Saturday, 3 April 2010

The Adventures of an Apple

Traditionally apples could be eaten for up to four months after they were harvested. Kept in a suitably dry cellar you could eat in February an apple picked in October. With new apples coming on stream in late August there were only the few months of spring and summer when you could not have a local apple that was quite edible. Nowadays, of course, with apples coming from across the globe we can have them all year round but have you ever thought about their origins, travels and adventures on route?

Since we tend to choose our apples by virtue of their appearance a lot goes into making them look good. Commercial apples have been grown to have smooth, uniformly coloured skins. Russeting, the name for roughened skin, gives a more flavoursome apple but is no longer desirable in most varieties.

Commercial apples must also be easy to store, easy to transport and not bruise easily. A regular shape is considered more attractive and also helps with packing. And a long stem enables pesticides to penetrate the top of the fruit more easily.

Oh yes, they must also be flavoursome but that’s a fairly minor consideration.

Apples have a natural waxy coating – one of the reason they are attractive. However, when the commercial apple is harvested it is washed in soap and chlorine and then rinsed in hot water. The wax has gone. The apple producers then replace this with shellac (which probably makes them unsuitable for vegetarians since shellac resin comes from insects which themselves tend to get crushed and killed and mixed up with the lac). The coating is buffed up with brushes and then sorting machines check their colour, blemishes, density, sugar content, firmness, ripeness and storage life. While waiting to go to the retailers the apples are kept at 0°C and in an oxygen reduced atmosphere to send them to sleep.

According to Tadg Farrington’s “The Average Life of the Average Person” ( a brilliant book and my ‘must read’ for 2010) the average Brit will eat 7,388 apples in your life. A fifth of these will be British. The rest will have travelled an average of 1,854 miles. Around 573 will have made the 12,000 mile trip from New Zealand. That means your food miles from apples alone will total 1,397,352.

Would anyone like an organic apple from my garden?


  1. Apples are from Kazakhstan! Actually, not any more, but if you're intrigued I'd definitely recommend reading Christopher Robbins - In Search of Kazakhstan.

  2. Living surrounded by orchards as I do I found your post very interesting indeed. What did surprise me was the small percentage of the average Brit's intake coming from NZ. Then I thought about it. Chile is now the largest external supplier to the UK I think. The earthquake in Chile has been a great boon to the NZ orchardists because the demand for our apples has increased substantially this autumn. It had been expected to decline.

  3. Yes, thank you, I would!!!
    ;^) ;^) ;^)

  4. I was eating my favorite apple, honeycrisp, while reading your post. Then I looked out the window and saw a bunny eating the apple I put outside for them.
    I'm sure the flavor of your apples are wonderful. I can't remember the last time I had an apple right off the tree!

  5. I love apples and last year our tiny little apple tree that was only 3 years old harvested 20 lbs. of apples! 2 5 gallon buckets! I made delicious apple filling out of it all so I can enjoy my yummy apples all year long! Wonderful post today!


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