Crisp

Which of these apples are crisp?”

This is without a doubt the most common question we get at the Saturday farmers market. When we say that all of the apples we sell are crisp, many customers don’t believe us. They try to politely tell us that we are full of shit: “No, I don’t think you understand, I like my apples to be really firm.” For my part, I try very hard not to say, “No shit. No one likes a mealy apple.”

People have been so scarred by mealy apples that they practically have to be convinced that crisp apples still exist. They look doubtfully at the many apple varieties we have for sale each week, as if the apples are all just merely sacks of applesauce that we are trying to pass off to unsuspecting shoppers as crisp, juicy fruit.

But one thing I’ve learned from working at the farmers market is that a crisp apple is one that has been freshly picked. Apples that have been in cold storage tend to get mushy. The apples we sell are picked the day before the farmers market – and that’s why we can say confidently and honestly that they’re crisp. Those who are looking for crisp apples — and let’s be honest here, that includes everyone — would be better off asking “When were these apples picked?” rather than “Which apples are crisp?”

I don’t mean to suggest that it’s wrong to ask for, or to prefer, crisp apples. But recognize that the desire for a crisp apple isn’t unique. Most people – at least those who of us have full sets of teeth and can chew comfortably — want a crisp, firm apple. (SF chef Chris Cosentino has pointed out that many cultures have a preferred texture of food and American’s favorite texture is crispy.)

As well as cold-storage apples, there are also some softer-textured (“creamy” in apple parlance) apple varieties that most apple eaters will want to avoid (literally) sinking their teeth into. But just one of the nearly 40 varieties we sell has a “creamy texture” — Jonathan apples — and we are careful to let customers know that these apples aren’t crisp. (We have one customer who buys only Jonathans; she is quite elderly and, I suspect, has dentures that make it harder for her to chew.) The other 37 varieties we sell are crisp — some are crisp and tart; some are crisp and sweet; some have more juice; some have a denser flesh or thicker skin.

You’ll find freshly picked apples when apples are in season, so it’s worth figuring out when apples are in season in your area and also when your favorite apple varieties are in season. In the SF Bay Area, fresh picked apple season is nearly over. It started in August with the early season varieties like Gravenstein and Pink Pearl, and it’s winding down now with Fuji, Pink Lady, and Bellflower.

Most apple varieties are only in season for a few weeks, so in order to get the most out of crisp apple season, I suggest having many favorite kinds of apples. I love the early Gravensteins, but when they go out of season, I move on to Burgundy, Honeycrisp, Empire, Mutsu, Sierra Beauty, and so on through the season.

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