Let’s see what characteristics have made a table apple varietal so special that has conquered the whole world. The Fuji apple, of Japanese origin, has a lot of history behind it. Patents and hybridizations of modern agriculture, the search for specific organoleptic characteristics that meet the needs of an increasingly demanding market in terms of shape, color, taste, smell, texture and other characteristics. Today we meet the Fuji apple .
HISTORY OF THE APPLE
Let’s start with Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit. Did you know that the fact that it is an apple could be a translation error from Hebrew to Latin? In Genesis the “tree of the fruit of good and evil” is mentioned and the Latin translation of evil is Malum, which also means apple … so … if we speak of a tree … white and in a bottle. Leaving aside the biblical part, let’s get to science.
The apple is the fruit of the Malus domestica species and there are no more apples. All that we know are due to this species that had its origin according to genetic studies in the area of Kazakhstan bordering China. From there it has evolved and expanded throughout the territory and today it is one of the most cultivated fruits and with a number of varietals that scares the number. As well as the genus Malus it is relatively small since it has 35 accepted speciesToday, the varieties that humans have been generating with hybridizations, reach tens of thousands. Yes. Even if we go to the supermarket and “only” have Golden, Granny Smith, Gala, Fuji, Pink Lady, the well-known pippin and little else … in fact there are thousands and thousands of varieties throughout the world.
HOW MANY VARIETIES ARE THERE APART FROM THE FUJI APPLE?
MANY. FOR EXAMPLE, LET’S MENTION ASTURIAN CIDER
I do not know if you have noticed an alcoholic drink that we have in Spain made with our own apple. Yes, the cider. Whether Asturian (the most famous), Cantabrian or Basque, all three are made with apples. And have you stopped to ask how many varieties are used in the preparation of cider? Because when we talk about wine we do know grapes, but apples? The Protected Denomination of Origin of Asturian cider, for example, includes 76 varieties nothing more and nothing less just to make cider!
Let’s take a breath and give a sample of lung power: Amariega, Antonona, Arbeya, Beldredo, Blanquina, Carrandona, Carrió, Cladurina, Cladurina amargoaccido, Clara, Collaína, Collaos, Coloradona, Colorá amarga, Corchu, Cristalina, De la riega, Dura, Durón D’arroes Durón incarnate, Durcolorá, Durona from tresalí, Ernestina, Fresnosa, Fuentes, Josefa, Limón Montés, Lin, Madiedo, María Elena, Mariñana, Martina, Meana, Miyeres, Montés de flor, Montés de la llamera, Montoto, Panquerina, Umbrella, Peñarudes, Lazy, Parakeet, Perracabiella, Prurico, Precocious Perurico, Picón Prieta, Raxao, Raxarega, Acid Raxilla, Sweet Raxila, Striped Raxilla, Bitter Raxin, Acid Raxin, Sweet Raxin, Marelo Raxina, Sweet Acid Raxone , Regona, Reineta caravia, Red Reineta, Reineta pinta, Repinaldo caravia, Repinaldo de bone, Rosadona, San Justo, San Roqueña,Solarina, Sucu, Teórica, Verdialona, Verdosa and Xuanina.
And is that each of these apples gives the cider a different touch in terms of sugars, acidity, astringency, bitterness, some have more juice, others less, earlier, later, more production, less production, agronomic characteristics of the variety better for one soil than another… There are hundreds of variables, and the cider is made from several apples. Just as in wine we have monovarietal wines (made with a single variety of grape), in the case of cider, we do not know if there is any successful single variety. And this just for cider!
THE MOST FAMOUS TABLE APPLES IN SPAIN
The characteristics that define a new variety of fruit, vegetable, cereal or any agricultural product are many. And they are not always the taste or visual quality (shape, color, caliber, brightness, stains) of the final product. There are agronomic variables that often take precedence, such as the harvesting time, the ease of harvesting, the handling … or in the particular case of the apple, for example, resistance to mottling, sunburn or certain diseases that can save a lot on phytosanitary treatments and reduce losses. Other variables that are looked at are, for example, postharvest resistanceso that the product arrives in optimal conditions at the retailer and therefore at your home. And all this is done in genetic improvement programs, doing hybridizations and backcrosses for years until the desired variety is achieved. But let’s focus on the organoleptic variables. Do we want the same in the taste of an apple? Of course not, and we are going to see what main parameters differentiate one from the other:
- Color (uniform, solid color, two color, three color, with spots, without spots)
- Flavor (it is a mixture of the previous two).
- Skin hardness, thickness and appearance (thin, thick, rough, smooth, shiny, matte skin)
- Texture and color of the pulp (hardness, earthy, firm, juicy, crunchy, sandy, white, yellow …)
All these characteristics mean that there are dozens of varieties grown and marketed in Spain, although many of them are not sought after but are inherent to specific varieties that occur in specific areas, depending on their edaphoclimatic conditions.
If we go to the table apples that are most commercialized in Spain, we have:
- Gala (along with the previous one the most cultivated)
- Red delicious (one of the mothers of Fuji as we will now see)
- Granny Smith
- Pink Lady (with a fairly aggressive marketing campaign has been established in our country).
There are other varieties but they are hardly cultivated. We look at how none of them matches the varieties, for example, of Asturian cider production. Why? Market and production issues.
