Extra Fancy, Fancy, Commercial, Peeler, Hunh?

Sometimes I feel that no one is minding the show. Yesterday, I showed some images of the current state of affairs in apple production in the Okanagan. That’s not the half of it. Canada has regulations for the distribution of apples. So does the U.S.A. They’re much the same. Some of the regulations have to do with damage to the fruit, but the deal breakers have to do with appearance. It was clever when it was initiated, a bit over a century ago, designed to deal with apples coming from trees like this:

Picking Apples, Pridham Orchard, Kelowna, 1915

The women were picking, because the men were at war. Well, by this time most of the men were dead. This is not the beginning of something. It is the end. After the war, it was the Germans who took over this work. The British Empire became the lost German Empire. Really. This photograph is in the collection of the Kelowna Museum.

The bitterness and irony and horror of history aside, trees like this were umbrellas, with ripe red fruit on the outside of the tree, and green fruit at its heart. The bright colour of the ripe fruit was a sure indication of its quality and taste, and so the food grades were based around colour. Everything would follow. And that takes us to the grades: Extra Fancy (lots of colour, and no damage to the fruit), Fancy (lots of colour, and a bit of cosmetic damage not likely to lead to rot), Commercial (rather green and beat up, really), and Peelers (good for the pot only, and soon at that.) Thing is, humans are clever critters, and speedily got around all that.  For instance, first there was the delicious, which was usually about 5% red, with about 5% of the apples on the outside of the tree reaching Extra Fancy and commanding a high price. Then came a red skinned mutation, red delicious, which turned red with less sun, so you got, oh, I dunno, 35% Extra Fancy if you were really good at it all, and lucky, and the same high price, at the expense of a bit of flavour. Then it got nuts. By the 1940s, there were double red delicious, that tasted a little worse, and by the 1960s spur type, super productive, double red delicious, that tasted positively awful, and then there were hormones, to accentuate the shape of a delicious, hiding within those mutations, because these new apples were kind of lumpy looking …

Red Chief Apples Source

Showing off their thick skins. Notice the pale brown of the seeds. Despite their colour, these are not the ripest apples in the world. Black indicates full sun exposure. The motley colour of the individuals in the back would, in the past, have likely been Commercial Grade. Now it’s Extra Fancy all the way. Funny, though, that the price has fallen into the deeps. 

And so, in the end, we get the perfect, plunk-it-on-your-teacher’s-desk-and-put-it-on-a-thanksgiving-sticker-red-delicious-apple that tastes about as good as the flower stem that it was before it swelled up with water in the first place…

Sure. Go for it.




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