Seasonal Foods: Pink Pearl Apple

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI will never forget the look of shock on my step-father’s face the first time he saw the flesh of a pink pearl apple I was eating while we were out on a hike. They are bizarre, for sure, these rosy-fleshed treats. What’s more surprising to me is not just the color, but the great flavor of the Pink Pearl apple. They are tart, sweet and crisp – the perfect fruit.

I never knew these existed until this year when I saw them on display at Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco. Surely they couldn’t taste as great as they looked, so I picked up a few to try out. I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious they were, and later came to find out that they are Colleen’s favorite apple (no surprise there, she loves weird things in nature).

According to Wikipedia, the Pink Pearl apple is a cultivar developed in 1944 by Albert Etter, a northern California breeder. It was the seedling of the “Surprise”, another red-fleshed apple. If you ever read or watched The Botany of Desire, you may remember Michael Pollan’s chapters on apples. He explains how the seedling produced from the seed of a tasty apple is never a genetic match and usually produces apples only suitable for making hooch. Apples are weird like that, so Mr. Etter must have been pretty stoked when his seedling started producing these amazing apples.

Most heirloom varieties of apples have been wiped out and replaced with commercial apples such as Fuji, Pink Lady, McIntosh, Red Delicious, and the likes. We are fortunate to have so many heirloom apple varieties here in California, and I take full advantage. The apple season is reaching full swing with the onset of Fall, so I highly recommend going to your local farmer’s market and picking up some of these beauties before they are gone.