FUJI APPLE CHARACTERISTICS
Although we may think that it is a new commercial variety, the truth is that its “discovery” was made in the 30s of the 20th century in Japan and its final commercialization as such occurred in 1962. Many people believe that the name refers to to Mount Fuji but the truth is that no. It is due to the city of Fujisaki where it was discovered in a research technology center. Since then, in Japan it is the most consumed apple by far with respect to other varieties.
The Fuji apple started out as a variety. Originally it was a hybrid between two varieties that were already in the US called Red delicious (the one from the Snow White stories) and Ralls Janet . These are the parents of the Fuji apple, but of course, nowadays it can no longer be considered a variety but a group of varieties with different characteristics and with specific adaptations. There are more than 20 varieties or clones of the Fuji apple, which have been hybridized to achieve different characteristics according to climates, soils, resistance to diseases, etc.
In the end, what interests us is how it tastes, that is why you eat. The characteristics of the Fuji apple are:
- Rounded medium gauge
- Smooth or striated red color on very attractive yellowish green
- Crisp and fresh in the bite
- Firm pulp texture
- Very juicy therefore very refreshing
- Very sweet and aromatic flavor (approximately 10% sugar)
- Very little acidity
FUJI APPLE CULTIVATION IN SPAIN
In general, the growing conditions of the apple tree in general can serve as a basis, but as we will see, the Fuji apple has some limiting factor with respect to other varieties.
In general, apple trees are very rustic in edaphic conditions and tolerate quite a few types of soil, from quite sandy to even somewhat heavy soils with a higher concentration of silts and clays. They tolerate them and can grow without collapsing but it is very likely that when we talk about maximizing production, an optimal soil will always have a direct effect on said production. Therefore, we can say that the apple tree requires a loamy soil (like many crops), although we must not forget that it can grow in a very wide range of soil textures . Sometimes the land is what it is, what one has and it is not always what one would like.
With regard to acidity, it is normal for apple trees to tolerate slightly acidic soils. This is not the case with the Fuji apple. It has slightly less tolerance and its optimum soil pH is between 6 and 7.
Another point to discuss. Although many apple trees can survive and thrive with little water, this is not the case with the Fuji apple. It is a variety that needs humid environments and a somewhat more abundant irrigation than other national species such as pippin. Drip irrigation and fertigation are increasingly used techniques. Young growing trees generally need more frequent watering. The frequency of watering will depend on the season of the year and the drainage of the soil, but as a general guideline for a garden tree, weekly watering is recommended . In high-performance productions, things should be much more controlled and adjusted.
FUJI APPLE PRODUCTION PROBLEMS IN SPAIN
Although it is highly appreciated by consumers for its freshness, juiciness and sweetness in terms of production, in Spain, the original variety of Fuji apple does not adapt too well due to the climate and latitude in which our peninsula is located. The main problems that can hinder optimal production are:
- Sunburn: It has to do mainly with a thermal excess in the fruit and at the same time a hydric stress. And as we have commented, the Fuji apple needs more humid environments and somewhat more abundant waterings than the average, so suffering this damage to the fruit is more likely to occur. We have also already talked about heat stroke .
- Vecería or alternation: The vecero character of fruit trees has already been discussed in Gardenprue and it is a real problem in productions such as cider, for example. In summary, overturning or alternation is the phenomenon by which fruit trees alternate strong harvests with years of little or no harvest. This alternation is proportional, that is, one year has good production and the next bad. The vecero character is inherent in many species such as stone fruit or apple trees and in the case of the Fuji apple it is no exception.
- Not achieving optimal coloration: It is produced in hot climates although some clones of the variety achieve the color in Spain without much effort.
- Need to choose early varieties to avoid fall frosts
FUJI APPLE VARIETIES THAT ARE BEST ADAPTED IN SPAIN
In an IRTA analysis published by Empresas.net in 2018, a review is made of the apple varieties most cultivated in Spain and the varietals used. Here we show a small summary of what is extracted from the article. The Fuji apples that grow best in Spain are those with a smooth color instead of the striated one because it has been seen that they have better color and better withstand the sun’s hits. Here are some of the most cultivated varieties in our country:
- «Zhen Fuji Aztec» that achieves the best coloring and is smooth.
- “Fuji Kiku Fabrax” second, this clone is striated in color.
- “Fuji San CIV” and “Fu-CIV-51” very similar to the first.
- «Grofn Fuji»
- «Fuji VW»
POST-HARVEST CONDITIONS OF THE FUJI APPLE
But how long does the Fuji apple hold out of the tree? Post-harvest preservation techniques are a world so that, from the tree to your table, the fruit arrives in the best possible condition. At the right point of maturation. Obviously, having a fruit tree in your house is unparalleled, going out the door and picking the fruit from the tree at its optimum point of ripeness . But this in the world we live in is simply not possible and post-harvest or post-harvest techniques try to maintain the conditions of the fruit until it reaches us.
In the case of the Fuji apple, we can enjoy them for a long period of time in the year thanks to conservation in chambers with controlled atmospheres varying the levels of gas mixture to leave the fruit in a kind of “lethargy”. Remember that your cells continue to “breathe.” In a study published a few years ago (1997) published by the USDA, the following conservation parameters were established to avoid color changes and variations in the content of sugars, starch or acidity:
- 1,1ºC (34ºF)
- O2 al 1,5%
- CO2 at 1% maximum.
Under these conditions, the Fuji apple is kept for months until it can be consumed.
And you, do you like the Fuji apple or do you think we should cultivate native Spanish varieties and give them more market?