favoured by major retailers, each with their own particular choice. The stand-out varieties are Envy, Rubens, Zari, Smitten and Modi. Each have quite different attributes, particularly concerning texture:
Smitten: This is a New Zealand variety with good acid balance and flavour, high levels of sweetness and a lovely blocky, crunchy texture. New Zealand-grown fruit were initially sold in Morrisons, but since British production has begun, it is now also sold in M&S and Waitrose. Early indications suggest that British Smitten is slightly more acidic with more crunch to the
texture (introduced to growers in 1995).
Zari: Zari is a Belgium variety which resulted from a cross between Elstar x Delbard Estivale. Most notable is the texture, which is light, crisp and open, so ideal for those who dislike the hard crunch of so many new varieties. Sweetness and flavour are very good, and the acid balance is attractive. Sainsbury’s have been selling British-grown Zari for the past three seasons, and it is starting to occasionally appear in Asda and the discounters (introduced in 2000).
Rubens: Bred in Italy from a cross between Elstar x Gala, Rubens is an attractive bi-coloured apple with a lovely texture: crisp and crunchy without being hard and blocky, a texture that ‘fractures’ as it is chewed. Flavour and sweetness are also excellent, as is the acid balance so important to a satisfying apple. Tesco are, so far,
the main UK retailer of Rubens in UK (introduced in 1988).
Envy: This is another New Zealand variety from the same stable as Jazz. As with Jazz, it is the result of a cross between Gala x Braeburn (breeding name of Scilate), though does not have the same hard texture, being more crisp and open – a very attractive crunchiness with high levels of sweetness. A distinguishing feature of the bi-coloured skin are the prominent orange lenticel spots. Waitrose and M&S are currently the only retailers of Envy in UK (introduced in 2009).
Modi: A red-skinned variety, Modi is from the same breeder in Italy as Rubens. It has high levels of sweetness, a good acid balance and good texture. It is likely to be popular with growers due to its resistance to orchard diseases and aphids. Currently, Asda is the most consistent retailer of Modi in UK, with Waitrose offering it in their four-pack on occasion (introduced in 2006).